Beets…for Roadway Deicing

by Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

beets2

beets

Winter in Massachusetts has just recently ended, but already communities are starting to plan and budget for their roadway snow and ice removal next year. Road salt and salt and water mixtures have long been used to help keep roadways clear and safe during the winter. However, there are now some grain and sugar based-options that when combined with salt can be more effective than salt or salt brine alone, and more sustainable as well.

One issue with using salt for road deicing is salt’s corrosive impact on metal, including vehicles and roadway infrastructure. Another concern is the polluting impact that road salt runoff as snow and ice melts can have on waterways, ecosystems, and wells. Through its Salt Remediation Program and commitment to environmental stewardship, MassDOT has established specific initiatives, as the program website says, that is aimed at “promoting the effective and efficient use of deicing chemicals.” One of the initiatives was the creation of the Snow and Ice Materials Usage Committee. This committee is charged with examining Best Management Practices for snow and ice removal, evaluating potential alternative roadway deicing options, and reviewing and revising current deicing policies.

Different Departments of Public Works (DPWs) have tried combining different agricultural materials, such as beet juice, beet molasses, cheese brine, and others, to their road salt to create better deicing mixtures. These agricultural additives contain carbohydrates that work chemically with road salt to lower the freezing point of water. These liquid mixtures can be sprayed on streets in advance of storms, which reduces salt bounce and helps prevent ice from forming. Such mixtures are also less corrosive.

Beet-based deicing mixtures have long been popular in the Midwest. Here’s a 2008 NPR story on the use of beet juice for deicing in Ohio. The DPW in Waukesha, Wisconsin has used a beet juice-salt brine mixture it prepares itself, as has Washington, D.C. Some Massachusetts communities are now using commercially-prepared beet molasses mixtures. As reported in a recent Boston Globe article, Wellesley officials started researching carbohydrate-based deicing additives after hearing great things about their use in other parts of the country. Wellesley Highway Division general foreman Kevin Collins and his team have been happy with the product, Magic-0 (Magic Minus Zero), that they started using in 2017. The product combines sugar cane molasses and magnesium chloride into a liquid mixture. It has been used by many highway departments and state agencies throughout New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.   The town of Lexington, under DPW superintendent Marc Valenti uses something similar. Another popular deicing product made from beet molasses is Beet Heet. Beet Heet has been used by over 200 agencies in 8 states, mainly in the Midwest. The beet molasses products can offer the benefits of beet additives with better consistency and performance than beet juice mixtures. Some cities, such as Milwaukee, discontinued the use of beet juice additive after finding it clogged their truck sprayers.

Other tested deicing additives include cheese brine, which is the water remaining with cheeses such as mozzarella. Cheese brine has been used for deicing in Polk County, Wisconsin, since 2009, and was pilot tested a few years ago in Milwaukee. Pickle brine was pilot tested in New Jersey in 2014. Researchers at Washington State University have developed a deicer made of barley residue from vodka distilleries. With additives made from byproducts of food processing plants, location and access to the processing is a factor, and one reason, for example, that Wisconsin is the main adopter of cheese brine deicing.  For local byproducts, the costs of the additives can sometimes be negligible as processing plants are happy to share their waste products in a win-win situation that can lower their own production costs as well.

As discussed in the Boston Globe, for now, the City of Boston currently primarily uses salt and sometimes a mixture of salt and water. However, the City’s Public Works Deputy Commissioner Michael Brohel says that carbohydrate-based additives could be in the city’s future. “We’re always open to testing out new methods,” says Brohel.

Baystate Roads plans to include discussion of deicing additives in its Snow and Ice Operations training for the next snow season.

Massachusetts Highlights Alternative Transportation Achievements

by Courtney Murtagh, UMTC Intern

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Hubway bike Sharing Boston

As warm spring temperatures finally welcome us in Massachusetts, pedestrians and bicyclists emerge from a long winter’s hibernation. Lucky for many of these pedestrians and cyclists, they are greeted by new infrastructure, trails, and programs implemented by the Baker-Polito Administration and the City of Boston.

All throughout 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) worked to improve pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure to get more people using alternative modes of transportation. In November 2017, their work seemingly paid off, when Massachusetts was nationally recognized by the League of American Bicyclists for being the fourth most bicycle-friendly state in the nation.

The report took into account each state’s infrastructure, funding, policies, programs and education on bicycle friendliness when creating the rankings. It is no wonder Massachusetts ranked so high on the list as huge strides have been made in the past year to fund alternative transportation.

