Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon Devices Rescinded

by: Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator

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A Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (RRFB). Source: Carol Kachadoorian (2012)

Many Massachusetts towns and educational institutions, like UMass Amherst, have installed Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) devices at crosswalks, to alert drivers of a pedestrian crossing. This will be changing in the future. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) prohibits patented devices from experimentation, Interim Approval (IA), or inclusion in the MUTCD. Based on an Interim Approval, in June 2008, for this device, the US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Division recently rescinded all new RRFB devices. Existing devices, already installed, can remain in-place for their useful life.  Additional information will be forth coming.  Please contact FHWA Massachusetts division office for guidance.

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MassDOT Contracts with UMass Lowell Researchers on “Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy Analysis.”

by: Shannon Greenwell, MassDOT Transportation Planner and edited by: Melissa Paciulli, Manager of Research

MassDOT has chosen Affiliate Researchers, Danjue Chen, Yuanchang Xie, and Jill Hendrickson Lohmeier to start a 12-to-18-month research project based in UMass Lowell.

MassDOT’s primary lever for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is investment in transportation projects and programs that reduce congestion and promote low emission transportation options such as transit, walking and bicycling. Primarily, this includes traditional capital projects such as constructing sidewalks and bicycle lanes, improving intersections, and procuring cleaner transit vehicles. While these investments are integral to MassDOT’s mission to provide safe and reliable transportation options, and also support Massachusetts’ efforts to achieve the Commonwealth’s emissions reduction targets set out under the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA),[1] they often have high capital costs and long design and construction timelines.

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Through this search endeavor, MassDOT seeks a review and analysis of low-cost, quick to deploy and scaleable GHG-reducing investment strategies that would supplement traditional capital investments. This data will inform decision-making on how MassDOT could diversify its investments to further support greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts. MassDOT is specifically interested in capital subsidy and direct incentive compensation strategies.

 Shannon Greenwell is a Transportation Planner with MassDOT’s Office of Transportation Planning. As a planner within the Sustainable Transportation group, Shannon’s work focuses on the research, analysis and development of strategies that reduce transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions, ranging from capital investments in infrastructure, to wider-reaching programmatic interventions.

[1] Requires Massachusetts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Glow-in-the-dark Lighting Lanes for Safety

This past fall at Texas A&M University, glow-in-the-dark markings were used on the green bike lanes at an unsignalized intersection. The intersection chosen was a Dutch junction which protects cyclists from motorists at the intersection and increases the visibility of cyclists during turning maneuvers. This type of markings can enhance the safety and usability of bike infrastructure. The technology is based on phosphors, a material which is used in glow sticks, televisions, and computer screens.

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Photo Source: Texas A&M Transportation Institute

Similarly, in Lidzbark Warminski, Poland, the same technology was used to illuminate a separated bike and pedestrian path. The 330 foot-long, 12 foot-wide path was illuminated to create a bike lane and a pedestrian lane. The city plans on using this stretch as a pilot study.

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Photo Source: Strabag

While there are many ways to light a bike lane, there are several advantages to this method. This technology can provide continuous lighting relative to street lights, reduced light pollution for surrounding homes, ability to light paths in remote locations without electrical service, and the use of renewable energy reducing potential climate change impacts.

Both of these projects are pilot studies and are primarily focused on testing how long the product will last under the wear and tear of cyclists and weather. Texas A&M has only installed the glow-in-the-dark markings at one intersection on campus and the stretch illuminated in Poland is limited to just 330 feet. This technology is very new and has limitations for wide spread use due to cost. In Massachusetts where winter months can result in additional stress on pavement due to snow and ice, implementation of this technology could be costly and might be better used strategically rather than as a standard method for all bike paths and lanes. Glow-in-the-dark pavement markings may be ideal in areas with high volumes of cyclists, on bike paths adjacent to residential neighborhoods, and college campuses where the technology could also be used on crosswalks. It will be interesting to follow the findings of these pilot studies in Texas and especially Poland, which shares a similar climate as Massachusetts.

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-Amherst Department of Landscape Architecture

A Seasonal Bicycle Demand Model Using A Sinusoidal Function

As urban populations increase, there is a growing need for efficient and sustainable transportation modes, such as bicycling. Unfortunately, the lack of bicycle demand data is a substantial barrier to efforts in designing, planning, and researching bicycle transportation. Estimating bicycle demand is especially difficult not only due to limited count data, but due to the fact that bicyclists are highly responsive to a multitude of factors, particularly seasonal weather conditions. Current bicycle demand estimation methods are increasingly improving and are capable of accurately adjusting for seasonal change in demand. However, these methods often require substantial data for each calibration, which is often difficult or impossible in locations with partial or minimal continuous count data. This research aims to help mitigate this challenge by developing an estimation method which uses a sinusoidal model to fit the typical pattern of seasonal bicycle demand expected in in many locations. This sinusoidal model utilizes a single calibration factor to adjust for scale of seasonal demand change and is capable of estimating monthly average daily bicycle counts (ADB) and average annual daily bicycle counts (AADB). This calibration factor can be established using a minimum of two short term counts to represent the maximum monthly ADB in summer and minimum monthly ADB in winter, or ideally with continuous counts. The calibration factor can then be applied to other locations that are expected to have similar seasonal patterns, even if they have different overall counts. To develop the model this research uses data from bike-share systems in four cities and permanent bicycle counters in six cities. Ultimately, this model functions as an alternative, or supportive, estimation method which allows for researchers and transportation agencies to approximate expected demand in locations that suffer from minimal seasonal bicycle demand data.

By Nicholas Fournier, Eleni Christofa, and Michael A. Knodler Jr., UMass-Amherst Researchers

 

Innovative Strategies for Safer Cycling

Research is in progress at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst underway to evaluate newer bicycle infrastructure treatments such as bike-boxes, merge lanes, and protected intersections to identify patterns around driver behavior and performance when approaching these new innovative bicycle infrastructure treatments. The information collected can then be used to develop countermeasures such as infrastructure geometry, signage, training campaigns, etc. The goal of this information is to promote cycling by mitigating bicycle safety concerns through improving driver awareness at new and unfamiliar bicycle infrastructure treatments. For more information please click here.

By Professor Eleni Christofa and Ph.D. Student Nick Fournier, UMass-Amherst