Congress set to kill off High Speed Rail funding

Trip to DC_June 2010_003_BWI

The U.S. Congress voted today on a new transportation bill. Included in the bill was language that killed funding for Obama's High Speed Rail program. From AP

The House voted Thursday to kill funds for President Barack Obama's signature high-speed rail program, but the initiative may have some life in it still.

Republican lawmakers are claiming credit for killing the program. But billions of dollars still in the pipeline will ensure work will continue on some projects. And it's still possible money from another transportation grant program can be steered to high-speed trains.

Obama had requested $8 billion in fiscal 2012 for the program and $53 billion over six years.

In light of exisiting questions regarding High Speed Rail in California, the future looks murky indeed. It will be an interesting ride. 

 

Friday Seminar -Kitae Jang on Traffic Interactions in Freeways with Carpool Lanes

carpool lane

This Friday's TRANSOC Seminar features Kitae Jang, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California, Berkeley, presenting on "Traffic Interactions in Freeways with Carpool Lanes."

The study is concerned with the vehicular interactions that arise when carpool and regular vehicles are segregated in their own lanes. Real data show that reserving a lane for carpools on congested freeways induces a smoothing effect that is characterized by significantly higher bottleneck discharge flows (capacities) in adjacent regular-use lanes.  Thanks to this smoothing effect, we find in many cases that the carpool lanes – even when underused themselves – can benefit travelers in the regular lanes.  Ironically, the regular-use lanes are often damaging to the carpool-lane travelers. We find that the vehicle speeds in a carpool lane are negatively influenced by both growing use of that lane and diminishing vehicle speeds in the adjacent regular-use lane.  The findings do not bode well for a new US regulation stipulating that most classes of Low-Emitting Vehicles (LEVs) are to vacate slow-moving carpool lanes.  Analysis shows that relegating some or all of these vehicles to regular-use lanes can significantly add to regular-lane congestion; and that despite the reduced use of the carpool lanes this, in turn, can also reduce the speeds of those vehicles that continue to use the carpool lanes.  Constructive ways to amend the new regulation are discussed, as are promising strategies to increase the vehicle speeds in carpool lanes by improving the travel conditions in regular lanes.

The seminar will take place from 4-5 pm in 406 Davis on November 18. Please come to TRANSOC's Cookie Hour preceeding the seminar at 3:30 pm in the library.

Can California Afford High Speed Rail?

On November 1, the California High-Speed Rail Authority released its Draft 2012 Business Plan  showing a final bill of $98.5 billion, twice the previous estimate. The project timeline also was drastically altered, with completion now targeted for 2033 instead of 2020. With the state mired in fiscal woes and the federal government unlikely to approve more than the previously allocated $3 billion grant, finding the funding for the project will present a huge challenge, and the private sector doesn't appear eager to step forward to fill the gap. Opponents argue that the huge cost increase and the decision to begin with a Fresno-to-Bakersfield section make no financial sense, and at least one state senator plans to introduce legislation to scale back the project.

Friday Seminar - Rabi G. Mishalani on Schedule Based Transit Operations

This Friday's TRANSOC Seminar features

Rabi G. Mishalani, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Geodetic Science, The Ohio State University, presenting on "Analysis and Quantification of the Effects of Schedule-Based Transit Operations Control on Service Reliability."

The effects of bus drivers' reactions to schedules, given the status of the buses they are operating, on service reliability are investigated and quantified analytically and empirically. The hypothesis that drivers may deliberately, as a form of control, lengthen or shorten dwell times at stops or adjust speeds between consecutive stops depending on whether buses are ahead or behind schedule is examined. An analytical relationship is derived, based on which an empirical study is conducted. The relationship describes the progression of reliability from stop to stop as a function of drivers' possible reactions to the schedule in the presence of exogenous factors. Such reactions are explored in an empirical study using a large Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) data set collected by The Ohio State University's Campus Transit Lab (CTL). The drivers' reactions to the schedule are found to be helpful in improving service reliability. Moreover, the magnitudes of the improvements in reliability, resulting from such reactions, and the deterioration of reliability, due to exogenous factors, are quantified. Given the reliance on CTL data in conducting this study, a brief motivation, history, description, and uses of CTL are discussed as well.

Rabi Mishalani is an associate professor at The Ohio State University with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Geodetic Science. His areas of interest and expertise include the application of probability modeling and statistical methods to the planning and managing of public transportation and transportation infrastructure systems. He is playing a lead role in developing and directing OSU's Campus Transit Lab (CTL), a "living lab" that supports research, education, and outreach. He also is the co-director of the US DOT Region V University Transportation Center.

The seminar is Friday, November 4, 4-5pm, 406 Davis Hall.

Toll Roads and Border Politics

I-15 between Nevada and Utah

Last week the Arizona DOT filed an application with FHWA to impose a toll on the 29.4 mile stretch of Interstate 15 within Arizona's border, which links Nevada and Utah. Utah Governor Herbert strongly opposes such a move.

"I strongly oppose any plans to levy tolls on Arizona's portion of I-15, or on any portion of I-15," said Governor Herbert.  "Every state pays into the Highway Trust Fund, and every state receives money from the Highway Trust Fund to maintain the segments of the Interstate Highway System inside their respective borders.  Arizona cannot pick and choose which parts of our national interstate network it wants to maintain.  If Arizona has been negligent in its maintenance of I-15, it should not try and foist its responsibility onto highway users or neighboring states who already pay into the system with their own tax dollars."

Jarrett Walker of Human Transit compares this plan to Virginia's plan put a toll on I-95, one of the state's main corridors, and Arizona's proposal to tax a highway on a remote corner of the state. David King discusses the politics involved of tolling roads at borders, linking to David Levinson, director of the NEXUS research group and Transportationist, and his paper "Taxing Foreigners Living Abroad". (The title is inspired by this Monty Python sketch.)

