News

NEW PROJECT: Could Public Transportation Systems in Rural Areas Deliver Packages?

WTI is launching a new project to investigate innovative “last mile” package delivery systems and how rural public transportation systems may have a role in the process.  Led by Principal Investigator Andrea Hamre, the project will include a synthesis of current last mile package delivery practices through public transportation systems in rural states; an analysis of state policies regarding the use of public transportation for package delivery; and an estimate of demand, capacity need, and revenue generation for rural transit systems in regard to last mile package delivery.  This feasibility study is sponsored by the Small Urban, Rural, and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM).

Title: Commercial Package Delivery through Public Transportation Systems in Rural States

Started: December 2020

End Date: November 2021

Project ID: 4W8852

STUDENT NEWS: Welcome, Sam Coulter!

Portrait of Sam Coulter at ice hockey rink 2021

Meet WTI’s Undergraduate Research Assistant Sam Coulter. A Senior at MSU, Sam will be helping Andrea Hamre with the Commercial Package Delivery through Public Transportation Systems in Rural States project. His participation is through a GPHY 498 Internship for the GIS/Planning program within the Department of Earth Sciences, under the academic advisement of Land Resources & Environmental Sciences Instructor, Nicholas Fox. Sam was born and raised in Gillette, Wyoming. He will be graduating this Spring with a Bachelor of Science in GIS/Planning. Sam’s favorite classes have been GIS and Planning classes, where he has enjoyed creating projects from real life situations. In this project with WTI, Sam is excited to learn more about transportation, especially rural public transportation and ways to help increase its efficiency and effectiveness. When not pursuing his studies and internship from home, Sam is at the ice arena playing and coaching hockey. He also enjoys hunting and skiing.

In the News: Ennis Traffic Calming Project Featured in Local News

Traffic calming delineators installed along Main Street in Ennis, Montana

The Madisonian, a newspaper for Montana’s Madison Valley, reports on a completed WTI research study in a recent feature article.  “Traffic calming data released” summarizes the findings of a traffic calming project in Ennis, Montana, for which WTI and the Montana Department of Transportation collaborated on a “pop-up” installation of curb extensions and other strategies to reduce speeds on the town’s Main Street, which is also a state highway.  For the analysis, the WTI research team, led by Matt Madsen, collected data on speeds, pedestrian counts, and the number of drivers yielding to pedestrians before and after the installation. The final report is available on the WTI website project page.

In the News: Traffic and Transit Magazine Showcases Rural Research Roadmap Project

An NCHRP project led by WTI is the focus of a current feature article in Traffic and Transit, a national transportation publication.  “Mapping the Future of Rural Transportation Research” highlights the development of the Research Roadmap for Rural Transportation Issues (NCHRP 20-122), which will provide a detailed, long-term agenda for research aimed at improving rural transportation throughout the U.S., including the creation of a series of research needs statements on specific topics. The project is led by Principal Investigator Jaime Sullivan, in collaboration with Iowa State University.

graphic listing 15 rural transportation research categories

To date, the project team has produced 15 topical research portfolios; 26 research needs statements; and 13 research problem statements, which are more fully developed project proposals ready to submit for funding consideration.  Sullivan provided an update on the project at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, during the Rural Transportation Issues Coordination Council meeting, which she chairs. The new Council will serve as the home for ongoing activities related to the Research Roadmap project.

TRB Annual Meeting Zooms Into Week Three

The NAS Transportation Research Board continued its revamped Annual Meeting last week, holding virtual technical committee meetings on a wide range of research topics. In this “snapshot” of what the forums look like this year, can you spot some familiar WTI faces at a Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands Committee event last week?

screenshot of 15 people attending a virtual committee meeting at the TRB Annual Meeting 2021

As a reminder, if you are attending the 2021 Annual Meeting, look for WTI researchers at the following events this week:

  • January 21 – Moving Research to Practice – Ahmed Al-Kaisy will present on research to create a new method for screening low-volume roads. (Workshop #1016)
  • January 22 – Rob Ament and Natalie Villwock-Witte will facilitate a workshop on National Standards for Wildlife Vehicle Data Collection (Workshop #1041)
  • January 22 – Ahmed Al-Kaisy will participate in a panel discussion on new safety developments on low-volume roads (Workshop #1044)

In Memoriam: Dr. Bill Jameson

Portrait of Bill Jameson with his two dogs

We are saddened to share that former WTI staff member Dr. Bill Jameson passed away on January 2.  Bill joined WTI in 2003 as a Senior Research Scientist, two years after his “retirement” from a distinguished engineering career that encompassed military, private sector, public sector, education, and research and development experience.  At WTI, he specialized in the development of telecommunications systems for transportation applications and was instrumental to the development of the Systems Engineering, Development and Integration Program.  He is fondly remembered as a wise educator, generous mentor, and good friend to all.

