Coming up in early January, the 2024 Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) will once again draw more than 10,000 transportation researchers, practitioners, and enthusiasts in an action-packed week of research presentations, panels, committee meetings and conversations. Whether it’s your first Annual Meeting or you’ve been going for 20 years, there’s something fresh and exciting about every iteration of this event because the topics are ever-evolving—serving to both reflect and shape the priorities of our profession.

At Kittelson, we’ve been attending TRB since our inception and offer it as an opportunity to both our experienced researchers and entry-level analysts. We place a high value on participation in transportation research, since it’s one of the biggest ways we can contribute to our profession while remaining aware of new guidance coming down the pipeline. From the Guide to Roundabouts to Roadway Cross-Section Reallocation: A Guide, we’ve gotten to see some big research projects of ours hit the streets in 2023 and are excited to share detailed findings at the upcoming Annual Meeting.

Kittelson is preparing to send a cohort of more than 50 team members to TRB 2024. Since many of them are seasoned TRB’ers, we polled that group for their predictions, insider tips, and facts you might not know about the Annual Meeting. Here’s what you need to know!

People walking up the staircase at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center

Read on for 24 insider tips, fun facts, and research topics and projects you'll want to learn about at the 2024 Annual Meeting!

History & Fun Facts

1. TRB used to be held at three different hotels where you needed to take a shuttle (or a 15-minute walk) to go from one session to another. Now, everything’s located at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center—which is great for planning out your day, but be sure to schedule some time outside (especially if you’re staying at the Marriot Marquis, which connects directly to the convention center!).

2. A cup of coffee cost about $0.05 on average in the 1920s, when the first Annual Meeting was held. Today, you can enjoy your latte in Compass Coffee inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for about 100x that amount – if you’re willing to brave the line!

3. TRB has more than 170 technical committees. Committee meetings are a great way to find out current “buzz”, they keep you up-to-date in your areas of interest, and they’re a great place make connections with people in other organizations who have similar interests to yours.

A full room at a 2023 TRB Annual Meeting committee meeting

A committee meeting at TRB 2023.

Trending Topics

Based on our read of the Annual Meeting program, the following topics will be prominent in 2024, and for good reason! Read a bit about each, and a few of the many sessions where you can dive into these topics in detail.

4. Vulnerable road user safety. With US pedestrian deaths at a 40-year high, TRB 2024 will put the conversation of vulnerable road users (VRUs) front and center, building on prior research to dig into approaches to reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries, how VRUs interact with people driving, and what it looks like to design and implement safe, healthy, and accessible pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure.

5. Integrating equity into all fields of transportation. Equity will continue to be a central theme, with the conversation moving from a generalized call-to-action to an examination of what equity practically looks like in various contexts.

6. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and ChatGPT in the transportation industry. TRB will be a timely opportunity to exchange ideas and examples of the applications of AI in transportation, and discuss opportunities and cautions around the way it will impact how projects are carried out in the future.

7. Standardization, management, and use of data for all roadway users. Sessions will highlight how data can be standardized to be usable across organizations, and shared across the profession, to manage and improve system operations.

8. Understanding and use of digital twin models. Digital twins enable the simulation and optimization of transportation infrastructure in real-time. TRB sessions will reflect and advance the growing conversation around the development and deployment of digital twins.

People walking across the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in front of a TRB 2023 sign

Vulnerable road users, integrating equity into all transportation fields, artificial intelligence, data standardization, and digital twin models are just a few of the topics we expect to be prominent at the 2024 Annual Meeting.

New Research + Key Sessions

2023 was a year of major research publications. Here are a few you’re going to want to learn about at the 2024 Annual Meeting:

9. NCHRP Research Report 1043: Guide for Roundabouts. In June of this year, NCHRP released Research Report 1043: Guide for Roundabouts, which supersedes prior roundabout guides to become the nation’s go-to guide for the planning and design of roundabouts. While NCHRP Research Report 1043 continues the context-sensitive, performance-based design approach from these prior guides, it also includes a significant amount of new research and reorganization. Lee Rodegerdts, along with Brian Ray of Sunrise Transportation Strategies, LLC, will share what you need to know about the new guide at Lectern Session 3085.

10. NCHRP Research Report 1087: Intersection Control Evaluation – A Guide. To bring consistency to Intersection Control Evaluation (ICE) policies and processes, a Kittelson team has been leading NCHRP Project 17-98 to develop a national ICE guide. This guide, which is planned to be published in early 2024, will present best practices and propose processes and tools for screening intersection alternatives and identifying an optimal solution. During Lectern Session 2072, Pete Jenior will present an overview of NCHRP 17-98 findings, guidance, and tools for integrating ICE into your project development process.

11. Public Right-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG). In August of this year, the United States Access Board issued the long-awaited final rule on PROWAG. PROWAG provides minimum accessibility guidelines for public rights-of-way that will become enforceable once they are adopted as mandatory standards by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Transportation. PROWAG will be addressed at TRB during Lectern Session 3084, and will be a relevant part of many other discussions throughout the Annual Meeting as well.

