Tuesday, Jan. 25 dispatch from the Transportation Research Board annual meeting:

Sometimes even stimulus needs a little stimulus. That was certainly true in Los Angeles County, faced with a backlog of transportation needs.

Doug Failing, chief planner with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, spoke at a session at the Transportation Research Board's annual meeting titled “How the implementation of ARRA-TIGER projects was accelerated: a tale of four cities.”

The Los Angeles tale is one of good fortune and good timing. As talk of a federal stimulus package was heating up, the county passed Measure R in November 2008. The sales tax measure would commit a projected $40 billion to transportation projects over the next 30 years.

The federal stimulus project gave that effort a boost when it passed in early 2009. Metro then took a further step, Failing said: the agency would speed up 12 key mass-transit projects to be completed within 10 years instead of 30.

Transportation-system investments have gone a long way toward moving people more efficiently in an area known for its gridlock. Once the worst metro area in the country in terms of hours spent in traffic, that number has declined over the last decade, with other cities taking over...

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Even residents of a gingerbread candyland can't get around with holiday magic alone. After all, Santa's elves still need a reliable way to get from their cozy homes to the workshop.

Sadly, transportation planners have turned a frosty shoulder to sugar-based transit systems. Until now.

On Dec. 3, Portland State University's Students in Transportation Engineering and Planning held the first gingerbread transit station competition. Four teams of students pulled their attention away from human transit to focus on the needs of gingerbread people and misfit toys.

Dealing with building materials of unknown structural properties, students field engineered solutions. Licorice sticks stood in for steel rails, candy canes for bicycle racks. For a binding agent, students mixed cream of tartar and egg whites instead of portland cement.

The resulting transit system has already resulted in fewer traffic gum-ups and a drastic reduction in ultrafine powdered-sugar emissions. Sleigh-travel-time reliability has also improved.

Researchers are now assessing the durability of corn-syrup-reinforced composites in candy bridges, the potential for alkali-silica reaction in gingerbread pavement and the possibility that someone hungry will stumble in and eat the infrastructure.

The winning design team was Transit Wonderland, composed of Jesse Boudart, Sara Morrissey, Mark Haines and Meeyonwoo Lim.

Rick Krochalis, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Region X Administrator, recently kicked off the Center for Transportation Seminar Series on January 8th with a presentation on the Regional Implications of the Federal Livability Initiative. The presentation touched on the federal interagency partnership in addition to FTA’s involvement in the effort. Smart growth and transit-oriented development are not new concepts.  With growing congestion, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, needs for maintaining a state of good repair on existing transportation systems in addition to a growing and aging and population in the United States; transit is playing a key role in helping address these issues.The seminar was followed with with a roundtable group discussion with TriMet and local partners; and meeting with faculty and students highlighting transit-related research. You can download the podcast or view the seminar if you missed the presentation.   Livability is also the theme for the winter transportation seminar series.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood proclaims “Portland is the transportation capital of the United States…” as part of his speech unveiling the Portland-made streetcar, the first to be built in the US in nearly 60 years. OTREC staff were present to witness this historic moment for Portland, in addition to having the opportunity to meet and talk with other leaders in transportation from Oregon. Pictured left: Jon Makler, Lily Makler, Congressman Peter DeFazio, and Hau Hagedorn Pictured right: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

Northeastern Universityís Peter Furth is known equally for his research in public transportation, bike planning and traffic signals. Furth brings his diverse interests to Portland for the holiday-shortened week of May 25th. On Tuesday, 5/26, there will be a seminar on his traffic signal priority work and on Wednesday, 5/27, there will be another seminar on his work regarding cycle tracks. In addition, Furth will have a variety of meetings with local transportation practitioners, including a bike tour by staff from the Portland Bureau of Transportation. The visit is co-sponsored by OTREC and IBPI. For more information about the seminars, visit PSU's Center for Transportation Studies.

Dr. Brian Taylor, Professor in Urban Planning and Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA, was the guest speaker and OTREC Visiting Scholar for the CTS Transportation Seminar on November 16, 2007. Dr. Taylor presented "Transit’s Dirty Little Secret: Analyzing Patterns of Transit Use." Later in the day, he was also the keynote speaker at the fall TransNow Student Conference at PSU, presenting "Rethinking Congestion" to the group of students from around the northwest. Professor Taylor’s research centers around transportation policy and planning. In particular, his work explores how society pays for transportation systems and how these systems in turn serve the needs of people who have low levels of mobility.

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Summary: The Federal Transit Administration invests in building the capacity and improving the quality of public transportation throughout the United States of America.  Under FTA's leadership, public rail, bus, trolley, ferry, and other transit services have reached greater levels of safety, reliability, availability, and accessibility.  Come hear the highlights of FTA's impacts and participate in an interactive question/answer session and discussion on career options in public transportation!

Bio: Amy Changchien is the Director of Planning & Program Development of the Federal Transit Administration Region 10 Office in Seattle.  Ms. Changchien has been a transportation professional for over 20 years, with experience spanning from highway to transit.  In her career, she has worked on projects involving highway operations, Intelligent Transportation System, commuter rail, light rail, streetcar, ferries, and buses.  Ms. Changchien holds a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering and a master's degree in Public Administration from University of Washington. 

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Abstract: Our speaker for May 14, 2010 is Gill V. Hicks, Director Southern California Operations for Cambridge Systematics, Inc.  For more than ten years, Mr. Hicks served as the General Manager of the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority (ACTA).  The $2.4 billion Alameda Corridor consolidated harbor-related railroad traffic onto a single 20-mile corridor between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the railroad mainlines near downtown Los Angeles.  Mr. Hicks’ responsibilities included overall management of the agency, building consensus, estimating benefits and costs of the project, generating political support, testifying before U.S. Congress, State Legislature, regulatory bodies, city councils, funding agencies and other stakeholders; developing a financial plan, raising funds, coordinating with railroad, trucking, and shipping businesses, and managing contracts for the project.

Mr. Hicks will discuss the major challenges faced by the project, including negotiations with three competing railroads, several municipal governments, utilities, regulatory agencies, contractors, and funding entities.  The process for consensus building will be discussed. Major lessons learned will be described, including methods for reducing project risk, keeping on schedule and within budget. Mr. Hicks will also touch on the challenges facing the agency as...

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Lessons from the Development of a Guidebook on Pedestrian and Bicycle Connections to Transit

To improve safety and increase transit use, transit agencies and the jurisdictions they serve have to approach transit service as door-to-door not just stop-to-stop.

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