System uses smartphone app to warn drivers of high-risk curves

MnDOT2018-12Lane-departure crashes on curves make up a significant portion of fatal crashes on rural Minnesota roads. To improve safety, solutions are needed to help drivers identify upcoming curves and inform them of a safe speed for navigating the curve.

“Traditionally there are two ways to do this: with either static signage or with dynamic warning signs,” says Brian Davis, a research fellow in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “However, while signing curves can help, static signage is often disregarded by drivers, and it is not required for roads with low average daily traffic. Dynamic speed signs are very costly, which can be difficult to justify, especially for rural roads with low traffic volumes.”

In a recent project led by Davis, researchers developed a method of achieving dynamic curve warnings while avoiding costly infrastructure-based solutions. To do so, they used in-vehicle technology to display dynamic curve-speed warnings to the driver based on the driver’s real-time behavior and position relative to the curve.

Posted in Rural transportation, Safety, Technology, Transportation research

RCP selects Scott and Ramsey Counties as next community partners

The University of Minnesota’s Resilient Communities Project (RCP) recently announced that Ramsey County and Scott County will be its community partners for the 2018–2019 academic year. It’s the first time in the six-year history of the program that it will assist two partners in the same year.

RCP, housed within the U of M’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, seeks to connect students’ innovation, ingenuity, and fresh perspectives with local government agencies to learn about their needs, conduct research, and develop solutions. In the coming months, staff will define the scope and purpose of individual projects before matching them with courses offered at the University in fall 2018 and spring 2019.

Ramsey County’s proposal identified up to 18 potential projects, including removing transportation barriers to employment and exploring innovative stormwater management practices. Scott County’s proposal identified 14 potential projects, including planning for autonomous vehicles and promoting active living.

Posted in Education, Planning, Workforce development

Women in aviation take flight

mcoa-minnesotaairportsconference2018-0272-300ppi-6016x4016At this year’s Minnesota Airports Conference, held April 18-20 in Duluth, three successful women shared their experiences breaking down barriers in the aviation industry. Despite different backgrounds and career paths, these women shared the belief that they could do whatever men could do—and had the drive to push through when they were told otherwise.

In a panel discussion at the conference, the women talked about how they got started, where they found support, and what unique challenges they faced in a male-dominated field.

Posted in Aviation, Events, Uncategorized

Social media can be effective part of public engagement plans

shutterstock_662208199Social media can be effective as a strategic and select part of public engagement plans, according to findings of a U of M study. Co-principal investigators were Professor Ingrid Schneider of the Department of Forest Resources and Associate Professor Kathryn Quick of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “Public engagement for transportation planning and programs is not only required, it’s a crucial component in policy and project success,” Schneider says. “Since 2000, advances in technology and communications provide opportunities to engage with more people in new ways.”

The multipronged, multiyear project investigated current knowledge about public engagement through social media nationwide and in Minnesota. It also developed guidance about how social media may be used to reach and engage diverse populations in the state about transportation planning and projects.

Posted in Engagement, Planning, Transportation research

Traffic stress and biking to work: bike access to jobs should consider where people ride

MPLS_bike_LTS_3_2_with_legendBy Brendan Murphy, Lead Researcher, Accessibility Observatory, University of Minnesota

As the rate of bicycling continues to increase in North American cities, partly in accordance with placement of better bicycling facilities, it becomes all the more important to better understand to what destinations cyclists are traveling, and the specific routes they are using to get there. Properly measuring bicycle accessibility—a measure of how many jobs you can reach, by bike, in a certain amount of time—requires methodology distinctly different from what we use to measure accessibility by car, transit, or even walking.

Cars typically have few, if any, restrictions on where they may be driven, and while drivers do not always use the perfectly shortest path, transportation networks available to cars are considerably more robust and redundant than those afforded to bicycles. Transit networks are more similar, in that a limited number of (usually) fixed routes are available, but the user is still at the mercy of schedules. Walking as a travel mode is, while slow, thoroughly route-unrestricted aside from limited-access facilities such as interstates, so long as there is a suitable sidewalk. Choosing a route when bicycling is a much more sensitive affair—the shortest and quickest route may be legally bikeable, but often isn’t safe, and many cyclists would opt for a longer and more circuitous route if it were considerably safer. Calculating access to destinations by bicycle must account for these considerations, or else we are simply calculating accessibility by slow-moving car.

To account for these fundamental differences, we are currently incorporating Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) methodology into how we construct the networks on which we calculate bicycle accessibility.

Posted in Accessibility (access to destinations), Bicycling, Transportation research

Otter Plow Cushion absorbs shock of rough roads

Snowplow truck with Otter Plow Cushion Winter roads, especially late in the season, can be especially rough, causing more stress on snowplow lift chains and plow lift parts as the heavy plow assembly bounces more. Broken plow lift chains are a common result and can take maintenance vehicles and personnel out of service for hours.

Industrious maintenance personnel with the Otter Tail County Highway Department created the Otter Plow Cushion with spare parts during downtime on a cold winter day. The device absorbs the shock of rough roads on the plow assembly and lift chains, improving ride quality and reducing the failure of the plow lift chains and parts.

The Otter Tail County Highway Department received a grant through the Local Operational Research Assistance (OPERA) Program to produce more Otter Plow Cushions.

Posted in Maintenance

U of M researchers to begin new roadway safety projects

U of M researchers have received funding from the Roadway Safety Institute for nine new projects focused on advancing roadway safety. Topics range from developing a course on automated vehicle technologies to improving EMS response on American Indian reservations.

The newly funded projects are specifically focused on moving current Institute research toward implementation, positioning its researchers for future opportunities, or developing educational initiatives. Projects were required to fall under the Institute’s research focus areas of rail-crossing safety, safety on tribal lands, bicycle and pedestrian safety, connected vehicles, or safety policy.

Posted in Safety, Transportation research
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