12. NCHRP Research Report 1036: Roadway Cross-Section Reallocation: A Guide. After being in pre-publication mode for the past year, NCHRP Research Report 1036 was published in Fall 2023. Acknowledging that every design decision comes down to tradeoffs, this first-of-its-kind guide provides a framework for engineers, planners, and decision-makers to assess those tradeoffs and ultimately, articulate the priorities behind design decisions. At TRB, you can learn about the cross-section guide at Lectern Session 2123 and Poster Session 3163.

13. NCHRP Research Report 1038: Update of Highway Capacity Manual: Merge, Diverge, and Weaving Methodologies. This report will be a major voting item at the Highway Capacity Committee & Quality of Service Committee meeting. If adopted, it will be the first time the Highway Capacity Manual merge/diverge method has changed in 40 years!

14. Integration of New Traffic Signal Actuation Concepts using Enhanced Detector Information. Vehicle trajectory data is becoming increasingly available for signal control applications, but few previous studies have explored the use of this data for more efficient actuated control on arterials. The Iowa Department of Transportation is leading a Pooled Fund Study to develop field-tested methods of integrating vehicle trajectory data into actuated signal control that can be directly implemented in traffic signal controllers. They’ll share what they’re learning at Poster Session 2232.

15. Evaluating The Reliability of Automatically Generated Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Surrogates. Collecting accurate pedestrian and bicycle volumes is difficult, and relying exclusively on crash data means waiting for crashes—and the resulting injuries and fatalities—to happen before taking preventative action. A study from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation set out to learn if video analytics can predict conflicts as reliably as human review to be able to select and evaluate countermeasures. They’ll share findings from that study and additional research to assess the reliability of automatically generated surrogates in predicting confirmed conflicts using data-driven models at Poster Session 4070.

16. Every year, TRB includes a career fair. The Careers in Motion Networking Fair will be held on the first day of the Annual Meeting (Sunday, January 7). Find Kittelson at booth B613: we welcome the opportunity to meet students and emerging professionals!

Two women having a conversation at the 2023 TRB Annual Meeting

Kittelson's Megan Nelson and Shannon Warchol discuss Shannon's research presentation at the 2023 Annual Meeting.

Insider Tips

If you’ve been to a TRB Annual Meeting, you know it can be a whirlwind, and the time you spend preparing is well worth it. Here’s some advice from our team about maximizing your experience at the Annual Meeting:

17. Biking from the airport to the Convention Center is easy and funhere’s our tried-and-true route! The WMATA Yellow Line is also open again, so you have several options for making the trip without needing a cab or ride-hail app vehicle. (Don’t just go off the travel time provided to you on your phone app—it includes walk time to the train while the ride hail directions do not, even though the two departures are right next to each other in the airport!)

18. The west side of the Convention Center is usually less crowded and is an excellent place to hide away for an hour or two when either you or your computer needs to recharge.

19. As mentioned above, the coffee line is long, and the restaurants right around the venue also get crowded quickly. If you want to branch out from your usual lunch or coffee spot, our Washington, D.C. team has got you covered with this map of local picks for places to eat, caffeinate, socialize, and exercise near the convention center. A 10-minute walk always beats a 10-minute wait!

Screenshot of a custom Google Map with local recommendations for restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and walking trails

Kittelson's Washington, D.C. team has put together a map of local places to eat, caffeinate, socialize, and exercise near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

20. Plan which sessions/meetings you want to attend in advance! There are so many concurrent options, so don’t put the pressure on yourself to choose in the moment. And it’s never too early to schedule coffee or lunch with people you want to connect with at TRB. Everyone at TRB will have a full schedule, and it will likely be hard to find time to meet if you wait until January to start planning those one-on-one meetings. (If this will be your first time at TRB, you can read additional tips on our website for navigating the large conference and making the most of your time there.)

21. Download the TRB Annual Meeting app for quick access to the program. This makes it much easier to pivot in the moment if you decide you want to attend a different session. (It’s a good idea to have one or two backups in mind for every session you plan to attend!)

22. Poster sessions are one of the best places for networking. While committee meetings, lecterns, and workshops are all fantastic places to gather knowledge, poster sessions are great for interactions. Put a few poster sessions on your calendar and take the time to peruse the many fascinating topics and learn from the people who created the posters—it’s a great way to make new connections.

Two men talking in front of a poster at the 2023 TRB Annual Meeting

Nemanja Dobrota presents a poster at the 2023 Annual Meeting.

23. Dress for cold weather. The weather could be 70 degrees and sunny, or there could be a foot of snow on the ground. But dress for cold weather either way, even if the forecast looks mild. Wind speeds can be pretty brutal around downtown Washington, D.C.!

24. On that note, there’s a lot that can be learned outside the conference. You can rent a bike from Capital Bikeshare and tour DC’s protected bike lanes or just walk near the convention center to see some interesting quick-build treatments. And if you’re feeling ambitious, a morning run to and around the National Mall is an annual TRB tradition for many. Be sure to get outside!

Group of Kittelson team members with bikes in downtown Washington, D.C.

A ride around D.C.'s protected biking facilities has become an unofficial Kittelson TRB tradition!

If you’ll be at TRB, we want to connect with you! Here is our presentation schedule. As with last year, we’re also offering the opportunity to set up a meeting with a Kittelson team member if you’d like to talk about working at Kittelson. Please fill out this form and we’ll get back to you to set up a time.