The Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth

by: Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator

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First Meeting of Governor Baker Administration’s Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth (photo: Jacquelyn Goddard, Communication Director, MassDOT)

Governor Baker recently established a new Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth.  In addition to providing advice on future transportation needs and challenges, the Commission is tasked with developing a range of scenarios anticipated between 2020 and 2040.  The UMTC Research Affiliate Network of over 120 leading researchers across the Commonwealth, has been asked to help generate must-read research findings to the Commission.

The Governor has appointed 18 transportation professionals, from around Massachusetts, with diverse backgrounds, and a range of expertise, to serve on this Commission.  Tasked with advising the administration on the future of transportation in Massachusetts, their focus will be on at least these five areas:

  • Climate and resiliency
  • Transportation electrification
  • Autonomous and connected vehicles, including ride-sharing services
  • Transit and mobility services
  • Land use and demographic trends

“This is going to be a serious effort, with a broad range of experts who will seek to better understand and evaluate how technology and other forces in society will affect transportation in the decades ahead,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack

The Chair of this Commission will be Governor Baker’s former Chief of Staff, Steven Kadish. The Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Secretary and CEO of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will serve as ex officio members.

The other members making up the Commission included:

  • Rebecca Davis, Deputy Director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council
  • Daniel Dolan, President of the New England Power Generators Association
  • Gretchen Effgen, Vice President of the Global Partnerships and Business Team at Nutonomy
  • José Gómez-Ibáñez, Derek C. Bok Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy at Harvard University
  • Kenneth Kimmell, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Carol Lee Rawn, Director of Transportation for CERES
  • Timothy McGourthy, Executive Director for the Worcester Regional Research Bureau
  • Mark Melnik Ph.D, Director of Economic and Public Policy Research at the UMASS Donahue Institute
  • Colleen Quinn, Senior Vice President of Global Public Policy for ChargePoint
  • Karen Sawyer Conard, Executive Director of the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission
  • Sandra Sheehan, Chief Executive Officer for the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority
  • Stephen Silveira, Senior Vice President at ML Strategies
  • Navjot Singh, Managing Partner for the McKinsey Boston Office
  • Kirk Sykes, Urban Strategy America Fund, L.P

Over the next 10 months, the Commission will be meeting on a monthly basis and will have developed recommendations by December 1, 2018.

MassDOT Research on Options for ADA Paratransit Services

by Eric Gonzales, Assistant Professor, UMass Amherst and Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator

paratransit
Governor Baker (right) at the Ride, Uber and Lyft ADA Paratransit partnership press conference (MassLive)

One of MassDOT’s research project titled “Optimizing ADA Paratransit Operations with Taxi and Ride Share Programs”, had its kick-off meeting in December 2017 and is well underway.  This $152k research project began in December with the project kickoff meeting scheduled for December 14th at MassDOT.   This project is Championed by Ben Schutzman, Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s (MBTA) and will be aimed at optimizing programs to serve some paratransit trips by taxi or other mobility services in order to minimize overall system costs.

Rising ridership on Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) paratransit services, such as MBTA’s “The Ride”, pose a challenge due to the high costs of operating this required service.  The objective of this project is to optimize programs to serve some paratransit trips by taxi or other mobility services in order to minimize system cost. The benefits to MBTA will be to lower the cost of providing service in order to accommodate the anticipated increase in ridership.  The challenge of managing a demand-response transportation service, for people with disabilities, is the system operation depends on the demand of the traveler behavior and supply structure and costs.  As of March 1, 2017, a pilot program now allows eligible ADA paratransit customers on “The Ride” were able to use taxicabs, Uber, or Lyft for a subsidized trip.  The goal is to provide insights about how the operation and use of the system is changing under the pilot program and then to provide guidance about how to manage a multimodal ADA program that provides users with a greater range of choices than they have had in the past.  Although the scope is tied closely to an analysis of the MBTA system, the insights are likely to have implications for the ADA paratransit systems elsewhere in Massachusetts.  A recent Boston Globe article provides an update to March 2017 pilot study, the increase in demand and some initial cost per ride numbers.

