A new traffic calming device is making its debut in Helena! WTI, Bike Walk Montana, and neighborhood volunteers teamed up to install a pop-up traffic circle, which is designed to slow vehicles on a road near a popular trail head where there are many pedestrians. The circle will be in place for one month, during which time a camera will record traffic speeds and researchers will gather public feedback on potential long-term solutions. KTVH Montana posted a news report showing the installation on its website. WTI has participated in similar neighborhood traffic calming projects in Bozeman.
Winter Bike to Work Day and new campus shuttle promote transportation options
Snow is falling and so are the temperatures, but hearty Bozeman residents never shy away from going outside in the winter. With that in mind, the Bozeman Commuter Project is sponsoring Winter Bike to Work Day on March 8, 2019 to encourage local commuters to continue (or even start!) cycling to work through the winter months. Participants who register at bozemancommute.org can earn reward coupons for local coffee shops and breweries. The project also provides cyclists with tips for cycling safely in winter conditions. WTI is a partner in the Bozeman Commuter project and is helping to promote this event. “We always get a great response to our commuter challenges in the summer months,” said project coordinator Dani Hess; “we want to keep that momentum going and keep encouraging the folks who choose to get around by bike in the winter months as well.”
In other commuter news, the Associated Students of Montana State University have launched a campus shuttle that makes loops around the perimeter of campus every 20 minutes on weekdays from 7:40 a.m. until 5:40 p.m. The service is free to students, staff, faculty and visitors, so check out the route map and additional information here. WTI has also provided support to this pilot effort through the Bozeman Transportation Demand Management project. “We’re excited to see the growing interest in transportation options at MSU from student leadership and are happy to be a part of piloting and evaluating new services like the campus shuttle,” said Hess.
Natalie Villwock-Witte traveled to San Augustine, Texas in January to report on a rural transit pilot program to the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG). DETCOG and the Area Agency on Aging launched a pilot program in 2018 to provide monthly vouchers to seniors in five counties to pay for rides to medical appointments, shopping trips, and social events. WTI, in partnership with the National Association of Development Organizations Research Foundation and the USDA, provided technical assistance for the program. Natalie reported that more than 50 area residents aged 60 and older signed up and used the program during the pilot period. “Thanks to the support of the Area Agency on Aging, the program will continue to provide rides to seniors,” said Natalie; “if DETCOG and other partners are able to secure additional funding sources, there may be opportunities to expand the program to serve other populations with transportation needs.”
DETCOG recently highlighted the project presentation on its website. Additional information about WTI’s other NADO technical assistance projects in rural communities is available on the WTI website. The pilot project final report is also available on the SURTCOM/WTI website.
The 2019 Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting kicked off over the weekend in Washington, D.C. At the Council of University Transportation Center (CUTC) banquet on Saturday, the University Transportation Center (UTC) Students of the Year were honored. Each UTC nominates an outstanding graduate student who receives a certificate from the U.S. Department of Transportation, a $1000 award, and travel expenses to attend the TRB Annual Meeting. The Small Urban and Rural Livability Center (SURLC) and the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM), both led by WTI, each had the opportunity to recognize the research accomplishments of an exemplary student this year.
Congratulations to Karalyn Clouser, who was selected as the SURLC Student of the Year. Karalyn has been a Research Associate at WTI for five years and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Sustainable Transportation at the University of Washington. With her background in Planning and GIS, she has provided invaluable research assistance not only to SURLC, but also to the National Center for Rural Road Safety and the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks Technical Assistance Center. Most recently, she completed a project where she developed four different bus route combinations for a potential new transit service in Lebanon, Missouri. She also helped update the Rural ITS Toolkit, a USDOT-sponsored resource on advanced transportation technologies.
Kudos also go out to Zachary Becker who was selected to represent SURTCOM. Zach attends Eastern Washington University, where he is nearing completion of a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning. His research focuses on the mobility and accessibility challenges faced by tribal reservations in northwestern states. He created a parcel-level, GIS database containing network distances from nearly every parcel in Washington state to the nearest healthcare facility. The database compares distances on tribal reservations to distances on nontribal lands. Zach has been invited to present this research at four national conferences.
WTI recently completed a public transportation feasibility study for the City of Lebanon, a community of approximately 15,000 people in southcentral Missouri. The City of Lebanon is interested in whether a public transportation system could help connect more residents to jobs, educational opportunities and local services.
Project Manager Natalie Villwock-Witte, working with Karalyn Clouser and David Kack, analyzed a wide range of issues related to launching and operating a public transportation system, including a needs assessment, service area analyses, asset acquisition, cost analyses, funding opportunities, marketing strategies, and sustainability. The team completed an extensive effort to identify, map, and analyze potential usage of different service routes for the City of Lebanon to consider.