For example, Governor Baker created an Interagency Trail Team with MassDOT, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Their goal is to create a unified network of biking trails throughout the Commonwealth.

So far, $1.5 million has been dedicated to fund designs of the 10-mile Northern Strand Community Trail running through Everett, Lynn, Malden, Revere, and Saugus. There has been $12.2 million distributed to 33 municipalities in order to improve over 200 intersections and crosswalks, as well as add or improve over 16 miles of sidewalks and trails.  At least eight other trails or intersections have also been completed, improved, or added this year.  There has been an increase in education for bike safety through videos, conferences, and safety campaigns like, “Scan the Street for Wheels and Feet.”

The Baker-Polito Administration also increased funding to $3.2 million per year for the DCR to give out grants for those who wish to construct or maintain trails across Massachusetts for the next two years.

This summer, as part of this healthy and supporting alternative transportation initiative, Boston’s Hubway, a bike sharing system throughout Boston and surrounding municipalities, is expanding to over 70 locations that were suggested by Boston’s citizens. Proposed maps can be seen on the Boston Bike Share website or the scheduled 11 open houses throughout Boston. After receiving final comments and opinions on the proposed site expansions, the stations will be created and ready for use.

Boston Hubway currently has over 1,600 bikes at over 160 stations in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville. The program has many affordable options, costing either $99 or $50 a year depending on income eligibility, or if one is not looking for a commitment there are 24 and 72-hour options for $8 to $15. The bikes can be picked up at any convenient location and returned at another without penalty.

As the temperatures rise, there are plenty of options for Massachusetts’s residents to safely consider alternative transportation in their future travels.

According to Professor Robert L. Ryan, FASLA, Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and UMTC Affiliate Researcher, “Boston has long been a leader in alternative transportation through its commitment to the historic Emerald Necklace of parks and trails.  Recent efforts to complete this historic vision are the exciting new Emerald Network project.”

“The Emerald Network is a vision for 200 miles of seamless shared-use greenway paths in the urban core of Boston and its adjacent cities” (Source: https://www.emeraldnetwork.info/ ) that is being proposed by the Livable Streets Alliance and is working in conjunction with the City’s efforts.

Currently, senior undergraduate landscape architecture students at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst under the direction of Professor Ethan Carr, FASLA and Assistant Professor Theodore Eisenman, PhD, MLA are working on conceptual designs for key sections of the Network as part of their senior capstone project for spring 2018.

 

Teaching Drivers to Be Safer and More Eco-Friendly

by Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

eco
From KIA motors- This system restricts engine and transmission performance in favor of fuel economy

Real-time feedback to drivers can help them improve their fuel efficiency and safety. The results of a recent UMass Amherst field study on the Effectiveness of Eco-Driving: Real-Time Feedback and Classroom Training, were presented at the 2018 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, by UMass-Amherst graduate student Tao Jiang.

The presentation summarized an UMass-Amherst study undertaken as part of MassDOT Office of Transportation Planning, Research Section and funded with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) State Planning and Research (SPR) funds. UMass-Amherst Professors, and UMass Transportation Center Research Affiliates, Dr. Daiheng Ni and Dr. Song Gao, oversaw the study. The goal of the project was “to identify and test techniques for modifying driver behavior to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions, and improve safety, in furtherance of the mission and goals of the GreenDOT Implementation Plan.”

Motor vehicles are major contributors to air pollution, and according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are responsible for close to half the volatile organic compounds that create smog, more than half the nitrogen oxide emissions, and approximately half of the toxic air pollutant emissions in the U.S.

As discussed in the research report, three major characteristics of driving behaviors to improve fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and improve safety are:

  • Driving smoothly without much acceleration, idling, or traveling at very low speeds (such as in congested stop-and-go traffic).
  • Anticipating traffic and being vigilant about other vehicles in traffic with you and other drivers’ behaviors.
  • Following speed limits on highways and adjusting speeds as needed for adverse conditions.

The study was conducted with 133 MassDOT-owned vehicles (heavy vehicles excluded) and the employees who drive them.  The study included two types of interventions to modify driver behaviors. The first was the installation of an in-vehicle device that provided real-time feedback, including weekly emails, on each driver’s performance over a two and a half month period. The second was a 1.5-hour classroom training on eco-driving. There were four participant groups:  one that received both interventions, one that received real-time feedback only, one that had the classroom training only, and one that had no intervention. Participants’ driving behaviors were evaluated before the intervention phase, during the intervention phase, and afterward.

