Transit Manufacturing Job Facts

by: Melissa Paciulli, Manager of Research

Quantifying transit manufacturing can be relatively simple, when you consider all of the components that are manufactured across the country. T4America  recently published a few facts that make it clear that investing in transit, helps the economy.

  • There are at least 2,763transit component manufacturers in the United States.
  • 91 percent[396 of 435] of congressional districts host at least 1 manufacturer.
  • 98 percent[50 of 51] states + DC are home to at least one manufacturer.
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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. ”

New Federal Committee on Motorcycle Safety Holds First Meeting

by Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

motocycle

Last month, the Motorcycle Advisory Committee (MAC) held its initial meeting in Arlington, VA. This federal committee was created to advise the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on motorcycle safety and to identify engineering-related infrastructure solutions for reducing motorcyclist fatalities.

There were 5,286 roadway fatalities nationally involving motorcycles in 2016, an increase of 5% from the previous year. In Massachusetts, 40 motorcyclist fatalities were reported during the same year.

As described on transportation.gov, “the MAC consists of ten members selected by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao. [The members] come from across the country and are experts in a wide range of motorcycle-infrastructure topics. Each is a motorcyclist and, combined, the MAC members have over two centuries of riding experience.”

At the first MAC meeting, there were substantial discussions on many infrastructure issues, including work zones, roundabouts, roadside hardware, roadway maintenance practices, the potential consequences of automated vehicles and crash testing, among others. At upcoming meetings, the MAC will determine how to advise FHWA on these issues. For its part, FHWA has research underway to identify key infrastructure-based safety issues for motorcyclists. The centerpiece of this work is the FHWA’s Motorcycle Crash Causation Study. According to the study web site, “The Motorcycle Crash Causation Study is the most comprehensive data collection effort to study the causes of U.S. motorcycle crashes in more than 30 years. The dataset includes data from at least 351 crash investigations, and 702 control rider interviews.”

A couple of current safety features on motorcycles to prevent future fatalities include: new breaking lights and the required anti-lock brake feature. The break light feature is the first wearable brake light connected to a smart phone app.  The anti-lock brake feature has been an option on motorcycles for years, but it may soon become a requirement based on the safety advantages.

In addition to technology and infrastructure improvements for motorcycle safety, some changes in how motorcyclists are trained may be warranted as well. Researchers at UMass-Amherst, led by now Ph.D. graduate Jeffrey Muttart, have conducted field studies on motorcyclist eye glance and driving behavior, including studies where participants went through the same on-road course as car drivers and as motorcyclists. Key findings in one study were that motorcyclists were less likely to come to a complete stop at a stop sign than car drivers, and that study participants made later final glances toward the direction of the most threatening traffic before they made a turn when they were driving a car than when they were riding a motorcycle.

Transportation Sector – Moving from GHGs to Electricity

by: Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator

Gas vs Hybrid

As Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) continue to contribute to climate change, the biggest contributor is now the transportation sector, taking over from the power plants.  This doesn’t mean there are more emissions coming out of tailpipes; rather less coal is being used and an increase in cleaner natural gas are two of the biggest reasons.  In the long-term, the other reason could also include an increase in demand of electric vehicles.

Transportation emissions have been fairly flat since 2000 and with a slight increase since 2012.  This, coupled with an increase in the way electricity emissions are produced, has allowed planes, trains and automobiles to become the lead emitter of GHGs since the late 1970s.  Electricity demand has also leveled off, as the shift has been away from coal and more on natural gas and renewable energy.

Even though electricity demand has leveled off, the increase demand for electric vehicles could change this.  With a minimal but consistent increase over the last couple of years, electric vehicles are expected to widen their reach and even include electric delivery trucks as well. With electric vehicles becoming more affordable, reliant and convenient, this increase in demand could eventually have a big impact on pollution emitted.

There are a couple recently completed MassDOT research publications on GHGs reduction and electric vehicles, written by One Center Research Affiliates Erin Baker and Song Gao.  Also Shannon Greenwell, from the Office of Transportation Planning at MassDOT, is currently working on a review and analysis of low-cost, quick to deploy, and scalable GHG-reducing investment strategies that would supplement traditional capital investments.