For more personal memories, we are pleased to share this tribute by another WTI alumni, Doug Galarus:

Former WTI staff member Dr. Bill Jameson died on January 2nd. Those of you who knew and worked with Bill will surely be sad to hear this. Those who did not know Bill should know a bit more about him.

I met Bill shortly after moving to Bozeman to work for WTI in 2003. Bill was chairing a session at a communications conference at MSU. Coincidently, I had been assigned to a project that involved significant data communication challenges. Several WTI staff members and I attended the conference and crossed paths with Bill. Subsequently Bill became a member of and helped what became the “Systems Group” at WTI with projects such as “Redding Responder” and “TMC-TMS Communications.”  Bill had previously worked with law enforcement on radio communications and other projects, and he brought a wealth of knowledge and a long list of contacts who could help us on these projects. Bill had also been faculty in the MSU Electrical Engineering Department.

I will never forget the time when Bill insisted that he and I travel to his family cabin in the mountains near Red Lodge to test a satellite communication system. Bill said that if there was any place where communication would be a challenge, it was there, and he was right. After carefully setting up the system and a camera to document our experiment, I turned around to find a cow moose looking me in the face! That was not exactly the challenge I expected.

Bill accompanied me on a later project trip to California where we toured facilities and roadways in Caltrans Districts 1 and 2 in Northern California to truly appreciate the communication challenges faced there. We toured the Redwoods and confirmed that communication was a huge challenge in the presence of “large conifers,” as Bill called them. We drove long, winding roads, including late at night as our flight to California had been delayed six hours in Seattle and we had a meeting scheduled the first thing the next morning. We went with District 2 staff to the top of Bass Mountain north of Redding to see the mountain top antennas that provided service to roadside cameras, signs, and weather sensors in the winding Sacramento Canyon. To call the path we followed a road would be an overstatement given the huge boulders we bounced over and around. We suspected that the vultures flying circles above us at the top of the mountain were there for a reason – they didn’t expect us to survive the trip! Despite the rough ride, Bill quickly became friends with Caltrans staff, and they always asked how he was doing. He never forgot that bouncy ride when talking to or about them.

When Bill’s involvement with projects at WTI ended, he continued to maintain a presence, and we were happy to provide him with an office. After various moves and consolidations in space we were no longer able to do that, and it was a sad day to see Bill leave with his belongs. He continued to stop by and say hi and bring donuts or other goodies to staff. While working at WTI and afterwards, Bill was a friend and mentor to staff and students.

Bill combined his wisdom with humor. Whenever someone would attribute something to “Murphy’s Law”, Bill would calmly reply, “I knew Murphy.” And he did!!! Another one of my favorite Bill sayings was eventually printed and given to me as something I should frame. Given the often-cluttered state of my desk, Bill would remark, “If a cluttered desk is sign of a cluttered mind, then what is an empty desk a sign of?” Bill’s desk mirrored mine, if not worse. Bill’s mind was full of great ideas and thoughts and was not cluttered. He had a big heart, and he will be missed.Bill loved his dogs, and his WTI staff photo showed Bill with two of his dogs. Baxter, his basset hound and Missy, his most recent rescue dog at that time looked right at home on the walls of WTI, along with Bill grinning from ear-to-ear. That same photo was used for his official obituary and is truly a good one to remember him by.

2021 30th Annual UTC Outstanding Student of the Year Awards

Headshot of Ali Rahim-Talegani

Congratulations to Ali Rahim-Taleqani of North Dakota State University (NDSU). Ali has been recognized as a 2020 Outstanding Student of the Year by the University Transportation Centers for his contributions to the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility led by the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University.  Ali has over 10 years of experience in international freight forwarding, logistics, and domestic transport.  He received his PhD in Transportation and Logistics from NDSU in May 2020.

During his doctoral studies, he worked on several projects relating to micro-mobility using simulation, optimization, and machine learning.  Now a master’s degree student in Computer Science, Ali is conducting research with the Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility (SURCOM) at NDSU’s Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute.  He is currently developing a web application that will help rural and small urban transit agencies identify and project their state of good repair.

In addition to receiving his PhD in 2020, Ali published his third journal article, “Maximum Closeness Centrality K-Clubs: A Study of Dock-Less Bike Sharing in the Journal of Advanced Transportation.

