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changing.jpgThough no one can predict the future, thinking about how today’s changes may shape the future of transportation in our country is more important now than ever before.

“It’s critical that we understand the significance of things that are taking place and prepare for what may come,” said former Utah Department of Transportation CEO John Njord in the opening session of the 25th Annual CTS Transportation Research Conference. “For us to be relevant in the transportation business, at a minimum we have to be adaptable to change, and ideally we want to be leading change in the transportation industry.”

In his current position at Tom Warne and Associates, Njord has gained an in-depth understanding of the trends affecting the future of transportation in the United States while spearheading the Transportation Research Board’s “Foresight” project—part of the organization’s forward-looking NCHRP Report 750 Series. The project addresses a wide range of topics, including: What if the oil-fueled auto era ends and revenue from gas taxes dries up? What if engineering practices must be upgraded to ensure resiliency to natural disasters as global warming continues? What if technology such as self-driving cars eliminates or reduces the need for human drivers? What if tomorrow’s economy requires radically different freight patterns?

Perhaps most significantly, the project explores the possibility that Americans are losing their appetite for driving. Vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) per capita been dropping since 2004, without any signs of recovery. "It’s impossible to know whether that number will start growing again, stay flat, or continue to drop,” Njord said.

Other trends make the future outlook equally complex. In 50 years the United States will likely be home to 100 million more people, so even if VMT per person stays flat or declines, it’s likely total VMT will be larger than it is today. The population is also aging: by 2030, 20 percent of the population will be over 65 and will likely drive less. In addition, Millenials are staying home longer and waiting until later in life to get married and have children—all of which affects their travel behavior.

To help transportation planners consider all possible futures, the Foresight project encourages the use of multiple-scenario planning. “We need to begin considering all the possible scenarios and generating plans that are independent and distinct from one another,” Njord advised. “The act of thinking about these things is fundamentally important, because the shift that is now taking place means we’re going to have to do things much differently in the next 50 years than what we’ve done in the past 50 years.”

Following Njord's presentation, a panel of experts discussed how the the Foresight project could relate to what’s happening in the Twin Cities region. An article summarizing their comments is available in the July issue of Catalyst.
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In late 2013, Amazon.com announced that it plans to someday use unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) to deliver packages. Amazon is not alone in considering these systems—the list of potential uses for this technology is rapidly expanding. Where is this technology headed, and what does it mean for the region, and for transportation?

State and national experts discussed these issues at an April 30 forum hosted by the Airport Technical Assistance Program (AirTAP), a part of CTS.

Often referred to as drones, modern UASs can be used for a broad range of activities, from aerial photography, surveying, precision agriculture, and communications to disaster response, wildlife research, and infrastructure protection.

A hurdle to broader use is the lack of rules and regulations. Last November the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released its first annual roadmap outlining policies, regulations, technologies, and procedures needed to safely integrate UASs into U.S. airspace; it plans to issue regulations by 2015.

“The greatest challenge is integrating UASs into the National Airspace System,” said Brigadier General Alan Palmer, director of the Center for UAS Research, Education, and Training at the University of North Dakota. “We want to do this safely, we want to do no harm, and we want to be sure not to violate somebody’s personal space. We do not have any regulations for standards, training, certification, or anything like them. But we will get there.”

Other concerns include privacy issues and the existing aviation/navigation infrastructure, which did not account for a future including UASs when it was built 50 years ago.

To learn more about the forum, read the full article in the June issue of Catalyst. In addition, a proceedings from the event will be available on the AirTAP website this summer.

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Capacity—too much of it, or too little—is a top concern in the freight industry, according to speakers at the 17th Annual Freight and Logistics Symposium in December.

In the keynote presentation, Rosalyn Wilson, senior 
business analyst with Delcan Corporation, said both ocean and air cargo have too much capacity. Throughout the recent recession, ocean carriers continued to order and float new megaships, creating problems with overcapacity and low pricing, thus raising solvency concerns and uncertainty for shippers.

On the air cargo side, 
overcapacity is due in part from
 airline passengers choosing to carry on their luggage rather than pay to have it checked. As a result, the cargo holds of passenger planes have extra space for premium air cargo— which is estimated to have about a 65 percent profit margin for passenger airlines, she noted.

On the flip side, trucking, which is the largest component of the supply chain industry, has operated at 95 to 97 percent capacity for the past three years. Wilson believes this capacity crunch will create major problems for the industry by 2016 and 2017.

Other speakers also noted capacity issues—whether a shortage of drivers or an abundance of data. Chip Smith, CEO of Bay and Bay Transportation, said a major issue is the ability to find and keep enough qualified drivers.

Jason Craig, government affairs manager with C.H. Robinson, said a particular challenge his firm faces is what to do with the massive amount of data available in the supply chain—and how to get more out of it.

Cargill’s Randy Brown, vice president of transportation and logistics, said Cargill is rolling out an improved global analytics capability to make use of its data.

Summaries of the presentations are in the symposium proceedings, available on the event web page.

