Generally, public transit is safer than other personal travel modes. However, not all transit modes are created equal: compared with other forms of transit, buses have a higher safety incident rate.
 
For example, while buses in fixed route service accounted for 39% of the transit industry’s passenger miles in 2009, their associated casualty and liability costs accounted for 51% of the industry total. In 2010 TriMet, the Portland, Oregon region’s transit provider, formed a safety task force to review its bus operations.
The task force recommended that TriMet develop a comprehensive performance monitoring program to better integrate safety in its planning practices. Like other urban transit providers, TriMet was already sending safety performance information to the Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database. The task force recommended seeking a deeper understanding of the types of incidents that are occurring, and of when, where, and why they occur. The task force also recommended that operators complete a recertification program annually to ensure that safe driving practices remain fresh. 
In addition to keeping operators current on their safety training, the annual recertification program presented researchers with a unique opportunity to gain a firsthand perspective of the safety risks that bus operators encounter on a daily basis. Thus a survey of operator...
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The Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, pegged as one of Portland’s high-crash corridors, already attracted the attention of city officials worried about safety. They got more help from Portland State University students during the recently completed term.

Students from civil engineering professor Christopher Monsere’s transportation safety analysis course formed six groups, each studying a piece of the corridor. They presented their findings and recommendations during the course’s open house March 19. The presentation drew officials from local agencies interested in improving corridor safety, including the city of Portland, the TriMet transit agency and the Metro regional government.

The student work dovetails with the city’s own examination of the highway corridor, completed in February. In some cases, as with the Shattuck Road intersection, the students came to many of the same conclusions as city officials, said Wendy Cawley, traffic safety engineer with the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Both found that narrowing the crossing distance could make that intersection safer for pedestrians.

One group looked at the Hillsdale area, recommending a “road diet” approach and other livability-minded changes. While it’s “probably a little more than the city will be able to recommend and handle,” Cawley said, the work has inspired neighborhood...

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OTREC has selected its first roster of projects under the new National Institute for Transportation and Communities, or NITC, program. The program’s executive committee chose 19 projects, totaling $1.97 million, under the NITC theme of safe, healthy and sustainable transportation to foster livable communities.

The projects have national implications and reflect priority areas including public health, equity and transit. True to the program’s multidisciplinary nature, projects extend beyond transportation engineering and planning to include sociology, chemistry, economics and more—10 disciplines in all.

While Portland State University, the University of Oregon and the Oregon Institute of Technology...

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Every year, graduate and undergraduate students from Portland State University’s Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning perform projects to aid urban planning efforts in local communities. On Tuesday, May 31, several students from PSU’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) program took to the podium to present what they had accomplished after nearly six months of hard work.

When Amy Hesse, a graduate student in the MURP program, traveled to Redmond to learn more about efforts to encourage bicycling in the eastern Oregon community, she found plenty of people interested biking. But she also found that many were not doing so because they felt unsafe. Hesse, along with students April Cutter, Reza Farhoodi and Spencer Williams, developed a project called B-Spoke which sought to create a bicycle refinement plan for the city of Redmond.

“Our goal was to build off the city’s existing transportation system plan by identifying assets and barriers to increased ridership,” said Hesse. “People told me, ‘I don’t feel safe’ and we looked for new ways to overcome that. It wasn’t so much telling (Redmond locals) what they should do, but seeing what we could learn from them.”

While Redmond had many assets to cycling, including existing bike trail systems, a lack of east-west connectivity and dangerous highway crossings prevented many from biking more frequently, or at all, outside of recreation. Women were the gender with the most interest in cycling, but...

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Despite some major strides in safety on Portland’s streets, the city has a lot of work remaining to make the city safe for all forms of transportation. At the fifth Transportation Safety Summit, held Feb. 8 at Marshall High School in southeast Portland, speakers stressed the importance of a multipronged approach to safety.

Sponsored by the Portland Bureau of Transportation, or PBOT, the summit also featured speakers from the Portland Police Bureau, the Oregon Department of Transportation, TriMet and Mayor Sam Adams.

Tom Miller, the incoming PBOT director, and Susan Keil, the outgoing director, said the bureau is focusing safety efforts on 10 high-crash corridors. Improving safety there will require an approach they called the “Three E’s”: engineering, education and enforcement. That is, transportation systems have to be designed for all users’ safety, the users need to know how to navigate the systems and mechanisms must be put in place to make sure people follow the rules. The city will issue annual performance reports to assess the safety of trouble spots.

