Friday ITS Transportation Seminar! Location: A Persistent Framework

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It's a new school year, and new semester, and a new series of the ITS Transportation Seminars! Kicking things off this week is Jane Macfarlane, Head of Research for HERE. She give a talk on "Location: A Persistent Framework".

Advances in the Internet of Things (IoT), Networking and Connected Car technologies are radically transforming how maps are created and used. Currently, devices are collecting and delivering location data at a scale greater than ever. Although cloud computing provides the computing scale and power required to process these data, new mapping and analytic frameworks are needed to extract useful and actionable knowledge effectively from the data produced by IoT and connected cars. This discussion will provide examples of location data and some of the analytics that HERE uses to transform this data into a higher level understanding of road network dynamics. We will also show how new types of ecosystems are being created by analytics around location data, IoT, and mobility services. Finally, we will discuss how location as a persistent framework will continue to support the very human part of mobility which is Context.

The seminar takes place today, September 4th at 4:00 PM in 290 Hearst Memorial Mining Building with a reception to follow. Cookie Hour will be at 3:30 PM in the same location.

See you this afternoon!

New Report on LCA and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Road Construction/Maintenance

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A new whitepaper from the National Center for Sustainable Transportation and ITS Davis explores the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and road construction and maintenance. The paper is The Role of Life Cycle Assessment In Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Road Construction and Maintenance by John Harvey, Alissa Kendall, and Arash Saboori. 

This white paper summarizes the state-of-knowledge and state-of-the-art in pavement LCA modeling, with particular emphasis on life cycle GHG emissions and on interpretation and analysis that lead to GHG reductions from the on-road transportation sector. This white paper synthesizes research from a number of previous and current projects, highlighting both broadly agreed upon methods and findings, and those that are emerging or currently debated. The goal is to inform federal, state, and local policymakers; pavement industry professionals; private pavement owners; and transportation and other researchers about the significance and role of pavement LCA in understanding and mitigating the negative environmental consequences of the pavement sector.

There has already been considerable research and implementation in this area in California. Some have developed better models to predict optimal maintenance strategies. Others have examined the tradeoffs between costs and greenhouse gas emissions in road resurfacing, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions through management of pavement roughness. Some of these concepts have been incorporated into Caltrans' PaveM pavement management system. 

Gov. Brown wants to fix California's highways

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Yesterday California Governor Jerry Brown help a press conference at the Port of Oakland to call for a bipartisan solution to fund the state's needed highway reapairs. Brown was evasive about the actual mechanisms to be used to raise funds, refusing to say anything about taxes. 

Then how can the state fund these necessary improvements? A recent report from ITS Davis,"A Funding Compromise Can Set Transportation on Path Toward Sustainability", proposes: 

The funding recommendations include a one-time use of corporate taxes to allow states to reduce the backlog of maintenance needs. The federal gas tax would be continued and indexed to inflation. Greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets would be set for each state and states would be allowed to ‘buy down’ their gas tax as they reduce their GHG emissions. States would be given pricing and tolling authority and have the authority to implement a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax. States would also assume responsibility for all roads. Taken together, these strategies would set transportation on the path toward sustainability.

For VMT-based pricing, we're still waiting for conclusive numbers from Oregon's recent implementation. Research has indicated that other types of road-pricing in California will need to be tailored to specific regions to be successful. It clear that even without the political will to raise it, the gas tax alone is not stable enough to fund the infrastructure repairs on the horizon. 

Library Closed for 4th of July


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We'll be closed Friday, July 3 2015 in observance of Independence Day. If you will be traveling this weekend, be careful out there. Historically the 4th of July is the day with the most crash deaths, which might corelate to an increase of heart transplants in the US? Increased traffic enforcement during the holiday period and communication with the public will hopefully help. 

And if you're going to watch a fireworks display, you can let people know that the effects 4th of July fireworks on atmospheric concentrations of fine particulate matter is actually measurable

Stay safe and sane. See you Monday. 

Bus Bunching Explained Visually


Any bus rider knows what a problem bus bunching can be. (Anybody riding AC Transit's 51B to campus lives with this daily.) It's a popular research topic, with many articles and reports exploring the causes and solutions to prevent bunching.

ITS PhD student Lewis Lehe and designer Dennys Hess have developed visualization to explain why bus bunching happens. (You need to use Chrome.) Go try it out. CityLab and Metafilter are talking about it.  

Lehe has made many other visualizations explaining transportation phenomena like gridlock vs. bottlenecks and traffic waves. You can see more of his work on

On Positive Train Control

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It's been almost a week since the Philadelphia train derailment and people the question remains - would postive train control prevented the incident

What is potive train control? The Federal Railorad Administation (FRA) defines it as: "Positive Train Control (PTC) systems are integrated command, control, communications, and information systems for controlling train movements with safety, security, precision, and efficiency." Its deployment is mandated in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 by December 31, 2105. There is still a ways to go. 