Major conclusions from this research were as follows:

  • Real-time feedback had a significant impact in reducing speeding and aggressive acceleration.
  • Combined effects of real-time feedback and classroom training contributed to a 0.89 mile per gallon improvement in fuel economy.

The study recommended that both real-time feedback and training, as well as periodic follow-up and monitoring, will maximize the effectiveness of such eco-driving interventions.

Getting Around on Two Wheels, with a Motor, Instead of Four

by Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

e-bike-

MassDOT’s sustainability initiative calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and for promoting transportation modes such as bicycling, walking, and public transit. Electric bikes are a viable, environmentally-friendly way to get around.

Electric bikes, also known as e-bikes, are bicycles with an electric assist motor attached to the frame. With some e-bikes, the motor supplements pedal power as needed; with other e-bikes, the rider can choose to not pedal at all. There are currently close to 230 million e-bikes worldwide. They are especially popular in China, which has over 200 million of them, in other parts of Asia, and in European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands. U.S. e-bike sales are small compared to sales in other parts of the world, but U.S. sales are growing. It’s estimated that 263,000 e-bikes were sold in the U.S. in 2017, an increase of 25% over the previous year.

As described on an e-bikes website, e-bikes “provide all the advantages of a regular bicycle: fun exercise, free parking, zero emissions, and freedom from gridlock, while eliminating one of the bicycle’s more serious drawbacks, lack of power.” Because of their power assist, including on hills and with longer distances, e-bikes can be an option for people who might otherwise not be willing, or able, to bicycle for certain trips. This includes people traveling to work who don’t want to get sweaty during their commute and have to change or shower at the end of their trip.  It also includes older people who would stop biking without power assist.

E-bikes are also environmentally friendly. Transportation researcher Mirjan Bouwman from the Netherlands has estimated that e-bikes are thirteen times more energy efficient than a typical four-door car and six times more energy efficient than rail transit. E-bikes are also less expensive than a car. A typical e-bike sold in the U.S. costs between $1,000 and $3,000. In some situations, families have decided to purchase an electric bike, in lieu of having a second car. One example of a versatile e-bike is the cargo bike.

Some bike sharing programs now have e-bikes, which can help make them more affordable and further increase their use. The first e-bike only bike share program in the U.S. started last summer in Park City, Utah. Another e-bike bike share will be starting this year in the cities of Davis, Sacramento, and West Sacramento, California. Some regular bike share programs, such as in Birmingham, Alabama, have expanded to include e-bikes. In Massachusetts, bike share programs currently exist or will be starting up this year, in a number of cities including Boston, Worcester, Revere, and Quincy. None of the Massachusetts bike share programs includes e-bikes yet.

As e-bikes have become more popular, some cities have restricted or prohibited their use, citing safety concerns. This has been the case in a number of Chinese cities, and in New York City as well.

In Massachusetts, a bicycle is considered a “low-speed electric bicycle” under Federal law (15 U.S.C. § 2085) that does not have to be registered with the state Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) if it meets all of the following criteria:  has as two or three wheels; has fully operable pedals; has an electric motor of less than 750 watts (one horsepower); and has a maximum speed of less than 20 miles per hour (mph) on a paved level surface, when powered solely by the motor.  “Low-speed electric bicycles” can be used on any roadways that bicycles can, and anyone under age 16 who is riding one is required to have a helmet.

Curbside in Boston: Increasing Available Parking with Innovative Pricing

by Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

boston-parking-meters (1)
Boston Parking

We’ve all had the experience of having to drive around a city looking for on-street parking near our destination. Having limited availability of parking can lead to increased traffic congestion and vehicle emissions and decreased safety while drivers are distracted and looking away from the road to find parking. The City of Boston, as well as the Commonwealth (including MassDOT), have all been looking for ways to reduce vehicle emissions and improve driver safety. Variable parking meter pricing by municipalities may help.

The City of Boston recently completed a year-long pilot study testing higher parking meter pricing in the Back Bay and Seaport neighborhoods. The final report of the study is available online here. A main goal of the study was to increase the availability of on-street parking with 1-2 on-street parking spaces per city block being open at all times, equivalent to a parking occupancy rate of 60-80%. The City also sought to increase road safety by reducing distracted driving caused by drivers looking for parking and to reduce traffic congestion by decreasing illegal parking and the time to find parking.

For the study, the City raised the metered parking prices in the Back Bay area and kept the higher price for the whole pilot year. With the increased pricing, the study achieved its stated goals. With the higher meter charges, there were more open on-street parking spaces for residents and business customers.  There was also a reduction in illegal parking, in illegal parking in loading zones, in double parking, and an overall decrease in traffic congestion.

