My thoughts about this year’s Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting (TRBAM), which was held virtually in January 2021. I’ve been a regular TRB meeting attendee since the 1980s and serve on several TRB committees.
Committee Meetings – Excellent
More attendees than usual at TRB committee meetings.
Especially good was higher attendance made possible by fewer conflicts than at real meeting.
Chair’s meeting management is critical (TRB should provide 10 rules for good zoom management to all chairs! For example Zoom tips from Seth Godin).
Presentations at committee meetings helped keep interest. I tuned into several committee meetings just because of the presentations!
- keep the sub-committee meetings virtual,
- hold sub-committee meetings before January,
- consider holding some committee meetings online,
- post sub-committee/committee meeting agendas in online platform early.
Poster Sessions – Mixed
Andy Nash with Railway digitalisation poster TRB 2020
I had a poster.for our paper Experimentation as a Public Engagement Strategy in the Bridge X Proposal for Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge It was great to be able to upload 4 files. We uploaded a video presentation and our presentation slides.
The video presentation was just like a lectern presentation, this is really great.
Unfortunately, we did not receive any feedback on our poster. Maybe the subject was uninteresting, but you did not have the impression anyone was “walking by” during the live session and only two people left comments. (It would also be good to be notified by mail when someone left a comment.)
In short, the virtual session missed the spontaneous interaction of an in person and physical session.
Finally, identifying the posters you wanted to see and then navigating through the virtual system to view them was clunky … there were lots of clicks, signing-in again, the inability to keep several digital discussion windows open simultaneously (so we could monitor our poster and view our virtual “neighbors” poster) …
- return to holding physical poster sessions,
- keep ability to upload video presentations before meeting.
Slide from our presentation on experimentation in transport planning.
These worked well on-line. Of course, physical would be better.
Much appreciated that the viewing period was extended through March.
Often the presentation only sessions arranged by committees are excellent. These presentations should also be available on the TRBAM Library discussed below. (With videos of the sessions if possible.)
Given the size of the TRBAM it’s always been a problem to discover the papers, posters and sessions you want to see. The online program was fine but the lack of integration with the virtual platform was a drag (just as the lack of integration between the mobile app and online program was in the early years).
A better key word search, consistent across posters, papers and sessions would be great.
Related, authors should be able to directly enter the committees they want to review their papers. Maybe this is a SAGE journal thing but having the committees and sub-committees in the key words section seems convoluted. Keep key words and committees separate.
Also, the letter-number TRB committee labeling is difficult. Not only are zeros, “Os”, ones and “Ls” mixed in (is it a zero? Or an O?), but people referring to committees by these labels is a real turn off for new people.
Snow at the 2020 TRB Annual Meeting.
The TRB Annual Meeting posters, papers and presentations should be more easily available online and available for a longer time.
It would be great to be able to use the better key word search system described above to actually access these files.
Open the TRBAM Library in December, authors upload materials before the meeting, and make them available for attendees until, for example, March.
Everyone did a great job this year. It was remarkable how well the meetings went; how much information was exchanged, and how much work was done.
But I look forward to meeting in person next year!
Here’s a location where sensors and an immediate green for pedestrians when no opposing traffic would make sense. Several people, one pushing a baby carriage, crossed against the light in the time before the light finally turned green for pedestrians.
After my post Traffic Signals for Active Mobility several people sent ideas for and examples of using traffic signals to encourage active walking and cycling, so I thought it would be a nice idea to keep track of the ideas just in case someone decides to pursue the idea of developing a best practices summary in the future.
Self-Controlled Traffic Signals
Self-controlled traffic signals use sensors to detect how many vehicles, cycles and pedestrians are approaching from each direction and the optimization algorithm continuously recalculates signal timing to minimize stop time for everyone. The approach was tested in Lucern Switzerland during 2020. After implementation the average waiting time for pedestrian traffic at one intersection was reduced by 29 percent thanks to self-control, and by 18 percent for car, motorcycle and bicycle traffic (ETH Zurich Research Report – German).
Reduced waiting time for pedestrians and cyclists = more walking and cycling!
Plus … no one gets mad waiting for traffic signals while no traffic is coming = less crossing against the signal and fewer complaints about the city not knowing what they are doing.
Real Time All-way Walk Phases
Figure 1 (top) shows normal traffic signal operation. Traffic and pedestrians on up-down street have right of way (green signals). Vehicles/bikes and pedestrians on cross-street are waiting (red signal).
Sensors determine there is no vehicle/bike traffic approaching on up-down street.
Figure 2 (bottom) shows that vehicle/bike traffic on up-down street receives a red signal and pedestrians on cross-street receive a green signal enabling them to start crossing the up-down street early.
It might be possible to exempt bikes from stopping and allow them to start crossing the up-down street with the pedestrians, but this would require some good cooperation from everyone.
Independent 4-way walk phase.
Real time all walk phases would be especially useful on one-way arterials where traffic often moves in bunches down the street, leaving relatively long periods where no traffic is coming. This encourages pedestrians to cross against the light (in New York this is practically standard procedure, but that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous).
