The Fábos Conference on Landscape and Greenway Planning

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Are you interested in what planners from around the world are doing to design innovative bicycle and pedestrian corridors, green streets, and other creative solutions to challenging urban conditions? To explore these issues, international experts gather every three years at the Fábos Conference on Landscape and Greenway Planning to highlight recent trends and expand the research about landscape and greenway planning. The aim is to explore how landscape architects and planners from different countries have approached greenway planning and to understand how greenways have been tailored to each county’s unique geographical, cultural, and political circumstances.

The conference is organized by Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with generous support from the Fábos Fund in partnership with Szent István University, Bdsc09888udapest, Hungary. Professor Emeritus Julius Gy. Fábos is an international leader in greenway planning who taught for over 35 years in the UMass Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning. For more information about Dr. Fábos see http://www.umass.edu/larp/people/julius-gy-fábos.

 

This year’s conference, the 5th Fábos Conference on Landscape and Greenway Planning, Greenways, Corridors of Change and Resilience was held in Budapest, Hungary on June 30-July 3, 2016 and featured over 150 speakers from over thirty countries and five continents. The conference focused on the challenges of rapid social, economic, political and ecological change caused by forces such as urbanization and climate change. These conference papers range from solutions to creating urban greenways in some of the most crowded cities in the world, as well as innovative design solutions for old industrial waterfronts, to historic and cultural trails, such as the Dinosaur Trail for the Connecticut River Valley. The full papers from the conference are available in a two-volume edited proceeding at https://sites.google.com/site/fabos2016/publication.

 

The next Fábos conference will be held in spring, 2019 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. For more information, please contact conference co-organizer, Professor Robert L. Ryan at rlryan@larp.umass.edu or Tel. (413) 545-6633.

By: Professor Robert Ryan, PhD, FASLA – UMass Department of Landscape Architecture

 

 

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The Phantom Bus Driver: Helsinki Rolls Out Autonomous Public Transit

Helsinki, Finland has long been on the forefront of developing cutting edge transportation technologies. By 2025, they hope to implement a “mobility on demand” system that would eliminate the need for private vehicles through the combination of bicycle-sharing, public transit, and on demand taxi services. One of Finland’s laws is particularly conducive to increasing the technology involved with transportation – they do not legally require vehicles on public roadways to have drivers within the vehicle.

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In August, they began taking an even more dramatic step to revolutionizing their citizens’ daily transportation needs. Although autonomous busses have been seen before in more controlled environments such as college campuses, the Helsinki bus is the first of its kind to operate on public roads, interacting with live traffic and having to make complex driving decisions. As of November 1st, the busses are running a route between Tampere University of Technology and Hervantakeskus Shopping Centre. The brains behind the project plan on stopping the service at the first snow fall in order to test the vehicle under difficult conditions. By getting commuters out of private cars and into public transit, the city of Helsinki could decongest streets, creating a safer atmosphere for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

Developed by French company EasyMile in collaboration with the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, the model, EZ10, is able to carry 12 passages, 6 sitting and 6 standing. It uses a system of sensors and software in order to be aware of its surroundings. Passengers can board and disembark at predetermined points along the route.

Although the busses are a large step forward in moving toward autonomous transportation, there are still various pitfalls that must be first overcome. First of all, the busses are not completely autonomous. There is an attendant in the front of the vehicle, ready to push the emergency stop if the situation arises. Furthermore, the busses are only currently running at 7 mph, making efficient travel a bit of a difficulty. Lastly, it is not capable of lateral movement – if the vehicle needs to swerve around an obstacle, the attendant must manually do so.

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Currently, the best use for the autonomous bus is in last mile service. The city of Helsinki, along with the University, hope to use the bus to move people from a transportation hub, to a final destination in the home. The city does not plan to replace the entire public transit system with these autonomous vehicles, but rather, hopes to use them as supplements to the existing system in high use areas. The main usage Helsinki has in mind is using them as a feeder service, transporting people to faster, more efficient forms of transit. Although only cruising along at a snail’s pace, Helsinki hopes for the bus to finally reach the Finnish line.

 

By: Adrian Ayala, UMTC Research

Norwegian Schoolchildren: The “secret agent” in improving traffic and pedestrian safety

When it comes to urban planning, the group of citizens with the least political clout in discussions regarding the future of our cities is often the same group whose voices need to be heard the most – children.

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In order to promote safe walking to school and to alleviate parents’ fears along the route, the city of Oslo, Norway has developed a cutting edge crowdsourced gaming application that allows for direct input from schoolchildren. Oslo’s 44,000 schoolchildren are the city’s most active group of walkers, and thus, their input is essential in improving roads and increasing traffic security. Created by the Agency of the Urban Environment alongside the Norwegian Center for Transportation Research, “Traffic Agent” targets school children on their walk to school, and by using a game design, they receive large amounts of data on the condition of roads and the safety of the users of urban infrastructure.

The application uses GPS in order to collect data on children’s travel patterns, as well as allowing schoolchildren to report dangerous and favorable spots along the way. Some characteristics of the walking route that the users can report are “heavy/low traffic”, “high speed vehicles”, “poor visibility”, “lack of sidewalk,” among others. The GPS capabilities of the app are particularly gps_appuseful for the municipality of Oslo, as they can precisely locate areas in which better safety measures are needed. This will allow them to add better lighting, road maintenance, additional street signs, and law enforcement to the areas in need.

The application also works directly with the Oslo public schools and through a special website designed for instructors, the students are given an anonymous code which allows them to access the app and report dangers along the way to school. Throughout the design of the app, anonymity of minors was of utmost concern, and through working collaboratively with the schools, the children’s identities can be protected. The data collected is only visible to the school and the federal project team. Furthermore, the teacher can access the data and discuss with their class on ways to arrive to school safer.

The gaming aspect of the app revolves around children being “secret agents” on the lookout for hazards. The interface features lively animations and an “agent’s” voice, in order to help children who are not yet at the proper reading level to utilize the app’s menu without additional help. The app allows the children to choose sex, transport method, and who they travel with (parent, classmates, other adults/older children). At the end of their route, they are asked to submit their trip to “headquarters” and are then congratulated for their efforts in keeping the city safe.

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The Traffic Agent app is one of many in terms of Norway’s efforts to improve pedestrian safety, move towards greater sustainability and decrease the use of cars. The city government also plans to use the app’s data to move their goal of banning private vehicles in the city center by 2019 forward. To try the app, one can search “Trafikkargenten” in the iOS or Android store, and log in using agent code 4320771.

By: Adrian  Ayala, UMTC Research