Blog Archives

U of M researcher weighs in on future of autonomous vehicles

In January, the White Bear Chamber of Commerce hosted an event focused on the future of autonomous vehicles. CTS Scholar Frank Douma, director of the State and Local Policy Program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, was one of the event’s featured experts.

In this video, which highlights the information shared at the event, Douma and others offer their insights on autonomous vehicles.

Posted in Connected and autonomous vehicles, Events, Technology

Pilot project aims to build farm-grocery-wholesale networks

backhaulThe U of M Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships recently began a project that connects small- and medium-sized farms to wholesale markets using existing infrastructure.

The pilot project is the first in the nation to develop and test “backhauling” as a way to help these farms get their produce to wholesalers for wider distribution. Backhauling uses the return trip of a delivery truck to carry locally grown foods from rural grocers back to wholesale distribution centers. The long-term goal is to increase the viability, competitiveness, and sustainability of the farms through access to the wholesale market.

Posted in Economics, Freight

State of freight in Minnesota explored in new annual report

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 12.57.25 PMThe Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee (MFAC) recently published its 2017 annual report on the state of freight in Minnesota.

Established in 1998, MFAC ensures that planning, research, investment, and operations of Minnesota’s transportation system address the needs of the state’s freight transportation industry. In addition, MFAC strives to help build a better understanding of freight’s role and to shape more effective and efficient ways for moving the products that drive a thriving economy.

The annual report highlights a number of 2017 MFAC activities that supported those aims, including a white paper authored by Humphrey School researcher Matt Schmit that identified the key components of an attractive freight market.

Posted in Economics, Freight

Humphrey researchers ask new kinds of questions about infrastructure

hhh_questionsCTS Scholars in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs are testing their ideas for how we can make infrastructure work better to support healthier and happier cities.

This post highlights a few of their projects that are exploring bike sharing, public transit, and transportation funding.

Posted in Bicycling, Public transit, Transportation funding, Transportation research

U of M researchers evaluate I-405 tolled corridor in Washington

University of Minnesota researchers recently completed a traffic data and performance analysis of the I-405 tolled corridor in Washington State.

Lawmakers in Washington authorized the creation of express toll lanes (ETLs), including the conversion of some existing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, in 2011. The lanes opened to traffic in September 2015.

Last year, U of M researchers analyzed traffic data from 2014–2017 to determine where the I-405 ETL facility is working and where it is underperforming. In addition, the team was asked to compare its findings against relevant performance measures contained in state statute.

Posted in Economics, Planning, Traffic operations, Transportation funding, Transportation research

New guide helps road crews choose the best pothole patch

IMG_0551For most road crews, repairing potholes is an essential and highly visible duty. Choosing the best or most cost-effective pothole repair method, however, has remained a complicated puzzle.

“Selecting the appropriate patching method and materials varies depending on several factors, including the size of the pothole and its location on the roadway,” says Manik Barman, an assistant professor with the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) Department of Civil Engineering. “Patching methods and materials also face seasonal challenges in Minnesota when asphalt plants shut down for the winter, turning cold-weather repairs into short-term fixes.”

To help solve this puzzle, the Minnesota Department of Transportation funded research to help road crews choose patching methods that match specific repair conditions. UMD researchers explored patching tools, materials, and methods to identify which ones were most appropriate for specific pothole conditions, road locations, and time of year. They also evaluated the effectiveness of different methods based on durability, road safety, ride quality, and driver satisfaction.

Posted in Infrastructure, Pavements, Transportation research

From grain supply chains to flying medical devices: What’s next for TPEC?

grain2Driving south of the Twin Cities on a fall late afternoon, you’ll see the sun shining pale and coarse through the dust kicked up by autumn harvesters. On either side of the road, grain stalks roll on in a smooth, seemingly endless tan sheet. But when the harvest ends and the crops are sorted, where does all that grain go?

With grain and feed comprising 28 percent of all freight volume along local highways—the largest share of any commodity in the state—answering this question is not only a matter of safe and efficient transportation planning. It also means securing the livelihood of 340,000 state residents who work in Minnesota’s growing agriculture sector.

At the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, researchers with the Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness (TPEC) Program have mapped this movement on Minnesota roads. Our novel GIS-based approach unveils how technological, political, and market shifts in the grain supply chain impact the way local producers and wholesalers navigate their local freight networks—a network that spans road, rail, and barge infrastructure.

Now, TPEC is shifting its attention to the medical supply chain, which is another central driver of the Minnesota economy. But how do we design transportation policy that invigorates and accommodates growth in this burgeoning sector? What lessons are there to learn from grain that can inform this new study?

Posted in Economics, Freight, Planning, Transportation research
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