The Latest Transportation Tools Update from ITE and FHWA

By Courtney Murtagh, UMTC Research staff

This past fall, both the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and the Federal Highway Administration, made important updates to their transportation research tools.

The ITE released the 10th edition Trip Generation Manual, which consists of two volumes: volume one- Desk reference and volume two- Land use data plots. It also comes with the third edition trip generation handbook, and a new web-based application titled ITETripGen.

The updated manual provides a detailed description of both vehicle and person-based trip generation data for all different settings including urban, suburban, and rural areas. The data set of land use description and plots for all land use/time period/independent variable combinations has been updated with twenty-two new land use classification for more than 1,700 sites.  The new desktop app allows users to access the entire trip generation data-set electronically, with plenty of filtering options including site setting, geographic location, age of data, development size, and trip type.

The Federal Highway Administration updated their Interactive Highway Safety Design Model (IHSDM),is a software analysis tool used to evaluate highway designs expected safety and performance based on data collected from existing highways.

The tool now includes an economic analysis option (EA Tool). The purpose of the new EA tool is to allow project managers, highway designers, and others using the tool to estimate the cost of crashes predicted for one or more designs and run benefit-cost analyses. Data has also been updated on the app, which now includes a lane offset option for urban and suburban arterials. Minor graphical user interface, output/reporting, documentation, and system administration tools were updated to adapt to the new EA Tool.

Both these changes are significant to improve safety in highway designs, and improved modeling and design for transportation engineers.

 

Safety in the Zone: the Work Zone

by Tracy Zafian, UMTC Research Fellow

On the evening of September 30, 2017, a road construction worker in Ohio, Steve Cook, age 59, was hit and killed by an impaired driver while in a work zone. Just before the crash, the driver looked down at his cell phone. Not only distracted, the driver had also been drinking. He now faces charges of vehicular manslaughter.

WorkZonePic2_source_Wayne_State_University
Source: Wayne State University

Roadway work zones can be hazardous both for drivers and for workers on site. The latest data from the Federal Highway Administration show that in 2015 nationwide, there were an estimated 96,626 crashes in work zones an increase of 8% over 2014. Of these crashes, 642 (0.7%) involved at least one fatality.

On average, 85% of work zone fatalities are drivers or passengers in cars. Of the fatal crashes in 2014, major contributing factors included speeding (28%), lack of seatbelt use (25%), alcohol (25%), and distraction (16%). Approximately 40% of fatal crashes in work zones are rear-end collisions. When compared to 16% of all fatal crashes nationwide, this is a huge percentage. It also provides insight into areas for improvement.

States have approached this issue a few different ways. Some have focused on safety campaigns, others on enforcement and some states have looked into technology to help decrease these crashes. Most safety campaigns encourage drivers to drive more slower and be alert in work zones. Almost all states have increased fines for speeding or other traffic violations in work zones. In Massachusetts and many other states, the fines in work zones are doubled.

Illinois, which has had a general prohibition against handheld cell phone use while driving since 2014, has banned hands-free cell phone use in work zones. Arkansas banned handheld cell phone use while driving in work zones in 2011. Wisconsin is another state specifically banning handheld cellphone use by drivers in construction zones. Wisconsin’s ban took effect in October 2016, and after one year, it isn’t clear it’s having the desired effect. Since the ban started, and combined with increased enforcement, new work zone signage, and a safety campaign, the number of work zone crashes is up and many people are still using their cell phones in work zones. According to David Pabst, Director of Safety for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, “It’s still a problem, and we haven’t gotten the message through to people to put their phone down in a work zone.”

Massachusetts has been looking at engineering and technology options for improved work zone safety. In June 2016, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) established a Work Zone Safety Task Force with members from a number of MassDOT divisions, the Massachusetts State Police, the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, the Massachusetts Sherriffs’ Association and Construction Industries of Massachusetts. The Work Zone Safety Task Force issued recommendations in early 2017 and MassDOT is now in the process of implementing a number of new safety enhancements in work zones, including portable rumble strips at the beginning of work zones, and flashing blue LED lights on portable trailers in work zones, to simulate the presence of a police vehicle. Pilot testing of trailers with these blue lights has been conducted at construction zones along Route 2 and Interstate 190.

There are a number of additional technology options that could be considered moving forward., including using communication technologies. IBM-designed SmartCones use wireless technology to alert construction zone workers to potential threats. SmartCones placed strategically ahead of a work zone have been shown to be effective at alerting drivers about the work area and at slowing traffic.

smart_cone
Each SmartCone contains a high powered computing platform running SmartCone IoT software and sensors. Source:  http://www.thesmartcone.com

Researchers at the University of Transportation Center in Alabama recently evaluated a number of different intrusion sensing and alarm technologies for alerting construction zone workers when a vehicle has errantly entered their active work area. Led by Eric Marks, Ph.D., the research team compared different options including kinematic, infrared, pneumatic, microwave, radar, and radio technologies, and then field tested two commercially-available systems: Intellicone Safelane and the Traffic Guard Worker Alert System. Both systems are portable and easy to deploy around a work site. Both use sensors that detect intrusion and then wirelessly send signals to an alarm system with multiple types of alerts.