The Association of American Railroads notes the enormity of the task

PTC is an unprecedented technical and operational challenge. Since enactment of RSIA, railroads have devoted enormous human and financial resources to develop a fully functioning PTC system over the 60,000 miles that are subject to the PTC mandate. Progress to date has been substantial. Railroads have retained more than 2,400 signal system personnel to implement PTC and has already spent $5 billion on PTC development and deployment. Railroads expect to spend more than $9 billion before development and installation is complete.

A GAO report from 2013 outlines a number of challenges facing OTC roll out, echoing AAR's concerns about the complexity of the system and the timeline not being feasible. 

The week before the Philadelphia derailment, the FRA also issued a research brief about PTC across shared networks that could be used by multiple railroads. 

For more research about PTC you should go check out TRID


Amtrak Train Derailment in Philadelphia: Time to think about rail and infrastructure safety

Photo credit: AP 

Last night Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 frp, Washington to New York derailed in Philadelphia killing 7 and injuring more than 200 passengers and crew. The cause of the derailment is not yet known but the data recorders have been recovered and are currently being analyzed. This has been one of the biggest passenger rail crashes in recent times and investigators are looking at a number of factors. It should be noted that while rail fatalities have climbed in recent years, derailments are rare. You can find more rail safety data here.

Vice President Joe Biden, one of Amtrak's Northeast Regional's biggest proponents gave an emotional reaction. Today Congress rejected a funding increase proposal to Amtrak to make capital improvements. The last time Congress passed an Amtrak bill, it was after another fatal train crash - the 2008 Los Angeles Metrolink crash.  This week was also dubbed "Infrastructure Week" by USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx as he's been campaigning for increased investment in our nation's infrastructure needs. (For a take on the current state of the US's infrastructure needs, check out Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (NSFW)). 


Modeling network of vehicles in a heterogeneous non-urban environment


Last week's Friday Seminar featured EECS Professor Ruzena Bajcsi and grad student Katie Driggs-Campbell presenting their research on developing driver models to address issues in heterogeneous environments (with autonomous vechiles and human drivers). Their research group has focused on the relationship of the individual driver in the environment around them. Modeling driver behavior is important because driver distraction makes drivers unpredictable and leads to significant safety implications. NHTSA reports in 2013, 424,00 people were involved in distracted driving crashes with 3,154 fatalities. Even with the rapid advances in automated and connected vehicle technology,  Bajcsy forseees heterogeneous environments for at least the next 15 years, so the ability of the models controlled the autonomous vehicles will need to understand potential behaviours of human drivers. To develop the models using control theory, Driggs explained how they used human-in-the-loop driving simulations to better detect different stages of driver distraction and maneuvering. These models can then be used for semiautonomous vehicular control

Stay tuned for this Friday's Seminar, which is the last of the semester. ITS gradstudent Haoyu Chen will present his dissertation research on improving public transit at city-wide scales. 

California's new ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets.

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Yesterday California Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order establishing the state's greenhouse gas reduction target 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 (Executive Oder B-30-15).  This new executive order is another step reducing California's greenhouse gas emissions after the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) which set reduction targets to 1990 levels by 2020. LBNL models predict we're on target to meet the 2020 goals but will need more effort ot meet the ultimate 2050 goals. 

Research in this area demonstrates that to achieve 80% greenhouse gas reductions by 2050 that moving to low-carbon and renewable energy will be important, but also investment in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. Integrated climate protection into planning and land use policies, such as smart growth planning, will also help California meet its targets. Much of the technological innovations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 hinges on the role of electricity to move away from carbon based fuels across economic sectors. And yes, high-speed rail could also be part of the solution

Monitoring Traffic for Incidents and Extreme Congestion Events

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Last week's Friday Seminar welcomed back ITS alumn, now Univeristy of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Assistant Professor, Dan Work. He presented some of his work in the area of monitoring traffic data to better responde to incidents and extreme congestion events. The talk began with focus on how his group uses the app TrafficTurk for low-cost traffic sensing, which has been used in managing big events like homecoming weekend at University of Illinois and the Farm Progress Shows in Decatur, IL (where over 100,000 people flock for the event). He then talked about how he's used this sensing data to more quickly respond to traffic incidents through multiple model particle filtering. He concluded the talk preseting some preliminary results from New York City taxi data (which is shared here as open data) on the congestion in the city following Hurricane Sandy. The data shows that there was not much congestion during evacuation, as there was a system and a plan in place, but that the extreme congestion after the storm shows a need for better post-event planning and coordination. 

You can find more of Work's publications (and source code) here

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