Newsletter Vol. 22, Issue 2: Fall 2015

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Foxx taps MNTRC trustee and director for “Beyond Traffic” panel

by Karen E. Philbrick, PhD

Karen E. Philbrick, PhDAt the request of the office of the Secretary of Transportation, Consortium trustee and executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission Steve Heminger and I participated in a lively panel discussion of USDOT’s Beyond Traffic Draft Framework at the  Northern California megaregional transportation forum on September 18 in Sacramento. US DOT hosted eleven such forums over a two-month period in the nation’s eleven “megaregions” – defined on the Secretary’s blog as networks of urban clusters interconnected by economic, social, and cultural relationships and transportation infrastructure.

As explained on the USDOT website, the framework “does not advocate for specific policy solutions. Rather, it underscores critical decision points facing the country…”

The framework identifies some of the major trends and potential issues around movement of people and goods. For example:

  • By 2050, emerging megaregions could absorb 75 percent of the US population. Rural populations are expected to continue declining.
  • Existing infrastructure may not be able to accommodate population growth, which will be greatest in the South and West.
  • Due partly to low US energy costs, international trade balances could shift from imports to exports. Globalization will increase both, straining ports and border crossings.

Moderated by USDOT Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez, the panel engaged in a robust discussion of these and other issues. Other panelists included Northern California elected officials, MPO directors, transportation industry partners, and business and community leaders.

We are proud to have played a role in a process that encourages all Americans to discuss our transportation system and how it can meet our goals going forward. 


Report tells how to develop bus-stop time models in dense urban areas

by Errol Noel, PhD, Professor of Engineering

People boarding bus

Total bus-stop time is a factor in scheduling transit buses.

A new Howard University model for bus transit reliability can help operators improve planning and scheduling in cities. This study defines a new reliability variable, Total Bus Stop Time (TBST), which includes “dwell time” (DT) and time for buses to maneuver into stops and re-enter the main traffic stream.

The study, Development of Bus-Stop Time Models in Dense Urban Areas: A Case Study in Washington DC, recommends that, for bus stops near intersections, buses should spend no more than 43, 47, and 67 seconds TBST (from exiting traffic stream to reintegrating with it) during morning, midday, and evening peaks, respectively. Buses at midblock bus stops should spend no more than 36, 33, and 31 seconds TBST for morning, midday, and evening periods, respectively. 

The study included 30 bus stops at intersections and 30 midblock bus stops, all in heavily traveled routes within Washington DC. Due to changes in traffic patterns and land uses near bus stops, the report recommends that these models be updated and validated every 3 to 5 years.

Note that the models are based on data collected at a specific transit jurisdiction and may not accurately predict TBST or DT for other jurisdictions.


Research team evaluates advanced bus design for rural areas

by David Klinikowski, Director, Center for Bus Research and Testing

Low-floor transit bus

Low-floor bus in competition at the APTA Roadeo.

To broaden practical uses for transit buses in rural and small urban areas, Penn State researchers tested an advanced bus design. Their report, Advanced Low-Floor Vehicle (ALFV) Specification Research, evaluated market comparisons, operational cost efficiencies, and prototype tests. Results showed savings on operational costs. 

This study addresses federal mandates, what is available now, and what may be needed in the future. It also extends the way manufacturing and procurement can meet transit’s increasing requirements to serve people, especially in rural areas with poor roads or in small urban areas with insufficient transit funds. 

Unique features include:

  • Low floor with no steps.
  • Carries 25 passengers, five wheelchairs, or six gurneys, or a combination.
  • Welded steel structure should increase shell life to 20 years or more.
  • Cradled engine/transmission reduces power unit replacement time.
  • Good ground clearance, traction and stability
  • Longer service life and low lifetime cost.
  • Valuable for disaster evacuations or routes serving nursing homes and veterans’ hospitals.

If the vehicle serves its predicted 20-year life, it can deliver savings that offset the purchase price.


News from MTI



Transit investment more than pays for itself

by Karen E. Philbrick, PhD, Director of Research

Bicyclists board rail transit car

Transit delivers big benefits in nearly every community.

With 10.7 billion trips on public transportation recorded in 2013, MTI realized the value of objectively compiling and evaluating the benefit-cost (b-c) ratio estimates for US transit systems. MTI’s peer-reviewed report, The Benefits of Transit in the United States: A Review and Analysis of Benefit-Cost Studies, found that the benefits of transit were measurable and strong in a variety of operating environments, not just in large cities. 

MTI research associate Christopher Ferrell, PhD, inventoried the literature and organized the resulting b-c estimates from each study according to the type of study area (e.g., rural, small urban, urban, etc.). Through this process, categories of monetary transit benefits were identified. The estimated dollar value for each benefit category was then divided by the total estimated costs of providing the transit services, thus creating a benefit-specific b-c ratio for each category and allowing benefits to be compared equally. 

Results suggest that transit investments in all areas, regardless of size, can yield benefits substantially greater than costs. Key findings include: 

  • Transit typically pays for itself in congestion relief benefits for mid- to large-sized urban areas;
  • Jobs and economic stimulus are among the largest benefit categories;
  • Transit improves health care access and outcomes while reducing costs;
  • Transit saves people money; and
  • Transit saves lives by reducing accidents, a crucial benefit that b-c analysis methods are likely undervaluing.

