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

U of M hosts autonomous bus demo on Washington Avenue Bridge

autonomousbusdemo2018-0764-300ppi-3008x2008On Monday, April 30, an innovative demonstration of a self-driving EZ10 All Electric Autonomous Bus offered free rides to students, staff, faculty, and the public across the Washington Avenue Bridge.

More than 450 people took a three-minute ride across the bridge during the demo, which was organized by the U of M’s Parking & Transportation Services, CTS, the Humphrey School’s State and Local Policy Program, the University Office of Sustainability, and First Transit, Inc.

Posted in Connected and autonomous vehicles, Events, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Intelligent vehicles, Technology

Hands-on activities introduce kids to transportation at Tech Fest

On February 24, CTS partnered with MnDOT to bring transportation-related activities to Tech Fest, an annual event held at The Works Museum in Bloomington, Minnesota.

The event, geared toward kids ages four and up, is designed to inspire interest in engineering and technology. It features hands-on activities and demos from the museum and its partners.

Posted in Education, Events

Is accessibility to parks equitable in the Twin Cities?

Given the many benefits of parks, there’s growing interest in whether these green spaces are distributed equitably in urban areas. When researchers study park accessibility, they typically assume that people will use active modes of transportation (biking and walking) to reach their destinations. Few studies have considered automobile and transit accessibility.

A new analysis from the U of M helps fill this gap. It applies a comprehensive measure of park accessibility to determine the differences across space and population groups for Minneapolis and Saint Paul neighborhoods. Kristin Carlson and Jacqueline Nowak conducted the assessment last year as part of their graduate coursework for Professor Jason Cao of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Posted in Accessibility (access to destinations), Equity, Transportation research, Urban transportation
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