When policymakers look to meet cycling goals by investing in new bicycle routes, they have little research to help them determine whether cyclists will actually use them. As a result, bicycle facilities aren’t considered equally with motor vehicle infrastructure.

That’s changing, thanks in part to OTREC research. An OTREC-funded study, the first to gather large-scale data that reveal cyclists’ actual route preference, is being published in a scientific journal (Transportation Research Part A). The findings have already been incorporated into the regional travel demand model used to make transportation investment decisions across the Portland region.

In the study, Portland State University researchers Joseph Broach, Jennifer Dill and John Gliebe (Gliebe is now with RSG Inc.) outfitted cyclists with GPS units to record which routes they chose and model the choices to reveal preferences. Previous studies have relied on stated preference surveys or less reliable methods of determining cyclists’ actual routes. The data gathering was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its national program Active...

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With transportation models increasingly used to inform policy decisions at all levels, OTREC is pleased to offer a free educational series designed to help decision makers, transportation officials and others understand these important tools. The series was organized with OTREC’s Oregon Modeling Collaborative and presented during the weekly transportation seminars at Portland State University’s Center for Transportation Studies.

Archived video of the entire eight-week series is now available. Each seminar lasts one hour. Click here for a description of each seminar and links to the video.

While the Friday seminar series has showcased transportation issues for years, the modeling series marks the first time that eight seminars focused on a single theme. Modeling is a timely topic, as policy makers come to rely increasingly on models, whether or not they have a background in modeling.

The series demonstrates how modeling can support better decision-making and explains the tools and the process to a nontechnical audience, said Kelly Clifton, director of the Oregon Modeling Collaborative. Oregon’s discussions regarding modeling tools have helped inform the national discussion, she said.

The final seminar in the series recapped some of the earlier lessons and pointed out some of the...

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It’s not shocking that bridges built without thought to earthquakes wouldn’t make it through a big quake unharmed. More surprising, however, is how much damage even a relatively small earthquake would cause to Oregon’s bridges.

In an exhaustive OTREC project, researcher Peter Dusicka looked at the most common bridge types in the Oregon highway system. Those bridges weren’t just fragile, he found—they were even more fragile than other researchers and technical guidelines had suggested.

Dusicka published his preliminary findings in a draft report last year. The final report, “Bridge Damage Models for Seismic Risk Assessment of Oregon Highway Network,” is out now. Click here to download.

Most Oregon highway bridges were built before the 1980s, when designers started to consider seismic activity. Dusicka set out to see what would happen to the most common bridge type, continuous concrete multi-beam or girder, during quakes of varying degrees.

To find that out, he had to first know how the ground in the Pacific Northwest moves during and earthquake and second, model how the bridge type would react to these motions. Historical and geological evidence show a catastrophic earthquake will occur sooner or later in the region, Dusicka has said, as the Cascadia subduction zone stores up energy that will be released at some point. (...

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Although specialized equipment and vehicles make up a large portion of state transportation budgets, an OTREC research report found little consistency in how states decide to replace this equipment.

Researchers David Kim and David Porter of Oregon State University surveyed 25 state departments of transportation to determine how they made replacement decisions. Nearly all consider the age of the vehicle or piece of equipment, with many considering how much use it gets.

Around half use thresholds, such as number of miles or months in service, to identify candidates for replacement. Some consider the equipment’s repair cost or operating cost, while others rely on physical inspections. None explicitly considers greenhouse gas emissions or other environmental concerns in its replacement criteria.

Given the huge range of approaches, Kim and Porter wondered if modeling could lead to better decision-making. They ran various models against the simple approach of using equipment age as a threshold value.

As it turns out, the simple approach isn’t too bad. In fact, it does better than one complicated mathematical model and about the same as a second model.

Click here to learn more about the project and download the report.

That may...

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Transportation models keep growing more sophisticated. But complicated isn’t necessarily better, Rick Donnelly said during the inaugural seminar in OTREC’s spring 2012 transportation seminar series April 6.

“Better is contextual,” Donnelly said.

Donnelly, who leads the modeling and simulation practice at engineering consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff, opened the spring seminar series with an introduction to models. Seven more free seminars follow in the series, produced in partnership with the Oregon Modeling Collaborative.

Donnelly detailed questions that model builders and users should ask and offered his thoughts on building more useful and informative models. Click here for a link to the archived presentation.