Findings of this timely report were featured at a congressional briefing hosted at the Senate Dirksen Building in Washington DC.


Students identify trends facing mobility managers

by Jennifer Welch

Heavy traffic

Students noted that cooperation among transit agencies could help mitigate congestion.

Masters of Science in Transportation Management (MSTM) students identified trends facing transportation managers within 5-10 years. Top five named were technology, land use, policies, managing, and funding.

With technology, students identified real-time transit information, better data usage, and interoperability between fare media and payment methods. Interconnectivity among “talking” vehicles also made the cut.

Students said that, with competing priorities among transit agencies, cooperation and communication can mitigate effects of growth such as sprawl and congestion. In addition, communication with developers, major employers, other transit agencies, and cities is vital for workable transit.

Changing policies with the environmental impact reports (EIR) process, managing climate change, discouraging private auto use, and helping low-income transit users were also discussed. Students thought that future managers must break down silos so decisions aren’t made in a vacuum.

Many also noted that the decline in federal funding puts a greater burden on local agencies to pass local tax measures funding transit projects.


MTI sponsors transportation events

by Donna Maurillo, MSTM, Director of Communications and Tech Transfer 

Bamboo bicycle

Bamboo bike featured at Mini Maker Faire.

Engaging with the transportation community helps MTI keep its ear to the ground regarding public attitudes and trends. MTI co-sponsored several events this year, including the Silicon Valley Bike Festival and Show, the Mini Maker Faire, and Podcar City 9.

Santa Clara Valley has a rich bicycling history and culture with its racing, road, recreational, mountain, custom, cruiser, fixed gear, vintage, and low-rider bicycling communities. As a way to kick off National Bike Month in May, a family-friendly festival was held at History Park. It included food trucks, entertainment, valet bike parking, a velodrome, trick riding demonstrations, riders from the Amgen California Tour, and more. 

History San Jose also showed off its 1842 Lefebvre, thought to be the world’s oldest bicycle.

MTI also co-sponsored the Mini Maker Faire, a showcase for artists and crafts people. Scores of booths featured creative endeavors, such as rocket launchers, robots, communication devices, a cardboard bike, an electric tricycle, engineering projects for kids, DIY bamboo bikes, the Spartan Superhighway, and other exhibitors.

Podcar City 9 will be held in Silicon Valley in November, and MTI is deeply involved with that event, as well. It promotes the use of personal rapid transit, colloquially known as “podcars,” which run on guideways. This annual event has also been held in Washington DC, Sweden, Germany, and New York State.


Summer camp builds interest in transit

by Leo E. Hanifin, PhD, Special Consultant, College of Engineering and Science

Students at UDM ‘Transit Camp’

Transit Camp students at UDM.

Two summer camps were held this year at UDM, including one for transit and one that introduced girls to science, technology, and engineering previews (STEPS). The programs are created to attract more young people into transportation careers.

In the STEPS Camp, the girls learned about wireless technology, circuits, welding, robotics, transportation, alternative fuels, and other topics. One student noted, “We learned how transit changed over time and how transit helps with globalization.” Another said, “[We] learned how to program a robot. The class was very hands on with building, programming and completing little brain activities.”

During the two-week Transit Camp, students were engaged in several hands-on activities and labs that required them to work in teams and to use LEGO NXT technology, a way to program robots. One 16-year-old student came all the way from Turkey to attend the camp.

Students said that the Transit Systems class was intellectual and fun, teaching about forms of transportation and the importance of transit and globalization. They also learned about controlling traffic signals and about vehicles that communicate with each other.

According to the USDOT, 4.2 million transportation workers must be hired to fill vacancies created by retirement and other separations by 2022. This is in addition to 417,000 jobs projected for growth. The industry will need educated young adults to fill those positions. Perhaps a few visionary leaders will come from the students who are inspired today.


News from UNLV


Free public transportation seminar Dec. 16–18

by Hualiang “Harry” Teng, PhD, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Eng.

Passenger bus

Public transportation systems will be the topic of a free seminar at UNLV.

The Mineta National Transit Research Consortium and Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada are co-sponsoring a free seminar on public transportation systems December 16-18 at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 

The seminar will help transit engineers, planners, managers, and public agencies gain a broader understanding of public transportation systems. It also will be valuable for university students and faculty. Attendees can earn 2 CEUs or 20 PDHs.

Learn how to perform better at current positions and open career opportunities; connect with professionals; and gain greater appreciation of aspects of public transportation systems.

Lunch is included, and registration is free, but space is limited to 40. To register, email  

Dr. Teng appointed to NHSRA

Nevada governor Brian Sandoval appointed Hualiang “Harry” Teng, PhD, to the Nevada High-Speed Rail Authority. It will implement Nevada high-speed rail.

Governor Sandoval said, “The men and women appointed today represent some of the brightest minds in transportation and business development.” 

Dr. Teng said, “The collaboration with the Mineta Transportation Institute has helped me to grow and establish my career in high-speed rail and transit. MTI’s Rod Diridon has been mentoring me professionally.”


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