Eliminating Mandatory Parking Requirements to Support Development & Encourage Alternative Modes

by: Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

parking

In December, Hartford, Connecticut became the 2nd major U.S. city and 3rd largest North American city to eliminate mandatory minimum parking requirements citywide for development projects. Hartford follows in the footsteps of Buffalo, New York and Mexico City, where parking requirements were eliminated over the past year.

As described by Streetblog, Mexico City, the largest city in North America (2017 population: 8.8 million) went even further, capping the number of allowed parking spaces for new developments (at 1 parking space for every 30 square meters, or 323 square feet) and implementing a new fee on any new central city development including more than 50% of the maximum parking allowed. Revenues from the new fee will be used for subsidized housing and transit improvements. New parking requirements include bicycle parking for new building developments in Mexico City. Goals of the new policy include reducing traffic, improving air quality, and making housing more affordable.  With the new regulations, existing parking spaces can be converted to other uses.

Buffalo, New York eliminated its minimum parking requirements as part of an overhaul of its zoning bylaws and shift to form-based zoning.  The change to a form-based code is “aimed at reinvigorating Buffalo’s vibrant neighborhoods, capitalizing on its good civic “bones” (including a radial street pattern), and emphasizing urban sustainability” wrote Daniel Baldwin Hess while describing the parking changes.   Hess describes Buffalo’s situation further: “Even with lower minimum parking requirements than other cities, approximately 28% of land area in Buffalo’s city center is used for parking but only 63% percent of parking spaces are occupied on an average weekday. This excess is compounded by low parking prices sin municipal parking lots, and structures.An abundance of inexpensive parking encourages people to drive and weakens the need to seek out other travel methods for commuting to work.”

A 2014 national meeting of the Congress for New Urbanism in Buffalo and lectures by Donald Shoup, a ULCA urban planning professor who has researched and written extensively about the expense of parking minimums provided the impetus for city planners in Buffalo to revise their zoning and eliminate their parking requirements.  In his book The High Cost of Free Parking, Shoup describes how Los Angeles’s requirement of one parking space per every 250 square feet of retail space can can nearly double the cost of building a shopping center.  Such costs are then passed on to customers but they offer no benefit to those who don’t own cars, who are predominantly low-income. Shoup has written about situation in Los Angeles in the 1990s where historical downtown buildings were mostly vacant above the ground floor but couldn’t be renovated for housing because of a requirement at the time that each housing unit have two parking spaces.  A city planner proposed, and received approval for a new ordinance -the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance; this ordinance allows historical buildings to be exempt from the parking requirements when being converted to housing. Although initially there were concerns, within 8 years of the ordinance’s passage, 57 historical downtown building were fully restored into housing.

Buffalo faced similar issues with historical building preservation and downtown development.  The elimination of the minimum parking rules will make them easier.  In Buffalo, the City Council can still decide to require parking for new developments larger than 5,000 square feet.  Hartford, Connecticut has no such requirement.

In Hartford, the requirements for parking spaces for downtown projects were eliminated two years ago; at that time parking mandates were also dropped for retail and service land uses citywide.  Now,  the parking requirements have been removed for all uses, except for a few such as car dealerships (Connecticut State law requires parking) and a few large uses, such as stadiums, where parking will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Sara Bronin, chair of Hartford’s Planning and Zoning Commission was quoted in a recent  Streetblog article, “There have been some buildings that have been renovated downtown in a much faster and more efficient way by not having to provide as much parking,” she told Streetsblog. “Because of that we felt that it was time to bring that same benefit to developments citywide.”  As in Mexico City and Buffalo, Hartford’s parking changes are expected to promote alternative transportation and a healthy environment.  According to Bronin, about 42% of Hartford’s land area includes impermeable surfaces which contributes to water pollution.  Says Bronin, “For me, the environmental implications were really important….We also believe that in deemphasizing parking we will make our neighborhoods more livable.”

