Dec 30, 2010

Use of small electric vehicles is spreading from gated communities and college campuses onto city streets and even state highways. But should these vehicles share the road with heavier, faster ones?

In many situations, concluded Oregon State University researcher Kate Hunter-Zaworski, the answer is “no.” Hunter-Zaworski examined the vehicles, called neighborhood electric vehicles or low-speed electric vehicles in this OTREC project, co-sponsored by the Oregon Department of Transportation. Oregon regulations should limit the vehicles to roads with a speed limit of 25 mph and only allow them to cross faster roads at four-ways stops or traffic lights, she found.

In her just-published report, Hunter-Zaworski also urges transportation authorities to commit to separated transportation networks for all lower-speed transportation, including neighborhood electric vehicles. Such networks can connect neighborhoods to workplaces, schools and services with little use of busy roads.

Because neighborhood electric vehicles often look more like passenger cars than golf carts, their drivers and other road users might think they’re just as safe. But governments don’t classify neighborhood electric vehicles as passenger cars, and they aren’t subject to the same safety regulations. As a result, Hunter-Zaworski stresses the need to educate users about the risks.

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Oct 27, 2010

Students from OTREC programs gave the Oregon Transportation Commission their insights into the future of the transportation professions last week at a commission workshop in Bend. Students from Portland State University, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University joined OTREC researcher Kate Hunter-Zaworski on a panel aimed at providing the commission direction on its role in the changing transportation environment.

Hunter-Zaworski's presentation, "Aging in Place," focused on challenges an aging population places on public transit and other transportation systems. She recommended strategies to help older adults transition to transit use.

Student panelists offered the following:

  • Joe Broach, a Ph.D. student in urban studies at Portland State, discussed the development of next-generation travel models in the Portland region, including the regional bike travel model and the DASH dynamic activity-based travel model.
  • Kristin Kelsey, a University of Oregon architecture graduate student, discussed her work on site design, specifically on suburban multifamily sites.
  • Mary Ann Triska, a civil engineering Ph.D. student at Oregon State, discussed the role of civil engineers as public servants and the importance of both design and rules for different travel modes on shared roadways.

Themes that emerged from the panel include the importance of considering smaller-scale transportation planning, how to safely share road space...

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