According to PBOT records, citywide traffic fatalities dropped in 2010, compared to 2009. This reflects an overall trend toward fewer traffic fatalities over the last 15 years.

One worrisome point is the increase in pedestrian fatalities. The number of people killed while walking rose for the second straight year, to 15 in 2010. That’s more than the combined number of motorists, motorcyclists...

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When engineers focus on transportation systems, they often produce brilliant solutions. Sometimes, however, they focus in the wrong place.

 “Engineers are really good; if you tell them, ‘This is what we want to accomplish,’ they’ll do it,” said Peter Jacobsen, himself an engineer and a public health consultant. “But traffic safety hasn’t had a good scientific, evidence-based approach that we have in, say, nuclear-power-plant design.”

Jacobsen, Portland State University’s first visiting scholar this school year, will present the Vision Zero concept at Friday’s transportation seminar. Vision Zero resets the goal of transportation systems from reducing total crashes to eliminating fatalities.

“The way engineers currently look at the road system is to look at crashes,” Jacobsen said. “Vision Zero folks say to look at health: not to have fatalities or permanent disabling injuries.”

Designing for health means respecting the limits of the human body. If crossing into oncoming traffic could produce head-on collisions with a greater force than people could survive, then Vision Zero says to separate that traffic. Roundabouts reduce the likelihood of dangerous side-impact collisions.

Vision Zero could have the largest effect closer to home. Jacobsen has pushed for colleagues to consider traffic from a child’s perspective. A residential street that might be perfectly...

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Webinar: Addressing Bicycle-Vehicle Conflicts with Alternate  Signal Control Strategies on Oct 16, 2018

EDUCATION LIBRARY ARCHIVE

Missed the webinar or want a look back? 

OVERVIEW

There is nationwide interest in supporting sustainable and active transportation modes such as bicycling and walking due to the many benefits associated with them, including reduced congestion, lower emissions and improved health. Although the number of bicyclists is increasing, safety remains a top concern. In urban areas, a common crash type involving bicycles at intersections is the “right hook” where a right-turning vehicle collides with a through bicyclist. While geometric treatments and pavement markings have been studied, there is a lack of research on signal timing treatments to address right-hook bicycle-vehicle conflicts.

Addressing Bicycle-Vehicle Conflicts with Alternate Signal Control Strategies, published in April 2018, is the first study to explore bicycle signal control strategies for addressing bicycle-vehicle conflicts. This study analyzed the operational impacts of traditional...

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Summary: Since about 2008, the planning world has been experiencing a paradigm shift that began in places like California and Oregon that have adopted legislation requiring the linking of land use and transportation plans to outcomes, specifically to the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHGs). In response to this need, Calthorpe Associates has developed a new planning tool, called UrbanFootprint, on a fully Open Source platform (i.e. Ubuntu Linux, PostGIS, PostGreSQL, etc.). As a powerful and dynamic web and mobile-enabled geo-spatial scenario creation and modeling tool with full co-benefits analysis capacity, UrbanFootprint has great utility for urban planning and research at multiple scales, from general plans, to project assessments, to regional and state-wide scenario development and analysis. Scenario outcomes measurement modules include: a powerful ‘sketch’ transportation model that produces travel and emissions impacts; a public health analysis engine that measures land use impacts on respiratory disease, obesity, and related impacts and costs; climate-sensitive building energy and water modeling; fiscal impacts analysis; and greenhouse gas and other emissions modeling.

Bio: Garlynn Woodsong is a Project Manager in the regional and large-scale master planning team at Calthorpe...

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The video begins at 2:40.

Driver distraction accounts for up to 30 % of accidents on the roadway. One of the leading causes of driver distraction is the concurrent use of a cell phone to talk or text message. In fact, accident rates are quadrupled for drivers talking on a cell phone and increase by a factor of 8 for those drivers texting. I will show that these impairments are primarily due to limitations in attention, and as such are not eliminated with hands-free devices. Cell phones cause a form of inattention blindness, wherein drivers look but fail to see important information in the driving environment, such as a child in a crosswalk. These impairments differ qualitatively from other seemingly similar sources of distraction (e.g., listening to the radio or books on tape, talking to a passenger, etc.) and are similar to the impairments associated with driving drunk. Efforts to practice away the dual-task interference have proven unsuccessful indicating that you cannot train yourself to become an expert cell phone driver. However, there are intriguing individual differences for a very small group of "supertaskers" who can, in fact, drive and talk on a cell phone with little or no impairment. Together these data have important implications for theories of attention and...

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