Eric Gonzales, UMass Amherst, the Principal Investigator states “the project will allow us to use modeling tools to analyze how coordinating ADA paratransit services with taxis is changing the experience for customers and costs of the agency.  Our goal is to identify ways to provide cost-effective and high-quality service for customers with disabilities as part of an equitable and sustainable transit system for the Boston region.”

Uber, Lyft…Impacting Traffic and Economic Development

by Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator

 

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People are taking Uber, Lyft or Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) more these days and often to avoid both parking and drinking and driving.  Although the majority of users are urban base, demand has been increasing in suburbia for Ubering.  TNCs have changed the way people get around and have impacted traffic in many cities.  If these types of rides are a pre-cursor to autonomous vehicles, the additional passenger trips will continue to increase and will also impact economic development.

A recent U.C. Davis study that included 4,000 users in seven major metro areas—Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., between 2014 and 2016 – points to cities increasing in passenger trips and in population, but transit rides and taxi trips decreasing.  The TNCs are the main source that are accommodating the increase in trips and in-turn causing more urban traffic congestion.

This study also found that around 50% of these trips would not have happened at all or would have been done some other way, via transit, walking etc…This coupled with the dead head time, when no passengers are in the vehicle, the TNCs are having a dramatic impact on vehicle miles traveled and congestion.

Currently New York City is the only major metropolitan city that mandates TNCs to report their travel data.  Other cities are able to obtain data but TNCs are not required to share it.  Being able to access and analyze this data can be the key to determining current and future traffic impacts.

Massachusetts passed legislation in 2016, creating a regulatory framework for TNCs. Speaking with Katie Gronendyke, Press Secretary, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the MA Department of Public Utilities Transportation Network Companies Division  does require some TNC travel data to be reported:

274.12: Reporting Requirements

(2) Annually, a TNC shall report to the Division the following: (a) By February 1st of each calendar year, a TNC shall submit a report for the number of Rides from the previous calendar year, including: 1. City or town where each Ride originated; 2. City or town where each Ride ended; 3. Aggregated and anonymized trip route and length (miles and minutes); and 4. Location of Vehicle accidents;

(b) By March 31st of each calendar year, a TNC shall report its intrastate operating revenues for the previous calendar year. If a TNC fails to report its intrastate operating revenues to the Division by March 31st of any calendar year, the Division may estimate a TNC’s intrastate operating revenues. A TNC’s intrastate operating revenue shall include but not be limited to any Rider picked up at the following: 1. Airport; 2. Train station; 3. Bus terminal; or 4. Any other kind of port.

BTS Releases Pocket Guide to Transportation Mobile App

Source: Govdelivery.com

Pocket-Guide-to-Transportation
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2018

“Tuesday, January 9, 2018 – The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) has released a new dynamic mobile app for the Pocket Guide to Transportation 2018 – a quick reference guide to transportation statistics. This popular guide provides the latest transportation statistics at your fingertips in mobile app and printed formats.  The app covers data on major trends, moving people and goods, system use and performance, the economy, safety, infrastructure, and the environment. Download the app now to access all the features of the classic Pocket Guide plus enhanced navigation, sharable graphics to social media and email, and dynamic data updates to highlight the most recent up-to-date statistics. The app is available on the App Store and on Google Play (keyword: BTS Pocket Guide). To access the Pocket Guide, go to BTS Pocket Guide to Transportation or text USDOT BTSPG to 468311. This publication can also be obtained by ordering online, by contacting BTS by phone at 202-366-DATA or by e-mail at answers@dot.gov. For inquiries other than placing orders contact Dave Smallen: david.smallen@dot.gov or 202-366-5568. ”

Mom, I missed the bus…..no you didn’t

by Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator

schoolbus

Chilly mornings can be dangerous to kids that wait for the school bus.  Until now, parents and students just assumed that if they weren’t at the bus stop in time, they had missed the bus.  Now there’s an app that tracks the location of the school bus and can also track when a child has boarded the bus and when they have gotten off.

The ‘Here Comes the Bus’ app is currently being discussed by many more School Boards.  This locator would prevent kids from waiting out in the elements for the bus that could have come early or might be delayed.  This app would provide parents and kids the location of the bus and allow them to meet it just as it arrives at the bus stop.

