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New guidebook aims to make pedestrian crossings safer

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crosswalk.jpgPedestrian crossings are an important feature of the multimodal transportation system, enabling pedestrians and bicyclists to safely access destinations on either side of streets or highways.

To help Minnesota transportation agencies evaluate pedestrian crossings and determine where improvements are warranted, the Minnesota Local Road Research Board funded the development of a new guidebook for practitioners. The guidebook focuses specifically on uncontrolled pedestrian crossings, which aren’t controlled by a stop sign, yield sign, or traffic signal.

The new guidebook recommends when to install marked crosswalks and other enhancements based on a number of factors, including the average daily vehicle count, number of pedestrians, number of lanes, and average vehicle speed. It helps agencies rate a crossing for pedestrian service, and includes a flow chart and several worksheets to assist in data collection and decision making.

The guidebook is designed around an 11-step evaluation process that engineers can use to evaluate an uncontrolled pedestrian crossing location in a systematic way. Based on the results of the evaluation, users can identify what level of treatment is appropriate for their location, ranging from in-street crossing signs to overhead flashing beacons to traffic calming devices such as curb bump-outs.

The Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), a part of CTS, hosted a workshop based on the guidebook on June 5. The workshop provided attendees with an overview of the step-by-step evaluation process. Attendees included city and county engineers, MnDOT staff, and other transportation professionals.

Read the full article in the July issue of Catalyst or download the guidebook on the Minnesota LTAP website.

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People love to walk and bike—for relaxation, for exercise, to get places like school, work, and stores. Biking and walking have increased significantly in the Twin Cities metro area during the past decade, and these activities are catching fire statewide.

U of M researchers have partnered with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Minnesota Department of Health, and several other state and local agencies to develop general guidance and consistent methods for counting all these bicyclists and pedestrians in Minnesota. Their work was honored with the 2014 CTS Research Partnership Award, which was presented at the CTS Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon. The award recognizes research teams that have drawn on the strengths of their diverse partnerships to achieve significant impacts on transportation.

The research team, led by Professor Greg Lindsey of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, developed tools and methods to count and analyze bike and pedestrian traffic using a mix of manual and automated methods.

Results from the counting initiative are allowing policymakers and planners to make data-driven decisions about transportation investments.

Work is continuing under the initiative. A MnDOT project, which will conclude in 2015, uses automated technologies for counting bicycles and pedestrians on trails, bike lanes, sidewalks, and shoulders in various urban and rural locations in Minnesota.

MnDOT also is considering how to incorporate such nonmotorized traffic data into its existing traffic database. The researchers recommended that MnDOT coordinate statewide counts and work with local agencies to establish a network of automated monitoring sites across the state.

In addition to supporting state goals, this research also is contributing to federal traffic monitoring standards.

Read the full article in the May issue of Catalyst.

CTS fall research seminars begin September 26

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This fall, CTS will offer five research seminars on transportation topics ranging from resilient communities to asphalt at low temperatures.

Seminars will be held every Thursday from September 26 through October 31 (except Oct. 17) 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:

Investigating air pollution risks for pedestrians and cyclists

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Although active forms of travel such as bicycling and walking provide many health benefits, they may also increase travelers' exposure to air pollution—especially in urban areas, where the air pollutants that drive health concerns are typically at their highest concentrations.

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To investigate the exposure of cyclists and pedestrians to these pollutants in the City of Minneapolis, researchers from the U of M's Department of Civil Engineering (CE) are developing a block-by-block analysis of air pollution levels. In a presentation at the 24th Annual CTS Transportation Research Conference on May 23, graduate student Steve Hankey explained how this information could ultimately be used to identify high-risk locations and shape decisions about new nonmotorized infrastructure. The project is funded by the U of M's College of Science and Engineering and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

In summer 2012, Hankey collected particulate air pollution measurements in Minneapolis using an instrumented bicycle trailer as he rode around the city on three 20-mile routes. Each route captured different levels of traffic and air pollution, Hankey said, and included a wide variety of road types and surrounding land uses.

Preliminary findings suggest that air pollution levels are 1.5 to 2.3 times higher in on-road locations than on off-street trails and 2 to 3.5 times higher in the morning than in the afternoon. Results also indicate that air pollution concentrations are associated with street classification and traffic intensity.

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Arterial streets with the most traffic had the highest air pollution levels, with lower concentrations on local roads and off-street trails. "If you can choose to bike on a local road that's a block or two off an arterial collector, that would make a big difference in your exposure," Hankey said.

The project's next step is to tie the existing mobile measures to land-use variables so the data can be extrapolated to other parts of the city, Hankey said. The resulting model will show air pollution levels for every block in Minneapolis.

The researchers plan to use this model in conjunction with bicycle and pedestrian traffic volume data being collected by a team of researchers from the Humphrey School led by Professor Greg Lindsey. The combined model could be used to identify "hot spots" with both large volumes of pedestrian or bicycle traffic and high levels of air pollution, Hankey said.

This information could be used to develop mitigation strategies in high-risk locations and to make recommendations for the development of future infrastructure in areas with lower pollution concentrations.

"We'll also release the air pollution estimates so people can integrate them into existing tools," Hankey said. "For example, in [the bike route tool] Cyclopath, a user could choose a low air pollution route instead of the fastest route or shortest route."

