Vermont Travel Study Featured in TRB Newsletter

The National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board (TRB) is raising awareness of a new WTI study on travel behavior, by highlighting it in its weekly newsletter.

Researchers Andrea Hamre and Jonathan Fisher recently completed “Travel Behavior and Transportation Planning Insights from the Small Urban Area of Chittenden County, Vermont: An Application of Traveler Segmentation,” sponsored by the Small Urban, Rural, and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM).  The primary purpose of this project was to analyze transportation planning and travel behavior of County residents, using data from four travel surveys conducted over the last 20 years.

The survey series collected information from respondents about travel preferences and priorities for regional transportation investments. The research team applied traveler segmentation to classify the survey sample into three modal orientations — Alternative [transportation] Oriented, Car Tolerant, and Car Oriented.

graphic for Vermont travel survey project showing that 49% of respondents are car tolerant, 28% are alternate dominant, and 23% are car dominant

According to the team’s analysis, nearly half (49%) of the respondents fell within the Car Tolerant segment. These respondents use their cars frequently, but also show a high willingness to change their travel behavior, as well as strong support for incentives to use alternative transportation. The team also found that Chittenden County adults would like fewer resources devoted to highways than are currently being allocated, and that support for gas tax increases is higher for non-highway purposes than for use exclusive to highways. These findings may help Chittenden County officials prioritize future transportation investments and develop multi-modal systems that meet a range of public needs.

The full report is available on the project webpage.

In the News: NBC Montana Highlights Traffic Calming Project in Ennis

Traffic calming delineators installed along Main Street in Ennis, Montana
Delineator installation on Main Street in Ennis, Montana

In the small town of Ennis, Montana, local officials and residents are concerned for the safety of pedestrians and motorists on Main Street (US 287), which is experiencing issues with increased traffic and speeding. WTI, in partnership with the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) and the Town of Ennis, recently completed the testing phase of a pop-up traffic calming installation to evaluate potential strategies. Spearheaded by WTI researchers Matt Madsen and Danae Giannetti, the project consisted of delineators placed in key locations on Main Street to slow down vehicles coming from the main highway. NBC Montana aired a feature story and interviewed WTI Director David Kack about the status and next steps for the project, which include evaluating its effectiveness and reviewing public feedback.

See the full news story on the NBC Montana website. To learn more about WTI’s traffic calming projects in other Montana towns, see our articles about traffic circles in Helena and street art in Bozeman.

New Facility Ready for Fish Passage Studies

Two students test waterway used for fish research
Two Montana State University students test waterway used for fish passage research (photo courtesy of MSU News Service)

Researchers in Montana have a new tool for designing fish passage structures that meet the needs of both fish and agricultural producers.   A feature article by the MSU News Service highlights a recently completed artificial waterway at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish Technology Center on the outskirts of Bozeman, which researchers can use to test the designs of small fish passage structures that allow grayling and other species to overcome irrigation structures that might otherwise hinder their seasonal movements.

The state-of-the-art upgrade will facilitate ongoing research by Montana State University’s Fish Passage and Ecohydraulics group, who have collaborated for more than a decade.  The group includes researchers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MSU’s Departments of Ecology and Civil Engineering, and WTI.  WTI Road Ecologist Matt Blank has been on the team since its inception, and he is currently one of the team members on a new project to redesign fishways to use less water.  As he stated in the news article, “”If we can get the fish to swim through less water, that’s a win. We want to find solutions that benefit not only the fish but the irrigators who use the river, and this study is exploring how to do that.” More information about current and past research is available on the MSU Fish Passage and Ecohydraulics group webpage, and on WTI’s project webpages (Fish Passage Research and Fish Passage Research Phase 2).

In the News: 60 Minutes Highlights Grizzly Bear Research in Montana

Large bear chewing on tree branches

On October 11, the CBS News Show 60 Minutes aired an in-depth feature story on grizzly bears in Montana and the impacts of the growing populations of both bears and humans in the state. In one segment, Bryce Andrews, Director of the non-profit organization People and Carnivores, discusses efforts by his organization to minimize human-bear conflicts, such as electrified fences around chicken coops and crops that attract bears.

Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser reports that WTI is a partner in testing these strategies. According to Marcel: “People and Carnivores put up an electrified barrier around a melon patch to reduce the number of melons eaten by bears. WTI’s role is to investigate the effectiveness of the electrified gates at the melon patch in keeping out bears, especially black bears. We monitor the four gates and select locations along the fence with wildlife cameras. The farmer estimates melon loss has been reduced about 80 percent this season as a result of the electrified barrier.” The full interview with Bryce Andrews is available to watch on the CBS News website.