There are other cities that, though they have not yet eliminated parking requirements, they have either do so partially, such as in downtown areas, or are considering doing so. A 2015 crowdsourced map by the nonprofit Strong Towns shows that dozens of cities, mostly small ones have implemented or proposed eliminating their minimum parking requirements.  Over time, people like Shoup believe that more communities, both larger and smaller cities, will make this change.

TRB Lounge – Many learning and networking opportunities

From the lectern sessions, to the poster sessions, to the workshops, the spotlight themes, to the AICP certification, to the practice ready paper sessions, there will be over 1,160 features at the upcoming January 2018 TRB Annual Meeting; a variety of sessions for everyone to attend.

Please join UMass Amherst graduate students and UMass Transportation Center Affiliates and staff at our reception on Tuesday evening:

TRB

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.

ghg

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.

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.

Experiential Education for the Next Generation

By Tracy Zafian, UMTC Research Fellow

In the early 1990s, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) established the goals of diversifying its workforce and reaching more underrepresented groups of students. FHWA sought to provide as many as possible with opportunities to expand their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) knowledge and to encourage them to pursue transportation studies and careers. The FHWA then created the National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI), and since the program’s start twenty years ago, thousands of students have participated. NSTI programs are held each summer at various colleges and universities throughout the U.S. They offer high-school and middle-school students the opportunity to learn about different transportation fields, to meet with transportation professionals, and to build STEM skills, including those used in transportation careers. In the summer of 2017, in Massachusetts, the NSTI program was held at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass-Amherst). Over the past six summers the NSTI program at UMass-Amherst has hosted close to 100 students in total.

A defining feature of the NSTI program is that it is 100% free for all participants, including classroom activities and real time experiences in the field. Some NSTI sites have residential programs and others are commuter-based. In the residential programs, the program pays all room and board costs. Another defining feature of the program is its emphasis on having diverse participants, including economically disadvantaged or at-risk students, and students with disabilities.

For the past two years, the NSTI program at UMass-Amherst served high-school students and included both commuter and residential options. In 2017, the program drew participants from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, California, Puerto Rico, and an international student from Honduras. Eighteen students participated in 2017, including 12 residential students and 6 commuters. Thirty-nine percent (39%) of this year’s participants were female and half of them (50%) were Hispanic, Asian, African American or multiracial.

The 2017 UMass-Amherst NSTI ran for 3 ½ weeks. The curriculum was wide-ranging and multi-modal, and each week focused on a different mode or aspect of transportation and transportation research. Transportation topics covered in the curriculum included aviation and air traffic control, water transportation, bus transit, rail transit, autonomous vehicles (both on-road and aerial, aka drones), driver training and safety, driving simulation, sustainability, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and transportation financing. Students gained both general knowledge on these topics as well as technical skills. They conducted hands-on transit counts, vehicle speed monitoring, bridge infrastructure reviews, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle exercises in the field and in classrooms.

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2017 UMass-Amherst NSTI, Northampton Amtrak Field Trip with MassDOT Director of Rail, Tim Doherty

They learned about software for bridge design, intersection analysis, and 3D modeling. The students met with academic researchers and transportation professionals in the public and private sector, and had multiple field trips each week. Over the last two years, participants visited the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, the Springfield and Northampton Amtrak stations, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s headquarters in Boston and the field office in Northampton, the Westover Air Force Base, the New England Air Museum, the UMass-Amherst Transit Center, and the UMass-Amherst Police Station. The program also provided higher-education and career support for students, with sessions on resumés, internship opportunities, online career and job sites, and college-test prep. The students were encouraged to give daily feedback on the program and asked to provide an overall evaluation at the end of the NSTI session. Of the 2017 participants, all but one said they would recommend the program to a peer or friend. The feedback received will be used to improve the program in future years.

Other universities that have run NSTIs include the University of Massachusetts-Boston, which had a commuter-program for 10 years, 2005 to 2014, and Vermont Tech, which ran two programs in 2017, one for middle-school students and one for high-school students.

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MassDOT Secretary Pollack with 2017 NSTI students, UMass-Amherst NSTI closing ceremony