The photo at the top of this post shows one of these situations in Vienna. I was shocked to see a person pushing a baby carriage cross against the light.
Mobile Apps to Influence Signal Timing/Phasing
The idea of using mobile apps to influence traffic signal timing and/or phasing to provide advantages for pedestrians and cyclists has been evaluated in several research projects and prototype applications. The idea is similar to vehicle-based systems (e.g., traffic signal priority or emergency vehicle priority) but using personal devices carried by pedestrians and cyclists.
The Netherlands has a program where mobile phones are used to alert smart traffic signals about approaching cyclists and other roadway users. The BITS Project has an interesting news item describing the real-time system and how smart traffic signals have been hacked by researchers. The BITS project also describes a program called SnifferBike in Utrecht which uses mobile phone data to evaluate route choice and delays cyclists experience at traffic signals. BITS – Bicycles and ITS is a great source of information on ideas for using traffic signals and other technology to support cycling. Here’s an article from BITS on using sensors to detect groups of cyclists (“pelotons”) and use the data to influence traffic signal timing to encourage cycling: Better flow for cyclists thanks to link with ITS technology.
A recent product called PedPal, has been developed by Carnegie Mellon University, with funding from ATTRI. It is a mobile smartphone application that enables pedestrians to communicate directly with signalized intersections and to influence traffic control decisions to their advantage. PedPal combines emerging connected vehicle communication technology with a recently developed real-time, adaptive traffic signal control system to provide for a safer and more efficient intersection crossing experience for pedestrians with disabilities.
Safety and Active Transport
Walk SF’s San Francisco Vision Zero Summary
It’s intuitive that safety would have an influence on peoples’ desire to walk or ride a bike. Here’s a very nice graphic from Walk SF’s Report on the Status of Vision Zero in San Francisco. Notice they all involve traffic signals and intersection design.
There’s been lots of research on perceived safety and cycling, especially interesting are studies using the four types of cyclist model that use a measure of cyclist traffic stress … how stressed out cyclists feel riding in a particular location … in the planning process.
Your idea here!
I’d like to make this an updated list of ideas. So please send your ideas or comments to the above and I’ll update this post in the future.
The Vienna Visitor Widget (VVW) would be the visitor’s one-stop tourism app: tickets, schedule, shopping and more.
I developed a proposal for improving management of tour buses in Vienna. They were looking for practical technology applications that could be used to help guide bus drivers through traffic and to parking spaces, etc. but, naturally, I took the idea further and developed a comprehensive approach to city tourism in the future. I presented the paper at the 2020 Austrian Pedestrian Association conference in October.
The main idea is that people will travel less in the future and consequently will seek more authentic and interesting experiences than standard bus tours. They will want to experience cities with the knowledge of well-informed locals and use the same (transport) infrastructure as locals as they visit tourist attractions.
Whale shaped Wien Clean WC in front of Vienna’s NHM.
My thinking is heavily influenced by cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, where riding through the city on a bike is a standard part of every tourist’s visit … even for those who wouldn’t think of riding a bike at home. The great thing is that cities can build infrastructure for residents, and it can become an attraction for tourists as it certainly is in Copenhagen and Amsterdam.
I wrote a (funny?) short story in memorandum format. The writer is from the Copenhagen tourist bureau who reports on the great things Vienna is doing for tourists. There’s a lot of information technology, much of it developed by a multi-city consortium led by Vienna, and improved walking and cycling facilities in Vienna’s future. The story is called Tour Bus Confidential – Vienna 2023 and the presentation Creating Sustainable Cities for Residents and Tourists. I also had a lot of fun making the drawings and imagining a better Vienna.
Three interesting articles about Crowdsourcing that appeared in late 2019:
My publications about using crowdsourcing in transport are available on my website andynash.com.
Exclusive bus lane in Barcelona.
Alan Bell has used machine learning to develop a program that analyses data from traffic cameras to identify blocked bus and bike lanes. He analysed a section of St. Nicholas Avenue in Manhattan and found that the bike lane was blocked 55% of the time and the bus stop was blocked 57% of the time between 7am and 7pm.
This is a great example of how people can use open source data to help develop data supporting sustainable transport. In this case it is clear that better enforcement and protected bike lanes are needed. Residents can take this data to government agencies and demand change.
Read more in Bell’s Medium article Drivers Are Breaking the Law, Slowing Commutes and Endangering Lives. I Can Prove It — And Fix It … it includes videos and a link to the program on github.
Transit Alliance Miami Metrorail frequency dashboard created with open source data.
The Transit Alliance Miami has created a simple graphic display illustrating the time between Miami Metrorail trains (frequency) at the Government Center station. They have taken Metrorail data and displayed it in an easy to understand format. It is an excellent example of how city residents can use open data to analyse and publicise the quality of public transport service as part of an advocacy campaign to improve public transport.
According to the website the graphic presents: A real-time audit of Miami’s Metrorail system. It measures the time between each train at Government Center. Each dot represents a train arrival. Every color corresponds to a time. Hover over a dot for more information.
Read more: How Miami Advocates Are Holding Officials Accountable for Transit Performance, by Angie Schmitt, Streeetsblog 25 January 2018.