On the Air: Podcast Digs into Snow and Ice Topics

Winter is coming – Did you know that the Snow and Ice Pooled Fund Cooperative Program (SICOP) offers a podcast “devoted to all things winter maintenance”?

Don’t miss Episode 41: “The latest word on alternate methods for deicing.” WTI Program Manager Laura Fay talks about the key findings from the recent Clear Roads project on alternate deicing methods.

Learn more about the podcast series on the SICOP podcast webpage.

MSU News Highlights Upcoming Webinar on Workforce Development

The West Region Transportation Workforce Center (WRTWC), which is based at WTI, will host a webinar on October 7 (11 am Mountain Time), which will focus on “Engaging Multidisciplinary Student Talent to Meet Agency Needs.” Four speakers from MSU and the City of Bozeman will highlight the Community-engaged and Transformational Scholarship Initiative (CATS), a successful 3-year partnership between MSU and the City of Bozeman that offers students the opportunity to work on community-based projects through their university courses.

Thanks to MSU News Service for highlighting the webinar with a feature article on its website!  Read more about the CATS program, the upcoming series of webinars on workforce development topics, and insights from WTI’s Education Program Manager Susan Gallagher, who will be one of the featured speakers.

Transportation Research Board Highlights WTI’s Severe Weather Index Project

Bicyclist and car travel through neighborhood in heavy snow conditions

WTI has completed a project to create a severe weather index for the Maryland Department of Transportation, and the final report was featured in a recent issue of the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board’s newsletter.

A severe weather index (SWI) is a management tool that  can be used to assess the performance and related costs associated with winter maintenance operations – it considers the relative severity of each weather event and the relative severity of weather for that season.  On behalf of the Maryland DOT State Highway Agency (MDOT SHA), WTI researchers Laura Fay, Natalie Villwock-Witte, and Karalyn Clouser, in partnership with David Veneziano of Iowa State University, developed and tested an SWI using Road Weather Information System (RWIS) data and input from maintenance managers. 

In addition to the development of the SWI itself, key outcomes of this effort include the identification of locations where blowing and drifting snow impacts the road network, the identification of future sites for RWIS stations, survey results describing RWIS use by MDOT SHA maintenance crews, and a detailed review of the RWIS network and data.  The final report also provides recommendations to MDOT SHA for improving the SWI and overall winter maintenance operations. “We’re pleased that MDOT SHA is evaluating the tool and plans to implement it in the 2020-21 winter season,” said P.I. Laura Fay; “The sooner it’s used and assessed during actual storm events, the sooner it can be calibrated and refined, which will improve its usefulness.”

Distinctly Montana Explores the Future of Transportation with Ahmed Al-Kaisy

Portrait of Ahmed Al-Kaisy

In its Fall 2020 issue, Distinctly Montana continued its series of articles on “Montana in 30 Years.” To explore the topic of transportation, the magazine interviewed MSU Engineering Professor and WTI Safety and Operations Researcher Ahmed Al-Kaisy. Dr. Al-Kaisy discusses a wide range of transportation issues, ranging from current challenges such as highway funding and clean energy development, to the prospects for implementing emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles and even flying cars!  Read the full article on the magazine website.

MSU Homecoming — WTI Enters Two “Floats” in Virtual Parade

MSU toy mascot rides on a model of a Streamline bus
“Cats Love Streamline, Galavan & Skyline Transit”

Here at Montana State University, the university just finished celebrating Homecoming Week. Actually – due to current health precautions – it was “Stay HOME-coming” Week.  Nonetheless, the MSU Alumni Foundation showcased a full schedule of daily, virtual activities.  One of the highlights was the video of the Homecoming Shoebox Parade, featuring creative miniature floats.  Watch for the two transportation-themed floats created by our Andrea Hamre! (One float is at about 8:25 in the video, and the second one at about 17:45.)

Time for Kids Introduces Wildlife Crossings to Young Students

WTI Road Ecologist Rob Ament is featured in a recent issue of Time Magazine for Kids. A feature article called “Safe Travels” describes the large number of animals that are killed in roadway collisions each year, and how wildlife crossing structures work to protect animals as they move across their habitats. Rob discusses successful designs – like the crossing structures in Banff National Park – and how they are models for new efforts around the world, including a project he is working on in Kaziranga National Park in India.

Time for Kids is a weekly magazine for elementary school children. It offers age appropriate learning material for students and is designed to complement curriculum.