TRB Annual Meeting Kicks off Four Weeks of Virtual Events

Each January, the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board holds its Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., a week-long forum that brings together thousands of transportation researchers and leaders from around the world.  Due to COVID, this year’s committee meetings, workshops, and other events will all be hosted virtually, but will be spread over four weeks to facilitate broad participation.

WTI staff members continue their long tradition of leadership in TRB committees and other activities.  During the first week of the Annual Meeting, which kicked off on January 6, highlights included:

  • On January 7, Jaime Sullivan was introduced as the Chair of the newly formed Rural Transportation Issues Coordination Council at the Council’s kick-off event
  • Also on January 7, Natalie Villwock-Witte presided over the Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands Committee, for which she serves as Chair
  • Matt Ulberg participated in the Low Volume Roads Committee on January 7
  • Andrea Hamre serves as the Paper Review Coordinator of the Public Transportation Marketing and Fare Policy Committee, which met on January 8
screen shot of Andrea Hamre presenting at TRB virtual meeting
Andrea Hamre presenting at TRB committee meeting

Committee meetings will continue this week, followed by presentations, workshops and poster sessions during the last two weeks.  If you are attending the Annual Meeting, look for WTI researchers at the following events:

  • January 21 – Moving Research to Practice – Ahmed Al-Kaisy will present on research to create a new method for screening low-volume roads. (Workshop #1016)
  • January 22 – Rob Ament and Natalie Villwock-Witte will facilitate a workshop on National Standards for Wildlife Vehicle Data Collection (Workshop #1041)
  • January 22 – Ahmed Al-Kaisy will participate in a panel discussion on new safety developments on low-volume roads (Workshop #1044)
  • January 25 – Laura Fay will present her research on Deicing Alternatives at a lecturn session on Winter Maintenance (#1093)
  • January 26 – Advances in Travel Behavior Research – Andrea Hamre will present a poster on the Chittendon County, Vermont project (Poster Session #1203)
  • January 26 – Laura Fay will preside over a Lectern Session on Low Volume Road Improvements under the Great American Outdoors Act (#1241)
  • January 27 – Jaime Sullivan will facilitate a Lectern Session on Hot Topics in Rural Transportation (#1280)
  • January 28 – Hot Topics in Ecology – Mat Bell will present a poster on the FRP wildlife crossing project (Poster Session #1363)

More updates to follow throughout the month!

IN THE NEWS: WTI Road Ecologist Offers Insights Into Utah Project

Head shot of Rob Ament

In 2018, the Utah Department of Transportation completed the state’s largest wildlife crossing, which traverses six lanes of traffic on Interstate 80.  The crossing structure made the news again last week, when research footage captured deer, moose, elk, bears, bobcats and a variety of smaller mammals using the bridge.  In news coverage by Smithsonian Magazine, “Animals are Using Utah’s Largest Wildlife Overpass Earlier Than Expected,” WTI Road Ecologist Rob Ament is quoted regarding the high percentage of collision reductions that typically occur after the installation of crossing structures.  Rob’s quote is also included in a similar article by Nature World News.

NEW REPORT: Innovative Strategies to Reduce the Costs of Effective Wildlife Overpasses

car on a rural highway approaching a wildlife overpass in mountainous region

The U.S. Forest Service has released a new report authored by wildlife crossing experts from WTI, ARC Solutions, and other partner research organizations, which compiles key guidance information that may lead to the installation of more wildlife crossing structures.

Wildlife crossing structures are one of the most effective means of reducing animal-vehicle collisions on highways, while facilitating essential animal movement across the landscape. Yet the widespread implementation of such structures, especially wildlife overpasses, has been hindered by cost concerns. In 2014, WTI hosted a workshop in partnership with ARC Solutions and prominent wildlife crossing experts from Canada and the United States to determine whether there are design parameters and construction techniques that could be added, changed, or adjusted to reduce costs, while maintaining or improving the effectiveness of wildlife overpasses.

Concepts identified during the workshop were developed into specific strategies.  This document presents 32 potential cost savings considerations, which were consolidated into three categories:

  • planning
  • design and construction
  • procurement, delivery method, and cost accounting considerations

The full report is available for download from the WTI website or the USFS website.

Citation: McGuire, Terry M.; Clevenger, Anthony P.; Ament, Robert; Callahan, Renee; Jacobson, Sandra, eds. 2020. Innovative strategies to reduce the costs of effective wildlife overpasses. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-267. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station.