Blog Archives

Volunteer driver programs at risk from changing demographics, ridesharing services

Photo of elderly person being helped into a vehicleVolunteer drivers are a key component of human services transportation in Minnesota. They provide low-cost transportation for trips ranging from non-emergency medical appointments to general errands. Most of the organizations that use volunteer drivers are located in small towns or rural areas where dedicated transit services do not exist. But changing demographics and the rise of ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft could put many volunteer driving programs at risk, according to a new U of M study.

The project, funded by the Minnesota Council on Transportation Access, examined volunteer driver programs in Minnesota. The objectives were to learn which organizations use volunteer drivers, how they organize and fund their volunteer driver programs, and what challenges and barriers they face.

Posted in Accessibility (for people with disabilities), Rural transportation, Sharing economy, Transportation research

Videos on transportation research featured in new online resource collection

Screenshot of CIVIOS home screenLast week, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs launched CIVIOS, a new online collection of videos, podcasts, and other multimedia tools that translate public affairs research into easy-to-understand presentations.

The collection includes three new videos on transportation-related research conducted by CTS scholars Yingling Fan and Greg Lindsey.

Posted in Bicycling, Planning, Public transit, Transportation research

Work-zone warnings could soon be delivered to your smartphone

Photo of a work zoneImagine that you’re driving to work as usual when your smartphone announces, “Caution, you are approaching an active work zone.” You slow down and soon spot orange barrels and highway workers on the road shoulder. Thanks to a new app being developed by University of Minnesota researchers, this scenario is on its way to becoming reality.

“Drivers often rely on signs along the roadway to be cautious and slow down as they approach a work zone. However, most work-zone crashes are caused by drivers not paying attention,” says Chen-Fu Liao, senior systems engineer at the U’s Minnesota Traffic Observatory. “That’s why we are working to design and test an in-vehicle work-zone alert system that announces additional messages through the driver’s smartphone or the vehicle’s infotainment system.”

As part of the project, sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Liao and his team investigated the use of inexpensive Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) tags to provide in-vehicle warning messages. The BLE tags were programmed to trigger spoken messages in smartphones within range of the tags, which were placed on construction barrels or lampposts ahead of a work zone.

Posted in Construction, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Safety, Technology, Transportation research

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

36667April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month—a perfect time to remind all drivers to put safety first, put down their devices, and focus on driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving claimed nearly 3,500 lives and injured approximately 391,000 people across the country in 2015. Teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.

At the University of Minnesota, efforts to reduce distracted driving range from research projects to education initiatives.

Posted in Education, Safety, Transportation research

Taconite byproduct reduces road wear from studded tires

taconiteIn a recent project, the Alaska Department of Transportation used a byproduct of Minnesota’s taconite mining industry for a section of the Alaska Glenn Highway.

The taconite byproduct—Mesabi sand—serves as the aggregate of a sand-seal treatment for a 4,600-foot stretch of the highway just north of Anchorage. Sand seals are an application of a sealer, usually an emulsion, immediately followed by a light covering of a fine aggregate (the sand).

Larry Zanko, senior research program manager of the Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota Duluth, was the on-site representative for the taconite sand analysis.

Posted in Infrastructure, Pavements, Transportation research, Uncategorized

National Work-Zone Awareness Week April 3-7

It’s National Work-Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW), and this year’s campaign urges drivers to recognize that work-zone safety is in their hands. NWZAW is held each year in the spring to bring national attention to motorist and worker safety and mobility issues in work zones.

University of Minnesota researchers are always working on new solutions to help improve work-zone safety. Read the full post for examples of recent and ongoing projects.

Posted in Safety, Technology, Transportation research

Researchers invent process to produce renewable car tires from trees, grass

shutterstock_514166950A team of researchers, led by the University of Minnesota, has invented a new technology to produce automobile tires from trees and grasses. The new process could shift the tire production industry toward using renewable resources found right in our backyards.

Conventional car tires are viewed as environmentally unfriendly because they are predominately made from fossil fuels. Using the new process, tires produced from biomass that includes trees and grasses would be identical to existing car tires, with the same chemical makeup, color, shape, and performance.

The team included researchers from the U of M’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science (CEMS) and the Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP) and from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. CSP is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Posted in Sustainability, Transportation research
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