It’s Never Too Cold for Alternative Transportation in Bozeman!

Logo for Bozeman Commuter Project with sub text "Rethink Transportation" Text overlays on arrows pointing in opposite directions, imply directions of commute. Background graphic of mountains.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.

Rural Transit – Deep in the heart of Texas

 

Natalie Villwock-Witte (at right) speaks at a podium. A presentation screen and two other seated panelists are shown.
Natalie Villwock-Witte (at podium)

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.

Image of the front cover of a report called Deep East Texas Council of Governments Transportation Voucher Program Final Report

Pop-up Traffic Circle Planned for Helena, Montana

WTI, Bike Walk Montana, and neighborhood volunteers are teaming up to install a pop-up traffic circle in Helena,Montana in March.  The traffic calming project is designed to slow vehicles on a road near a popular trail head, and to gather public feedback on potential long-term solutions. The Helena Independent Record provided a recent update on the joint effort.  WTI has participated in similar neighborhood traffic calming projects in Bozeman.

Big Sky Transportation Grant Named Top News Story of 2018

Last week, Explore Big Sky published a special feature on its picks for the most important local news stories of the year.  Top of the list – the $10 million federal TIGER grant awarded to the Big Sky, Montana region for roadway, transit, and trail improvements. In the article, WTI Program Manager David Kack discusses working with partners in the Big Sky community to identify critical transportation needs and develop the successful proposal. More information about the grant is available on the WTI news page.

WTI Director Looks Forward to 2019, Launching New Projects and Hosting National Event

With the start of the new year, WTI Director Steve Albert sees a busy calendar ahead for himself and the organization as a whole – and that’s a good thing. “Over the last few years we’ve seen a lot of amazing advancements in the transportation field, but also a lot of uncertainty about the future – not to mention a lot more competition for research projects,” Albert said in a recent interview. “Recently, though, we’ve been awarded several nationally significant projects that I’m very excited about, so I’m looking forward to a busy and productive 2019 at WTI.”

For example, in fall 2018, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) selected WTI and Intrans (at Iowa State University) to lead the development of a Research Roadmap on Rural Transportation Issues, which is scheduled to be completed and released in 2019. “Our team is focused on identifying the research issues that can make the most difference in improving rural transportation across the country including infrastructure, safety, mobility, freight movement, and workforce shortages,” said Albert; “it’s an amazing opportunity to help shape and prioritize the future of transportation research at the national level.”

WTI is also gearing up to lead the team that is launching a major Wildlife Vehicle Collision Reduction and Habitat Connectivity project. WTI’s Road Ecology scientists will partner with other leading researchers from the U.S. and Canada on a three year $700,000+ pooled fund study administered by the Nevada Department of Transportation that includes seven other states, from Alaska to Iowa, and one Canadian province. It will include a cost-benefit analysis of various mitigation measures, a series of research projects and the development of a manual. The project will identify and evaluate the most cost-effective strategies and tools that DOTs can use to reduce the number of collisions between animals and vehicles and those measures that require additional research. “Ten years ago, WTI’s Road Ecology team completed the first nation-wide study that looked at the cost of these collisions and the cost-effectiveness of potential solutions,” Albert explained; “new mitigation options have emerged since then, and state DOTs need concrete information on what works, what is promising but might need some more study, and what is economically feasible to implement.”
https://www.pooledfund.org/Details/Study/610

In addition to conducting new research, WTI will host the 12th Transportation Research Board (TRB) International Conference on Low Volume Roads this September in in Kalispell, Montana. According to Albert, “TRB sponsors this conference to highlight new technologies and new techniques in the design, construction, and maintenance of low-volume roads; researchers and practitioners come from all over to discuss practical solutions to common problems on these roads.”

Overall, the WTI Director sees opportunities ahead for all of WTI’s Centers and research programs. “We continue to find critical transportation needs in both our longstanding program areas as well as some emerging ones,” said Albert. “Our Mobility and Public Transportation program is doing innovative work right here in Bozeman, Montana as well as in small towns around the country related to public transportation options (see News section). The Center for Health and Safety Culture has also had tremendous success in growing its training efforts to introduce amazing, culture-based approaches to health and safety initiatives.”

WTI Studies Small Town Public Transportation Options

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.

Bozeman Commuter Project Launches Pilot Vanpool Program

Riders sought from Three Forks, Livingston and other nearby towns

The Western Transportation Institute (WTI) in partnership with the City of Bozeman and Montana State University is working to reduce the number of drive-alone trips and make more efficient use of current transportation systems. This project aims to connect more people to the places they want to go via bus, walking, biking and ridesharing/carpooling.

As part of that effort, the Bozeman Commuter Project is organizing a pilot vanpool program. Vanpools can save people money, reduce the wear and tear on personal vehicles, and reduce the stress of commuting. The pilot vanpools will be free to users. For each vanpool, project coordinators are looking for 4-9 people with similar destinations and schedules who are interested in trying their commute via vanpool. The specific route and schedule of the vanpool will be determined by the members. In case of necessities such as family illnesses, vanpool members will have access to a guaranteed ride home.  So far, there are 18 people interested from Three Forks, Manhattan, Churchill, Belgrade, and Livingston. A meeting will be scheduled in the next few weeks, to work on specific details, with the intent of starting the vanpools in January.

“Providing transportation options that are convenient, healthy and affordable — in addition to drive alone commuting — is important as Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley grow,” said Vanpool Coordinator Taylor Lonsdale. “By introducing area residents to the many benefits of vanpools, we hope this project will continue and grow, so more commuters can participate.”

For more information and to sign up for a vanpool contact Taylor Lonsdale at WTI. paul.lonsdale@montana.edu or (406) 994-7031.

WTI Presents Implementation Tools and Solutions at NRITS Conference

Steve Albert (seated far right on dais) at the opening session of NRITS
Steve Albert (far right on dais) at the opening session of NRITS

WTI Researchers traveled to Fort McDowell, Arizona last week for the National Rural Intelligent Transportation Systems Conference and Exhibit, held in conjunction with the 25th Anniversary of ITS Arizona, which focused on the theme of “Creating ITS Implementation Solutions for All Communities.”

WTI helped launch NRITS more than 25 years ago, and staff members continue to play a leading role by sharing their expertise at the annual forum. WTI Director Steve Albert opened the conference at the plenary session, presenting a history of NRITS and a eulogy for longtime NRITS champion, Bill Legg of Washington DOT.  Later in the conference, Steve led the “Roundtable on Rural ITS,” which offered an overview of the challenges and opportunities facing rural areas interested in developing and implementing new transportation technologies.  At the workshop on “Utilizing ITS for Rural Road Safety,” Natalie Villwock-Witte presented the Rural ITS Toolkit, which was recently updated by WTI staff through the National Center for Rural Road Safety. David Kack was a speaker at the “Multimodal Transportation Technology” workshop, where he presented on the Wyoming Intercity Bus Study, which provides a model for finding and filling transit gaps in rural areas, and Doug Galarus spoke at the “Rural ITS Weather Applications” workshop, where he presented on the Aviation Weather Information (AWI) system developed for the California Department of Transportation.

Bicycle/Pedestrian Planning Highlighted at Society of Women Engineers Conference

Sara Dunlap (MnDOT), Dorian Grilley (BikeMN), and Natalie Villwock-Witte at the Society of Women Engineers Conference
Sara Dunlap (MnDOT), Dorian Grilley (BikeMN), and Natalie Villwock-Witte

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.