“Through our surveys and site visits, we had the opportunity to work with the community and its partner organizations to understand exactly who needs mobility services and where they need to go,” said Villwock-Witte, “by the end of the project, we were able to provide them with some viable options and strategies that should help them move forward with planning a public transportation system.”
This project is sponsored by the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation, as part of a larger contract called Technical Assistance for Rural Transportation Systems: Connecting Rural Transportation with Economic Opportunity (funding provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture). This project, and two similar projects, were managed by the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM), the USDOT University Transportation Center led by WTI. More information about the project, including the final report, is available here.
At the annual meeting of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in Minneapolis in October, WTI Researcher Natalie Villwock-Witte and her research partners at Minnesota Department of Transportation and Bike Minnesota were invited to lead a presentation entitled “Bicycles and Pedestrians: Advocacy, Planning, and Research.” Known as the “The World’s Largest Conference for Women Engineers,” SWE is attended by more than 10,000 engineers, students, and industry leaders.
When WTI hires and mentors great students, it is a win-win for the organization and for aspiring young professionals. WTI’s two most recent hires both started as part-time student employees while pursuing their undergraduate degrees at Montana State University.
Kelley Hall has been part of the WTI family since 2014. She started as a Student Administrative Assistant, staffing the front desk and helping out in the Business Office. She progressively added more responsibilities, including assistance on various projects. After graduating from MSU with a B.A. in Political Science, she joined WTI as a Research Assistant. She currently serves as a Project Assistant in the Road Ecology program, focusing on the Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Data Coordination project for the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, she serves as a Research Associate for the Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC), managing technology transfer activities and providing support to several projects on traffic safety culture, seat belt use, and underage drinking.
A native of Sheridan, Wyoming, Kelley moved to Bozeman in 2012 as an MSU freshman. In addition to juggling her many responsibilities at WTI, she loves outdoor sports (both summer and winter) and photography. Somehow, she has even found time to begin classes toward a Master’s in Public Administration!
Danielle (Dani) Hess was recently named a Project Assistant for mobility projects with the Small Urban and Rural Livability Center and the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility. Dani first joined WTI in February 2016 as a student assistant in the Mobility program, helping with community outreach for the Bozeman Commuter project and other local initiatives. In early May, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Community Health (with Highest Honors!) from MSU and was promoted to a full-time WTI employee. She will now be able to continue her work on the Transportation Demand Management project with the City of Bozeman and the “pop-up” traffic calming projects on local roads.
Dani grew up in Helena, Montana, and has lived in Bozeman for the last five years. When she is not encouraging people to walk, bike, or take the bus to work, you will probably find her enjoying the outdoors, most likely on her mountain bike. This summer, she is looking forward to coaching kids with Bozeman Youth Cycling’s summer mountain biking program.
Congratulations to the Small Urban, Rural, and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM), which was selected to host the 2020 meeting of the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC). SURTCOM, a University Transportation Center housed at WTI, will hold the 3-day meeting in Big Sky, Montana in the summer of 2020. These events provide an opportunity for UTC Directors from across the country to share ideas and best practices on improving UTC programs and maximizing available resources. Officials from USDOT, which sponsors the UTC program, also attend to provide the directors with program training and updates. “While each UTC might specialize in a particular region or research area, we all share the same goal of trying to maximize the impact of our research,” said SURTCOM Director David Kack; “we’re looking forward to showcasing some of the successes at our UTC and learning a lot from everyone else at the 2020 meeting.”
CUTC celebrated its 40th anniversary at the 2018 meeting earlier this month, when Montana’s selection as the host for 2020 was announced. WTI Director Steve Albert is a long-time member and former President of the organization. WTI last hosted the meeting in 2006.
Laura Fay, David Kack and Natalie Villwock-Witte (PI) recently traveled to the Jasper, Texas area for six meetings related to the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) transportation voucher program. This pilot project will show how transportation vouchers can be used to provide basic mobility to those who have limited options. Meetings were held in Jasper, as well as Ivanhoe, Newton, Pineland and San Augustine. Similar to many rural areas in Montana, people in the DETCOG area often travel 45 miles or so (one way) for groceries, medical care, and other essential services. Currently, this pilot project is focused on those who are 60 years old or older. The long-term vision is to secure additional funding so that those with low incomes or a disability will also be able to use the voucher program.
The pilot program should start in May and will include approximately 25 participants. Demand for the vouchers already exceeds existing funding, so data from the pilot project will be used to reach out to potential funding sources. The WTI staff is supporting the DETCOG staff to ensure that this program can grow and meet the needs in this rural part of Texas. The new program was big news in the City of Ivanhoe – the photo shows the City marquee informing community members about the meeting to discuss the voucher program.