In the Seaport area, the City used a more dynamic pricing model, varying the meter prices from block to block and adjusting them every two months to try to maintain 60-80% on-street parking occupancy.  During the study, the dynamic pricing generally did not lead to more parking availability. The on-street parking occupancy in many of the zones increased from January to October 2017, even though the meter prices were raised repeatedly. Parking occupancy fell during the final two months of 2017, though it’s not clear if that was due to the higher prices. Other factors could be an ongoing construction project that impacted parking availability, and seasonal demand fluctuations in the Seaport area. Overall, during the study, the number of parking meter transactions decreased. It is possible that many drivers going to the Seaport area were not aware of the differing and changing prices for different streets. As in the Back Bay, the amount of illegal parking fell significantly during the study.

During the study, public outreach sessions were held in the Back Bay and the Seaport neighborhoods. Both positive and negative feedback was received, with the negative feedback focused on the parking rate increases in these neighborhoods when other neighborhoods kept their old parking prices. Despite the latter feedback, the City considers the pilot program to be a success overall. When announcing the study results, Boston Transportation Department Commissioner Gina N. Findaca shared the City’s findings that the parking pilot program was “an effective tool to reduce congestion, improve safety, and open up more parking in our busiest neighborhoods” and “this program makes better use of our limited curb space and helps our business districts and neighborhoods thrive by making sure drivers can easily find a spot and that pedestrians and cyclists are not adversely impacted by double parking.”

Parking meter revenues rose by $5.7 million in the Back Bay and by $300,000 in the Seaport area during the pilot year. These funds will be used for a variety of projects to improve transportation mobility including for sidewalks, bus lanes, buses, and bridges.

There are other cities, including San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, that have introduced dynamic meter prices in popular neighborhoods and during times of peak demand to help address parking shortages and encourage other transportation modes.

Boston’s leadership is now considering possibly continuing the differential pricing in its current locations and perhaps extending it to additional parts of the city.

 

MassDOT Earns its First LEED Gold Certification

by Courtney Murtagh, UMTC Intern

LEED

In 2016, MassDOT’s Research and Materials lab was nationally recognized and awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. The award-winning MassDOT facility, located near the Massachusetts Turnpike, was designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects. The LEED certification is a globally recognized award commending sustainable and efficient building design.

The lab is used to run tests on concrete, soils, asphalt, chemicals, and other material for MassDOT Highway Division construction projects. The facility is responsible to evaluate materials for more than 500 ongoing construction projects at any given time.

The building achieved its high rating certification with its sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, renewable materials, and high indoor environmental quality, according to a MassDOT press release.

The building is also equipped with other state-of-the-art green technology including porous pavement for runoff rainwater to charge the water table directly, two dual-port Level-II Electric Vehicle charging stations and a photovoltaic (PV) system that is expected to generate about 675,000-kilowatt hours (kWhs) per year. That energy output is roughly equivalent to 75% of the facility’s projected annual demand, according to the press release.

The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) and increasing energy efficiency. Improving transportation infrastructure is one way the administration is approaching this goal.  “MassDOT’s state-of-the-art Research and Materials lab has many environmentally-friendly features including approximately 500 kW of Solar-Carports, about 40 kW of Rooftop PVs, and south-side self-tinting windows that limit over-heating in the summer and winter, and increase energy efficiency while making the workplace more comfortable for people inside,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO of MassDOT, Stephanie Pollack. The Highway Division is focusing on reducing GHG emissions by reducing the energy and chemicals used in maintenance projects, bettering the ecological performance of land under MassDOT care and control, minimizing exposure to hazardous waste, adapting facilities for climate change resilience, and minimizing developed land use altogether.

The Baker-Polito Administration hosted a series of listening sessions throughout the Commonwealth in late October and early November 2017 to discuss possible ideas and solutions for reducing GHG emissions from the transportation sector. The listening sessions were held in response to the Massachusetts Global Warming Solution Act (2008) and Governor Charlie Baker’s Executive Order 569, An Order Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth. The specific regulations of the Executive Order require the Commonwealth to reduce GHG emissions by 25% below the 1990 emissions level by 2020 and by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. As of 2014, the Commonwealth had reduced emissions to below 21% of the 1990 emissions.