Reprinted from CTS Catalyst, July 2013.

photo of people getting tickets at light rail station

The Hiawatha light-rail transit (LRT) line began operations in 2004. How has the line affected transit ridership and walking among nearby residents? To get an understanding, U of M researchers conducted a case study of one section of the line in south Minneapolis.

The study, led by Jason Cao, assistant professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, focused on a four-station, 3.8-mile residential section in the middle of the 12-mile Hiawatha line. Cao and his research assistant, Jessica Schoner, compared the section with four control corridors (two urban, two suburban) with similar demographics. The urban corridors resemble the Hiawatha Corridor in terms of built environment and transit access (via comparable bus service); the suburban corridors have curvier roadways and typically require park-and-ride for transit access.

The researchers mailed 6,000 surveys to a random sample of residences in the four control corridors and to residences within a half-mile of the four stations in the Hiawatha Corridor. From their analysis, the researchers drew conclusions in three areas:

Residential preferences of Hiawatha residents


  • In choosing where to live, good transit service and job accessibility are important factors for residents of all areas--both urban and suburban--ranking behind only housing affordability and neighborhood safety and ahead of more than 20 other factors such as high-quality schools.

  • Hiawatha Corridor residents have a stronger preference for transit access and quality than residents of the urban control corridors.

Impacts of the Hiawatha line on transit use


  • Transit use among residents who already lived in the Hiawatha Corridor when the LRT line opened increased substantially for both work and non-work travel--a clear ridership bonus from the line.

  • Transit use by residents who moved into the Hiawatha Corridor after the line opened is similar to that of residents in the urban control areas.

  • Residents in the Hiawatha Corridor use transit three to four times more often than suburban residents do.

The Hiawatha line, the built environment, and pedestrian travel


  • Residents walk to stores more frequently if their homes are near commercial areas and their neighborhoods have adequate population density and a continuous street grid.

  • Residents walk for recreation more frequently if there is a continuous street grid, but population density and proximity to stores are not significant factors.

  • Residents along the Hiawatha line, which has a frequently interrupted street grid, walk for shopping or recreation at the same frequency as bus riders--LRT did not have a distinct measurable impact on walking.

"This study helps confirm the region's transitway investment plan, which seeks to better align transit and land-use planning with the development of sustainable communities," says Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb. "It also reinforces that people do make location choices based on transit-related characteristics."

The research was funded by the Transitway Impacts Research Program (TIRP).

Reprinted from the CTS Catalyst, May 2013.

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In a continuing effort to better understand nonmotorized traffic patterns in Minnesota, researchers from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs have partnered with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to develop guidelines and analyze information collected in bicycle and pedestrian traffic counts throughout the state.
The research team, led by Professor Greg Lindsey, aims to develop consistent methods for monitoring and assessing bicycle and pedestrian traffic that can be used in both permanent, automated traffic counts and short-term manual counts. The goal is to provide evidence for decision making that Minnesota cities have historically lacked, Lindsey says. "We'll have practical, useful information about bike and pedestrian traffic that can help local jurisdictions as they plan and invest in infrastructure," he says.

As part of the 18-month project, the research team created a set of tools and methods for short-duration manual counts of nonmotorized traffic, held training workshops, and organized a statewide counting effort involving 43 Minnesota municipalities last fall. The overall response was positive, Lindsey says, and some communities are already using their collected data to submit grant proposals for projects related to nonmotorized traffic.

In addition, Lindsey and his team have examined traffic information from six permanent 37_250px.jpgcounters on Minneapolis trails. The continuous counts collected at these locations help the researchers understand traffic patterns and the factors that affect them, Lindsey says. For example, the team found that bike and pedestrian traffic vary by trail type, time of day, day of week, and season.

"Once we know the patterns at permanent sites, we can develop factors that help us expand short-term counts from other locations with similar conditions," Lindsey says. The factors could be used to estimate anything from total daily traffic to annual traffic, as long as the short-term count location is similar to an existing model.

Based on the overall results of the study, the research team developed recommendations for MnDOT. These include continuing to coordinate statewide short-term field counts, demonstrating the feasibility of automated counting technologies, and beginning to integrate nonmotorized and vehicular traffic databases.

Based on these recommendations, MnDOT is moving forward with a new project that will collect more short- and long-duration counts throughout Minnesota, says Lisa Austin, ABC Ramps coordinator at MnDOT. The next phase of work aims to collect counts for pedestrians on sidewalks, bicyclists on shoulders and in bike lanes, and pedestrians and bicyclists on multiuse trails. MnDOT plans to install more permanent, automated counters in suburban and midsize cities and to conduct additional manual counts in smaller cities around the state, Austin says.

"We're really excited that this bike and pedestrian counting project is moving into wider implementation," Austin says. "This next phase will help us see which automated counting technologies work well and make recommendations for moving forward on a broader scale."

Reprinted from the CTS Catalyst, May 2013.

Video on U of M transportation research highlights

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U of M transportation research highlights during 2012-2013 include a smartphone app for visually impaired pedestrians, pedestrian and bicyclist safety in roundabouts, methods for counting bike and pedestrian traffic on trails for better urban planning, and filtering phosphorous from storm water.


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E-mail: cts@umn.edu

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