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In the not-too-distant future, your car will warn you if you’re getting drowsy, remember where potholes are on your route home, and apply the brakes at intersections. Advanced driver-assist systems combined with “big data” are moving us quickly to this day—offering the possibility to greatly reduce crashes or even make them a thing of the past.

At the CTS Fall Luncheon on December 3, Luca Delgrossi, director of driver assistance and chassis systems at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, offered his perspective of new developments in this innovative technology.

Delgrossi said the next generation of driving technology focuses on preventing crashes altogether with the use of richer sets of sensors covering a broader space around cars, as well as new actuators that can control the vehicle. Sophisticated in-car networks exchange data from one component to another, creating more powerful systems as well as system redundancy for reliability.

There are many other opportunities to help drivers who are distracted or facing a complex situation. One system, for example, would help drivers stay awake during long trips. It builds a profile from data collected in the first 20 minutes; during the rest of the trip, it checks to see if the driver is deviating from this pattern—and if so, gives an alert to take a break.

Delgrossi also touched on the potential for vehicles to share data with each other, such as warnings of icy roads ahead.

Ultimately, the goal of the upcoming technology is to avoid crashes by allowing cars to take more and more control.

“Hands-off driving is coming," Delgrossi said. “We need to bring technology to perfection to do this. That’s what the industry is working on. We will see progress in the next five to seven years.

Read the full article in the January issue of Catalyst.

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By R. Richard Geddes and Dimitar N. Nentchev

This post originally appeared online for the American Enterprise Institute.

The United States faces major challenges related to the funding of transportation infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and tunnels. Revenues from fossil fuel taxes are declining as vehicles become more fuel-efficient and as the purchasing power of fuel tax revenue declines with inflation. Such revenue declines are occurring at the same time that investment needs are rising because of aging infrastructure. Many states and localities are considering new and innovative models to fund and finance their transportation infrastructure. Such models almost invariably include a greater role for the private sector in the form of public-private partnerships (P3s).

Private infrastructure investment is, however, often viewed as providing an alternative financing method given a revenue stream from a transportation facility, rather than as creating new revenue or funding for the facility. This view overlooks the possibility that private investment in the form of upfront lease payments for newly priced roads can be used to enhance the public appeal of adopting that road pricing. Pricing existing roads generates substantial additional revenue from the current road network while adjusting traffic demand to meet market conditions. The approach proposed here uses the value embedded in US infrastructure, which is released through road pricing, to increase the political feasibility of that road pricing.

To accomplish this, we suggest preserving a portion of the wealth generated by road pricing in perpetuity through a permanent fund. This is one type of public trust fund. Permanent funds are currently in use in Alaska, Texas, Norway, and Alberta, Canada, to preserve natural resource wealth.

Following the Alaskan approach, we propose that investment income from the fund be used to provide an annual dividend payment to all households within the newly priced region. We refer to this approach as an investment public-private partnership, or IP3. The IP3 has numerous advantages relative to current proposals to increase citizens’ support for road pricing. It creates a contractual structure to ensure that roads are properly maintained. It ameliorates the agency problem between citizens and their elected representatives that is exacerbated by the free cash flows that road pricing often generates. It also creates direct citizen stakeholdership in transportation infrastructure. Alaska’s experience suggests that this approach can also reduce income inequality, create higher personal income, and mitigate the effects of recessions.

We estimate potential dividends generated by an IP3 approach using data from the Columbus, Ohio, metropolitan area. Assuming full pricing of the Columbus road network, we find that the IP3 approach would generate household dividends similar to those offered by the Alaska Permanent Fund.

This study offers three key insights: 

1.    Pricing the use of transportation assets that are presently “free” liberates massive latent economic value currently trapped in those assets; 


2.    Latent value can be best realized through competitive bidding among a group of firms on the basis of the largest upfront lease payment to operate the asset; and 


3.    A portion of the realized value can be invested in perpetuity through a permanent fund that generates income for all citizen-owners of the asset. The investment income from the permanent fund helps encourage citizen-owners to accept the pricing necessary to release the asset’s latent economic value.

 

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R. Richard Geddes is an associate professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University. His research focuses on public policies surrounding private infrastructure investment. Geddes will be the featured speaker at the 2014 CTS Winter Luncheon on Wednesday, February 12, 2014.

Spring research seminars begin February 6

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The spring series of CTS research seminars kicks off next Thursday, February 6. This year's topics will include bridge scour monitoring technology, roundabout signing and striping, and transit-oriented jobs-housing balance.

Seminars will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. each Thursday during February (except Feb. 20) on the U of M campus in Minneapolis. You can either attend in person or watch the live webcast of each seminar.

Additional information is available on the CTS website.

Seminar schedule:


17-jet.jpgMore than 70 airport staff and others who work with airports across Minnesota attended the annual AirTAP Fall Forum on September 26 and 27. This year’s event, held at the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) offices in Richfield, gave attendees an inside look at the MAC’s operations at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport with tours of various airport facilities and a drive around its perimeter.

MSP International is the 13th busiest airfield in North America and operates much like a small city.