 

MassDOT Research on Commuter Bus Demand, Incentives for Modal Shift and Impact on GHG Emissions

by Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator

ghg

In January 2018, two UMass Transportation Center Research Affiliates, Assistant Professors Eleni Christofa and Eric Gonzales, presented the results of the MassDOT research project Commuter Bus Demand, Incentives for Modal Shift and Impact on GHG Emissions at an Executive Briefing at the MassDOT Office of Transportation Planning (OTP). The meeting was attended by OTP and Rail & Transit Division staff with a variety of transportation expertise. This research aimed to identify corridors in the Boston metropolitan region for which new or expanded express commuter bus service could have the largest impact on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The research objectives of this project centered on:

  • Developing a data-based model to quantify the effect of new commuter bus service on user cost, agency cost, and GHG emissions, by accounting for changing mode shares.
  • Applying models to optimize potential commuter bus services and identify corridors with the greatest potential for GHG reduction.

Preliminary findings discussed at the Executive Briefing include:

  • Existing models and data centered on cost models, GHG emissions models and mode choice models.
  • Status quo mode share and GHG emissions for commuting corridors.
  • Developing a model for new commuter bus service, including user and agency costs for new services.
  • Developing a method to optimize expanded bus service
  • Prioritizing origin-destination pairs with the greatest reduction in GHG and the maximum cost efficiency.

The final report will be available in the spring of 2018.

 

 

100% Renewable Transportation by 2045 – Hawaii is Leading the Charge

by Courtney Murtagh, UMTC Intern

100%

In December 2017 Hawaii’s four Mayors committed to 100% renewable public and private transportation by 2045. Meaning all of Hawaii’s cars, busses, trucks and trains will use renewable energy as fuel.

The four mayors – Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa, Kauai County Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe, representing Mayor Harry Kim – signed their respective proclamations, solidifying Hawaii’s status as a nation leader in renewable energy.

Hawaii has always been on the forefront of sustainability and in many ways is leading the nation. In 2015, Hawaii’s Governor David Ige signed into law a bill to reach 100% renewable energy consumption by 2045. In June 2017, another law was passed and Hawaii was once again the first state to commit to the Paris climate accord, despite President Trumps decision to pull the U.S. out of the agreement.

Despite Hawaii being the second in the U.S for electric vehicles sales per capita, Hawaii’s ground transportation still accounts for over a quarter of the states imported fossil fuel consumption as well as a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.

Exuberant gas prices due to the Islands geography and the high cost of importing oil are the reason many Hawaii citizens are readily accepting this act. Locals and leaders alike are hoping that renewable transportation will reduce the cost of living as well as attract businesses and create jobs.

Hawaii is the first state to commit to this goal, but other states including Massachusetts may not be far behind.

In September 2017, a hearing was held to consider the 100% Renewable Energy Act, which would put Massachusetts on the path to obtain 100% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2035, as well as heating and transportation by 2050.

The Bill (S.1849) passed the House on January 23 and is currently being referred to the joint committee on telecommunication, Utilities and Energy.

More than 40 U.S. cities and 100 global companies have committed to 100% renewable energy.

Run to Catch the Transit

by: Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator

adidas
BVG – Design

Walking and transit have always been linked.  For one transit agency in Berlin, Germany, all you need to ride transit, are your Adidas sneakers.  The transit operator BVG has partnered with the Adidas shoe company to have its transit pass imbeded in their sneaker.  This pass is for unlimited rides and will only be available in certain transit zones.

Beginning January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018, the unique pair of sneakers will have an annual BVG season transit imbedded in the tongue of the shoe. This is a limited-edition sneaker, only 500 pairs will be available.

Pedestrian Research Findings Presented to MassDOT

pedstreetcover
Belmont Ave., Holyoke, MA

On Friday, Jan 26th, Dr. Robert Ryan, from UMass Amherst, and his graduate students presented their results on The Role of Street Trees on Pedestrian Safety research project at an Executive Briefing meeting which took place in the Office of Transportation Planning (OTP).  This research aims to study the link between street trees and pedestrians’ perceptions of safety, along with actual safety while walking along street corridors in Chicopee, Holyoke and Springfield.

One research objective for this project centers on how road volume across street corridors, as well as streetscape features may impact pedestrian safety. Another key objective includes understanding how both residents and nonresidents value the presence or absence of street trees as related to vehicular traffic speed, as well as how to spatially assess pedestrian-vehicle accident reports with the presence of street trees.

Preliminary findings discussed at the Executive Briefing include:

  • Socio-demographic information
  • Important features for walking route choice
  • Results by city
  • Results by street tree cover
  • Results by age, gender, income, and race
  • Preference for additional tree plantings and future improvements