In their analysis, the researchers evaluated the systems’ alarm volume, worker response time, driver response time, and vehicle stopping time and distance at different traveling speeds. The Intellicone and Traffic Guard systems performed comparably, and on average it took a worker less than 1 second to respond to the warning alerts. Based on their review and analysis, the research team recommended the Traffic Guard system for short tapers in work zones and for short-term or mobile highway construction zone projects. The Intellicone was recommended for longer tapers where traffic barrels or other longer-term temporary devices are being used. The researchers recommended the AWARE (Advanced Warning and Risk Evasion) system for safety against intrusion in longer-term work zone projects. AWARE requires the most infrastructure and setup, but provides the most comprehensive alarms.

Resource for further information: National Workzone Safety Information Clearinghouse, www.workzonesafety.org.

Distracted Walking: A Global Epidemic

By Courtney Murtagh, Tracy Zafian, and Matt Mann, UMTC Research Staff

Most of us are aware of the dangers of distracted driving, but distracted walking? Around the world and close to home, it’s a growing epidemic. More and more people are texting and using their phones while walking in intersections, creating unsafe situations.

distracted_peds_source_Premier_Insurance_Corp
source: Premier Insurance Corporation

A 2017 report by the Governors Highway Safety Association found that pedestrian roadway deaths in the US are now at their highest level in over 20 years, with more than 6,000 pedestrian fatalities in 2016. An article in the May 2017 MassDOT Innovative Outlook, discussed a number of contributing factors for this, including: more driving; alcohol use by drivers and pedestrians; lack of pedestrian visibility; and driver and pedestrian distractions.

Dr. Cole Fitzpatrick, a UMTC Affiliate Researcher, recently conducted a field study on the prevalence of distracted walking and its effect on driver behavior. The study included observations of a total of 1,386 pedestrian crossings and 890 pedestrian-vehicle interactions at seven different crosswalks on the UMass Amherst campus. The researchers found that nearly half of all pedestrians were distracted while crossing the street, with 22% of them talking to another person beside them, 16% using headphones, and 10% either texting or talking on their phones.

Cities have begun to take notice of distracted walkers and are looking for ways to improve intersection and crosswalk safety. In October 2017, Honolulu enacted a law allowing pedestrians who text on their phones while crossing the street to be fined $15 to $99 for doing so.  This new law is thought to be the first such law of its kind in the country. Prior to October,  Honolulu had more pedestrians being hit  by vehicles in crosswalks, than any other major US City. Local high school students were instrumental in pushing for this law. Kel Hirohata, a local high school teacher interviewed on National Public Radio recently, described how the Youth for Safety club at Waipahu High School spent more than a week watching fellow students as they left school. They noticed an alarming trend: many of their classmates staring at their phones while crossing the street. The Safety club members took note of the potential danger, and then followed up with a local councilmember who wrote a bill which then became the new law.

Legislators in other places have also proposed laws to curb texting while walking. In San Mateo County, California, County board members unanimously voted in favor of a resolution in September 2017 asking state lawmakers to pass a law banning cell phone use in crosswalks. Stamford, Connecticut is now considering an ordinance that would ban cell phone talking or texting while crossing the street and impose a $30 fine for offenders. In September 2017, New York State passed a law requiring the New York City Transportation Department to study and report on its efforts to educate drivers and walkers about the dangers of pedestrians distracted by cell phones.  In Massachusetts a bill was introduced this November to ban texting while jaywalking. No action has yet been taken on this proposed legislation.

It’s not just in the United States that officials are looking into distracted walking. Bodegraven, Amsterdam for example installed lights in the ground near crosswalks that would change colors with the traffic lights, so people looking down on their phones would be more aware of the nearby traffic and when it’s safe to cross.

LED_sidewalk_lights_in_Amsterdam_Lichtlijn-Foto-Gemeente-Bodegraven_source_www_omroepwest_nl
LED sidewalk lights in Amsterdam. Source: http://www.omroepwest.nl

 

MaPIT is Streamlining Project Management for MASSDOT!

By Courtney Murtagh, Matt Mann and Melissa Paciulli, UMTC Research Staff

This past November, MassDOT rolled out a new tool for project management to the 365 communities in the Commonwealth. The tool titled, Massachusetts Project Intake Tool, or MaPIT, is a web-based application that helps to streamline the process for municipalities to complete the Project Need Forms (PNF) and Project Intuition Forms (PIF).

MaPIT2017_v2
Attendees by MA Location – MaPIT Workshop Series, UMTC Graphic

The intention behind MaPIT is to expedite the project development process, including:  project initiation, environmental permitting, scoring, and project delivery. It does this by automating Project Need Form screening for relevant GIS layers, transferring PNF information to PIF forms. The application also maps project locations for public viewing.  Upon approval, each project is assigned a number and its information is automatically transferred to the MassDOT Project Info Software System.

Baystate Roads, part of the UMass Transportation Center, has been offering workshops for those who wish to familiarize themselves with this new tool.  The workshops include instructor-led step-by-step software training and demonstrations. The workshop trainings are aimed to help project managers, town selectmen, consulting companies, and others who would need to use the tool feel confident with the new technology.  Since September seven MaPIT workshops have been held with close to 200 participants from 62 municipalities represented.

Baystate Roads has also created instructional videos to teach a wider audience about MaPIT.  The videos are available online (at https://vimeo.com/umtc) and accessible to anyone who is interested at no charge.