Any sort of tolling or congestion pricing is inherently fraught with politics. A recent volume of the Transportation Research Record focuses on these issues -  v.2221 Revenue, Finance, and Economics. Equity is also an important factor, and TRB recently published the report Equity of Evolving Transportation Finance Mechanisms, which looks at the equity of evolving transportation finance mechanisms, such as tolling. 

Friday Seminar - Robert Schneider on Choosing a Travel Mode

This Friday's TRANSOC seminar features Robert J. Schneider, Ph.D., UC Berkeley Safe Transportation Research and Education Center and UC Davis Sustainable Transportation Center, presenting on "How Do People Choose a Travel Mode? Factors Associated with Routine Walking and Bicycling."

Walking and bicycling can increase the livability and sustainability of communities, but the automobile remains the dominant mode of transportation in most metropolitan regions in North America. To change travel behavior, a greater understanding of the mode choice decision process, especially for walking and bicycling, is needed.  

This presentation will summarize research on factors associated with walking and bicycling for routine travel purposes, such as shopping. Mixed logit models showed that walking was associated with shorter travel distances, higher population densities, more street tree canopy coverage, and greater enjoyment of walking. A limited sample of bicyclists suggested that bicycling was associated with shorter travel distances, more bicycle facilities, more bicycle parking, and greater enjoyment of bicycling. Respondents were more likely to drive when they perceived a high risk of crime, but automobile use was discouraged by higher employment densities, smaller parking lots, and metered on-street parking. Interviews provided the foundation for a five-step theory of how people choose travel modes: awareness and availability, basic safety and security, convenience and cost, and habit.

Fewer Accidents due to BlackBerry Outage

Abu Dhabi's English language news publication, The National, reports that the three-day BlackBerry service disruption has coincided with a 20% decline in traffic accidents in Dubai and a 40% decline in Abu Dhabi. 

     "'Absolutely nothing has happened in the past week in terms of killings on the road and we're really glad about that,' Brig Gen Al Harethi said. 'People are slowly starting to realise the dangers of using their phone while driving. The roads became much safer when BlackBerry stopped working.'"

 

 

Friday Seminar - Venky Shankar on Performance Oriented Modeling

This Friday's TRANSOC seminar features Dr. Venky Shankar, Associate Professor, Pennsylvania State University and Visiting Scholar, UC Berkeley, on "Towards a Statistical Basis for Performance Oriented Modeling of Highways - a Safety Perspective."

 

This talk will discuss a strategic approach to the development of a consistent modeling basis for the statistical analysis of highway safety. Barriers to the development of consistent bases will be discussed with respect to the statistical, computational and data considerations. This work is being performed as part of Dr. Shankar's sabbatical visit to UC Berkeley.

 

The Seminar is Friday, October 21, 4:00-5:00, 406 Davis Hall.

Ampelmännchen turns 50.

Berlin 2007: Ampelmann

50 years ago today, the most iconic traffic light for pedestrian crossings debuted in German Democratic RepublicAmpelmännchen or "Little Traffic Light Man." On this day in 1961, traffic psychologist Karl Peglau introduced the novel design to improve predestrian safety

 

In several studies, he concluded that many of the 10,000 traffic deaths between 1955 and 1960 could be attributed to one thing: Pedestrians had to follow the same traffic lights as cars. When it was foggy, the red-yellow-green lights did not offer sufficient orientation for visually impaired pedestrians. According to Peglau, they provided the opposite, and were a safety risk. He estimated the economic damages of this problem in the GDR reached up to 155 million deutsche marks in 1959.

"Clearly distinguishable guiding signals" were meant to address this. A friendly red man with thick, outstretched arms would prompt pedestrians to stop, and a lively green man in mid-stride would denote the appropriate time to walk. Peglau provided personal characteristics in order to "appropriately provoke the desired pedestrian behavior through emotion," giving them pug noses, fingers, ears and mouths.

 

After the Reunification of German, the iconic Ampelmännchen was quickly introduced to West Berlin and continues to be a symbol of the unified city. 

Friday Seminar - Weihua Gu on Capacity Models for Curbside Bus Stops

LACMTA

Tomorrow's TRANSOC Friday Seminar features Ph.D. candidate Weihua Gu presenting, "Capacity Models for Curbside Bus Stops with Multiple Berths."

When multiple bus lines merge at a busy, multi-berth bus-stop in a congested city, long bus queues might occur due to an inadequate number of berths.  Disruptive bus overtaking maneuvers and chaotic passenger boarding processes may therefore ensue at the stop.  To unveil the cause-and-effect relations behind this congestion, models are developed to predict the bus-carrying capacity for curbside bus-stops.  These capacities are functions of the stop’s number of bus berths, and other key operating factors.  An analytical solution is derived for a queueing model that describes the unique operating features of serial bus berths.  The results from these models show that conventional wisdom in this field is incomplete and incorrect in many instances.  The proposed models can provide practitioners better guidelines for choosing the number of berths to achieve a desired capacity at a curbside bus-stop.  The models also give insights to improve ways of operating the stop.  These ways include, but are not limited to, allowing or prohibiting bus overtaking maneuvers under certain circumstances, and strategies to manage passenger boarding and alighting processes.  Further, these bus-stop models can be applied to other serial queueing systems in the transportation field, including taxi queues, Personal Rapid Transit systems, and toll plazas with tandem booths.

The seminar will take place from 4-5 pm in 406 Davis on October 14. Please come to TRANSOC's Cookie Hour preceeding the seminar at 3:30 pm in the library. 

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