 “We’re essentially a public works department,” said Paul Sichko, assistant director for MSP maintenance and airside operations. Sichko led the tour group inside the 16 miles of security fence—reinforced since 9/11 to prevent vehicles from crashing through.

Along the route, the group got a look at how the airport will handle the snow and ice once it arrives: massive snow blowers, numerous deicing pads, and three in-ground snow melters that can liquefy 120 tons of snow per hour, Sichko noted.          

Inside the MAC’s Trades Building, attendees toured the carpentry, signage, painting, electrical, and plumbing operations. On hand were staff who create signage for all seven MAC airports, make and monitor keys for every lock, and paint markings on all airport pavement—including 20 runways and more than 21,000 parking stalls.

A stop at one of the airport’s two fire stations highlighted the vehicles and equipment capable of suppressing aviation jet fuel fires—and occasionally, an oil fire at a local refinery. Most calls for fire department personnel, however, are to the terminal buildings, where they’ve saved numerous passengers, Sichko said.

Back at the MAC administrative facilities, Jeff Hamiel, executive director of the MAC, discussed findings from a recently completely economic impact study of MSP airport conducted by InterVISTAS Consulting. The study found that MSP supports more than 76,000 jobs, $10.1 billion in business revenue, $3 billion in personal income, $1.9 billion in local purchases, and $611 million in state and local taxes, Hamiel noted.          

“The bottom line is we’re contributing to the overall economic stability of the region and the state.”

In 2012, MSP served 33 million passengers and accommodated 425,332 landings and takeoffs, making it 16th in North America for the number of travelers served. The 3.8 million annual domestic visitors spend $1.9 billion when they’re here. “People come to the Twin Cities, they stay in hotels, they buy food, they buy gifts, they spend their dollars, then they go back home again.”

MSP International is ninth among U.S. cities in number of nonstop markets overall; when ranked per capita, it’s fifth, Hamiel said—which is attributable in part to the market’s “phenomenal air service.”          

Hamiel said the findings are relevant beyond MSP International; the state’s smaller airports and the communities they serve thrive “because in part there’s an aviation system that supports the connectivity of the customers and consultants and businesses and so forth—it’s all important to all of us.”

Other conference sessions covered airport emergency planning, minimum operating standards, and MnDOT Aeronautics’ new Capital Improvement Program web interface.

See photos and presentations from the event.

17th annual Freight and Logistics Symposium: The Gravity of Logistics

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Photo courtesy Dave Gonzalez, MnDOT

December 6, 2013
7:30 a.m. - noon
Ramada Plaza, Minneapolis, MN

Join us at the 17th annual Freight and Logistics Symposium to learn about the "gravity" of logistics—the seamless and uninhibited flow of goods from manufacturers and markets toward demand—and how it depends on infrastructure that can support and sustain economic growth.

The event will include a keynote presentation by Rosalyn Wilson, senior business analyst at Delcan Corporation and author of the 24th annual State of Logistics Report® presented by Penske Logistics and published by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals. This annual report is widely used by supply chain management professionals as the premier benchmark for logistics activity in the United States.

In addition, public, private, and academic professionals will discuss strategies to maintain the existing transportation infrastructure in Minnesota and the region. They also will discuss private- and public-sector perspectives on successes and challenges to the current supply chain.

To register, please visit the CTS website.


CTS Fall Luncheon: Could crashes be a thing of the past?

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luncheon.jpgJoin us December 3 at the CTS Fall Luncheon to learn about the latest vehicle technologies from Mercedes-Benz North America.

While traditional vehicle safety technologies like seat belts and air bags have reduced injuries and fatalities over the decades, the next wave of technologies is focusing on ways to prevent crashes from happening in the first place. These systems, such as “6D vision” sensing technology and smart maps for connected vehicles, could make crashes much less common—and pave the way for self-driving cars.

At the luncheon, Luca Delgrossi, director of driver assistance and chassis systems U.S. at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, will discuss these technologies and when they might come to a car dealer near you.

Registration details are available on the CTS website.

Among the topical forums for the large field of Minneapolis mayoral candidates, the forum at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 15 in the Cowles Auditorium of the Humphrey School stands out.

The topic of the forum is the future of transportation in Minneapolis. Transportation is one of the most important issues facing Minneapolis. What will the next mayor’s positions be on supporting all modes of transportation and on Minneapolis' place in the regional transportation system? This is a chance to directly hear the candidates' views on this critical subject.

The forum will be moderated by Paula Pentel, coordinator of the Urban Studies Program at the University of Minnesota.

The event is sponsored by the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, Streets.mn, the Interdisciplinary Transportation Student Organization (ITSO), the Minnesota Urban Studies Students Association (MUSSA), UrbanMSP, and the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability.

This event is free and open to the public. RSVP on Facebook.

Read more about the forum on the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition's blog.

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Center for Transportation Studies

University of Minnesota

200 Transportation & Safety Building

511 Washington Ave SE

Minneapolis, MN 55455

Phone: 612-626-1077

Fax: 612-625-6381

E-mail: cts@umn.edu

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