"The industry is in a period of tremendous change like we haven’t seen in a hundred years."

- Wayne Kittelson

In the transportation profession, we have many changes to stay in front of.

Changes in technology. Changes in society. Changes in our climate.

Research in transportation is vital to our ability to respond to the biggest pressures and challenges facing our communities—such as inequity, safety issues, and the need for regulations surrounding a new mode.

It’s both an exciting and important time to be in the transportation profession—and we believe, exciting and important to be involved with research to keep our industry responsive to and ahead of the changes happening around us. We’re looking forward to discussing many of our research efforts, and learning about yours, at the 99th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board in January 2020.

You can view our full TRB schedule for a complete list of sessions, but we wanted to start the conversation now by sharing three of the many projects we’re excited to discuss at the Annual Meeting.

Planning-Level Adjustments for Connected and Automated Vehicles in the Highway Capacity Manual, 6th Edition (TPF5(371))

Written and regularly updated based on years of data collection and millions of dollars of funded research, the Highway Capacity Manual is a national guide reflecting the latest in capacity and quality of service analysis across a full spectrum of facility types. Today, however, agency planners are asking questions that go beyond what we can learn from looking at past data. The data from CAVs operating in real-world, mixed traffic is extremely limited, so we can’t use observed data to predict future impacts yet.

Oregon Department of Transportation spearheaded a pooled fund study to investigate how roadway capacities may change by 2045 and beyond due to disruptive technologies. These estimates will help agencies make planning decisions to right-size freeway facilities of the future.

“Predicting future traffic conditions is always challenging, and agencies use complicated models to predict future traffic conditions,” says Principal Engineer Bastian Schroeder. “But with disruptive technologies, connected and autonomous vehicles, also ride sharing and the shared economy, there’s a lot of uncertainty among agencies about what these capacities are going to be. This project is pooling the latest and greatest research domestically and internationally so we can come up with estimates that will help agencies make those planning decisions.”

Find this topic at TRB 2020:

Highway Safety Manual, Second Edition (NCHRP 17-71)

The Highway Safety Manual helps us quantify safety with the goal of making better decisions to reduce the risk of crashes on our roadways. The first edition of this manual was published in 2010 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). In 2015, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) initiated Project 17-71, proposing a second edition to incorporate new research findings into the HSM and improve its overall usability, accessibility and technical content.

“Roadway safety is one of the many ways in which as transportation engineers and professionals, we can improve people’s quality of life on a day-to-day basis,” says Senior Engineer Erin Ferguson, who is the principal investigator on the project. “Making changes to the streets and roadways where we live and work and take our kids to school is an opportunity to help keep us healthier and more safe. It also makes our lives more livable and less stressful.”

Find this topic at TRB 2020:

Traffic Signal Design and Operations Strategies for Non-Motorized Users (NCHRP 03-133)

Auto-centric design at signalized intersections causes safety issues and stress for pedestrians and bicyclists. Historically, pedestrians and cyclists have not been prioritized in intersection design, and delays at signalized intersections tend to affect pedestrians disproportionately compared to auto trips. As more people choose to walk and bike to reach their destinations, improving safety, mobility, and accessibility at signalized intersections needs to be integrated into the agency practices.

“Many aspects of mobility for people not in vehicles haven’t been addressed over the past 50 years,” says Principal Engineer Kevin Lee, the principal investigator on the project. “Here, we have an opportunity to increase the bare minimums of general practice, but also to improve innovation and creativity to really address problems that non-motorized and vulnerable users face at signalized intersections.”

NCHRP 03-133 is addressing the barriers to active transportation at intersections through a toolbox of methods and treatments that will make signals more efficient and safe for non-motorized users. Through this research, we’re identifying gaps in the state of practice and developing guidance for traffic signal design and operations strategies that will address the needs of non-motorized users and increase their respective multimodal connectivity.

“We’re developing tools and methods for agencies to eliminate the barriers that limit walkability. Ultimately, the outcomes of this project will create safer environments for non-motorized users and will promote active transportation modes,” says Senior Engineer Burak Cesme.

Find this topic at TRB 2020:

Let’s Dialogue At TRB 2020

As excited as we are to share what we’ve been working on and why we care about it so much, TRB is more about conversation than presentation. We can’t wait to hear the latest on our colleagues’ research projects, too, and to make new friends! If you’ll be at TRB 2020, feel free to reach out to us to set up time. View our full TRB schedule for a complete list of Kittelson-led sessions.