Another feature, which is optional, is the app can also alert parents when their child has gotten on and off the bus; assuring that they got on the right bus and that they are en-route.  This feature is up to the school boards to decide if they want it.

Using Advanced Science and Technology to Detect Marijuana Use

by Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

Massachusetts is one of twenty-nine U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, that now legally allow marijuana for recreational or broad medical uses or both (full list of these states available here). The Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) recently launched a public safety campaign, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, to warn and inform the public about the impairments that marijuana causes in drivers and the increased driving danger when alcohol and marijuana are combined. Marijuana is proven to impact the brain’s ability to function properly. Marijuana’s primary psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has been shown to slow reaction times, impair coordination, and decrease decision-making ability.

One challenge for enforcement regarding marijuana use and driving is that impairment from marijuana is more difficult to measure than impairment from alcohol. There is currently no proven equivalent to an alcohol type breathalyzer test that measures blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to assess drunk driving. Unlike alcohol that dissolves in water, THC dissolves in fat. As toxicologist Marilyn Huestis discussed in an NPR story, this means that that the length of time that THC lingers in the body varies more than with alcohol, and is influenced by factors such as amount of body fat, type of cannabis product consumed, and frequency of use. It also means that a person’s blood THC levels may not directly correlate to when they are most impaired.  Some states such as Colorado, Washington, Montana and Pennsylvania, define marijuana impairment using blood THC levels to legally define when someone is too impaired to drive. The state regulations in Ohio and Nevada determine impairment by blood tests and urine tests.

The San Diego Police department, and other enforcement agencies in New York, Arizona, and Nevada, have been screening drivers for THC using a mouth-swabbing testing device (the Dräger DrugTest 5000), which can test for the presence of seven drugs, including marijuana. The marijuana test is for delta-9 THC, the active THC compound which creates the high from marijuana. Unlike other components of THC, delta-9 THC typically only stays in a person’s system for a few hours and not days or weeks.  Stanford University researchers have been developing a saliva-based test for THC using magnetic nanotechnology.  Recently, police departments have been pilot testing a handheld breathalyzer for marijuana detection from Hound Labs. The device measures delta-9 THC levels and is able to detect marijuana from either inhaling or edibles. Cannabis Technologies is also developing a marijuana breathalyzer.  These THC detection methods are often used in conjunction with other field sobriety and impairment testing.

In Massachusetts, Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) are specially trained to detect impairment from drug use.  A full DRE exam takes about an hour and includes physiological measures (blood pressure, pulse, eye exams), and performance measures (balance, coordination). As described in a 2016 Boston.com article Massachusetts and other states are now offering a less intensive training, Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE), which is still a step above typical field sobriety training.

In a September 2017 Massachusetts Supreme Court decision, the Court found that police cannot use standard field sobriety tests to determine definitively that a driver is too high to drive. The court determined that the standard sobriety tests were developed to evaluate alcohol intoxication and there is not yet sufficient evidence that they are indicative of marijuana intoxication.  Under the ruling, police officers can still conduct field sobriety tests and testify about their observations regarding a driver’s demeanor and ability to perform physical coordination and mental tasks.

Dr. Michael Millburn, a Psychology professor at UMass Boston, has been developing a smart device app to assess driver impairment called DRUID.  This app has been designed to measure cognitive and behavior impairment from marijuana, alcohol, prescription drugs and other brain-based contributors to impairment, such as fatigue. It contains a series of four different tests for reaction time, errors in decision making, motor tracking, and time estimation and balance. The app then integrates the results of each of the individual tests into an overall impairment score. The tests are completed in 5 minutes total.  The app was developed to help people assess their own impairment, but could also be adapted for police use.  The app is currently being tested at Brown Medical School.  Research shows that some types of marijuana have non-linear patterns of impairment following consumption. Apps such as this could be useful for supporting driver safety and important complements to other tools and tests for measuring THC, alcohol, and other substances that can impair driver performance.

Cambridge police officer Jason Callinan, a drug recognition expert, or DRE, performs the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) on Jeremy Warnick, the department's spokesman, as part of a demonstration. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Cambridge police officer, Jason Callinan, a drug recognition expert, or DRE, performs a demo of a field sobriety test.   (Source: Jesse Costa, WBUR)

Written by Tracy Zafian, UMTC Research Fellow