This article was originally published in Catalyst, November 2020.
As momentum for connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) continues to build in Minnesota, researchers in the U’s Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness (TPEC) program are working to understand how CAV technology could serve transportation-disadvantaged communities. CAVs offer the potential to provide greater mobility and equity for many people, but public engagement is essential to ensure all user needs are understood and addressed.
A new research study has shown that few landowners know about MnDOT’s snow fence program, its benefits to community safety and mobility, and incentives to install snow fences. Following community meetings and surveys in four regions of Minnesota, researchers identified promising promotional methods for the snow fence program, the constraints landowners face in adopting snow fences, and incentives and assistance to improve snow fence adoption. Project results will guide MnDOT’s efforts to expand the use of snow fences around the state
Researchers developed a method for associating travel times and travel costs with transit mobility. In an evaluation of bus–highway system interactions, investigators found that park-and-ride lots and managed lanes put suburban and walk-up urban transit options on equal footing. Bus–highway system interactions improve access to job locations and have improved transit access to job sites by about 20 percent compared to automobile access. When wage-related costs are included, the benefit of automobile use over transit use diminishes significantly.
How does the ability to move freight affect the economic health of a state, region, and even a city? How are the supply chains of businesses impacted by freight flow? And what challenges and opportunities does Minnesota face when it comes to leveraging and strengthening its freight modes?
The 2016 Freight and Logistics Symposium offered a thoughtful examination of those questions and explored other topics related to improved mobility in Minnesota, including congestion, regulation, labor shortages, and the value of all freight modes to the state’s economy.
The event, held December 2, 2016, in Minneapolis, included:
A presentation on the power of freight flow data in attracting industry to a location and ways to use data in making a compelling case for businesses to invest
A panel Q&A featuring four industry experts from diverse organizations that depend on reliable freight movement
A discussion of how the 2016 election results may affect freight transportation
The symposium was sponsored by CTS in cooperation with MnDOT, the Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, the Metropolitan Council, and the Transportation Club of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
I-35W’s MnPASS lane, where vehicles can frequently enter and exit the high-occupancy toll lane, is just as safe as the MnPASS lane on I-394, where motorists only have a few shots to enter the system, a new study finds.
“The federal government has very strong arguments against the open system. They’re saying it’s going to be dangerous – cause more disruption and more congestion,” said John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory. “We found that both roadways are working very well today because they were designed appropriately for their location.”
The definition of an open system is one that has more opportunity for access than restriction. On 35W, a dotted white lane means vehicles can enter the toll lane at will, and a solid line bars access.
Vehicles must have two occupants on-board or an electronic pay card to use the express lanes during rush hour.
The reason I-35W allows vehicles to enter MnPASS more frequently than I-394 is because there are more ramps where new vehicles are entering the freeway and might want to get on MnPASS.
Researchers studied whether accidents are more likely to occur by studying the number of accident-inducing vehicle movements along the 35W corridor. They found that areas where accidents are mostly likely to occur are also where the lane would have to allow access anyway under a closed system like 394.
The study also looked at mobility, determining that MnPASS users have just as good free-flowing traffic under the open system.
Researchers also created design tools that engineers can use to determine where access points should be on MnPASS lanes.
Until now, engineers have relied on rule of thumb. For example, the general guidance for allowing access on a closed system was 500 feet for every lane between the entrance ramp and the HOT.
The tools can be used to automatically determine how fluctuations in the MnPASS fee will affect congestion within the lane.
The fee to use MnPASS depends on the time of day.
As the express lane become more congested, the fee to use it increases. This slows the number of cars entering the lane, increasing the speed of the vehicles already in the lane.
“We ran the tool on three locations on 35W and found that, for example, on Cliff Road, you can increase the traffic by 75 percent and still be okay,” Hourdos said. “You have more leeway there than north of the crossroads of Highway 62 and 35W, for instance.”
Landmark regional investments such as the transit expansion underway in the greater Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area have the potential to significantly change long-term land-use patterns and travel behavior. They also raise important questions for policymakers and elected officials regarding the potential return on investment.
A new synthesis report from the Transitway Impacts Research Program (TIRP) pulls together seven years of research conducted by University of Minnesota researchers to help answer these questions. The report summarizes the actual and projected impacts of transitways on the Twin Cities region, offering lessons learned to help guide the build-out of the rest of the network most effectively. It concludes with a set of implications for policymakers.
The Twin Cities metro region is in the midst of a transit build-out. The Metro Blue Line (formerly known as Hiawatha), Red Line (Cedar Avenue Bus Rapid Transit), and Northstar Commuter Rail are in operation, and the Green Line (Central Corridor) opens next year. All are part of an expanding regional transit network.
Under the TIRP program, which was launched in 2006, University of Minnesota researchers provide an objective analysis of data, public perceptions, and complex impacts resulting from transitway investments. Their research is unique in its breadth, scope, and ability to provide real-time analysis of the changes experienced when a region introduces high-quality transit service.
“This body of research and objective analysis confirm the many positive ways that expanding our transit network supports economic competitiveness, greater accessibility to jobs, opportunities for populations with low incomes, and enhanced livability for our whole region,” says Kate Wolford, president of The McKnight Foundation, the synthesis sponsor. “This report undergirds why the accelerated build-out of our transit system is so important for the future prosperity of our region and its residents.”