Although transportation models consider increasingly more information, simpler models can often get the job done with a smaller investment of time and money, Donnelly said. Sometimes the simplest approach actually produces the best results.

“’Better’ is only relevant in the context of what the model is going to be used for,” he said.

The modeling series continues Friday, April 13 with another seminar geared toward non-modelers. The seminar, by Ben Stabler, also of Parsons Brinckerhoff, builds on Donnelly’s opening installment.

Stabler will discuss two approaches to travel modeling and give...

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Even as complex visual representations of data become common, many people still don’t understand what land-use and transportation modelers do. In April, state and local planning directors met to address that and other issues they’ll increasingly face in the coming years. The Oregon Modeling Collaborative convened the Oregon Transportation Policy Forum for guidance in developing the tools agencies will need and to keep agencies talking about transportation issues.

Giving a complex topic such as global warming the video game treatment could make it easier to grasp, said Angus Duncan of the Oregon Global Warming Commission. “I have yearned for something that’s the greenhouse gas equivalent of a ‘Sim City,’ “ Duncan said at the forum. “Something simple enough that kids can play with it, but something you can use for communication.”

Developers have gotten much better at representing data, said Tom Schwetz, director of development services for Lane Transit District, but leaps in handheld devices such as iPhones have raised expectations still higher. Transportation models are getting more complex and, at the same time, people are demanding their information quicker and quicker.

Modelers struggle, Schwetz said, both because people don’t understand the complexity of the models and because modelers themselves don’t explain themselves clearly. The models then become easier to attack than to defend. “There is a credibility issue,” he said. “It’s too easy to...

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Good transportation decisions rely on good models. Yet, despite advances in transportation modeling, there had been no dedicated training ground for the next generation of modelers. That all changed with the launch of the Oregon Modeling Collaborative Nov. 12. The collaborative will serve as a living laboratory to put the research from some of America’s top modelers into practice across Oregon.

On Nov. 12, we welcomed Peter Appel, administrator of the federal Research and Innovative Technology Administration, to Portland to kick off the collaborative with researchers, practitioners and policymakers from across the Northwest. Appel, confirmed by the U.S. Senate as administrator in 2009, has worked on U.S. Department of Transportation initiatives aimed at getting researchers and professionals to address safety, efficiency and environmental sustainability across all forms of transportation.

Groundbreaking research at the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium has already produced models to account for bicycle trips and greenhouse gas emissions and to predict earthquake risk to highway bridges. However, models don’t do any good if agencies can’t afford the staff time and resources to use them. The Oregon Modeling Collaborative helps fill this gap by educating the next generation of...

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Transportation mode choice is often expressed in terms of models which assume rational choice; psychological case studies of mode adoption are comparatively rare. We present findings from a study of the psychology of adoption for sustainable transportation modes such as bicycles, car sharing, and mass transit. Case studies were conducted with current and former participants in PSU’s ‘Passport Plus’ transit pass program, as well as a longitudinal cohort study of first-time winter bicycle commuters. Composite sequence analysis was used to construct a theory of the adoption process for these modes. Our findings suggest that mode evaluation is cognitively distinct from mode selection and has different information requirements. We conclude that public and private organizations could improve the adoption rate for these modes by tailoring their communication strategies to match the commuter’s stage of adoption.

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Steven Gehrke, Ph.D. Candidate, Portland State University

Topic: An Activity-related Land Use Mix Construct and Its Connection to Pedestrian Travel

Land use mix is a central smart growth principle connected to active transportation. This presentation describes the indicators of local land use mixing and their association with pedestrian travel in Oregon’s Willamette River Valley. It argues that land use mix is a multidimensional construct reflected by the complementarity, composition, and configuration of land use types, which is positively linked to walk mode choice and home-based trip frequency. Findings from this study underline the conceptual and empirical benefit of analyzing this transportation-land use interaction with a landscape pattern measure of activity-related composition and spatial configuration.

Steven Gehrke is a Ph.D. candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Portland State University. His research examines the transportation-land use interaction,...

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Summary: The Transportation Planning Analysis Unit (TPAU) at ODOT helps to provide information to a large variety of transportation plans, projects, and policy questions.  This allows customers to make better informed decisions and to maximize limited resources.  In order to fill this role TPAU and the Oregon modeling community have a fairly large "toolbox" of models and analysis tools and procedures.  This transportation seminar will give an overview of the role and services that TPAU provides and the different tools and processes used to fulfill that role.

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