April 2015 Catalyst

April 2015
Cities promote strong bicycle networks to support and encourage bicycle commuting, yet until now little has been known about how the overall quality of a city’s bicycle infrastructure network impacts bicycle ridership. In a study analyzing bike networks in 74 U.S. cities, University of Minnesota researchers have discovered that even after controlling for city size and demographics, both connectivity and directness are important factors in predicting bicycle commuting.
Traffic modeling is an essential tool for transportation planners and organizations. Models are used for everything from resource management to project scheduling and impact studies. Researchers at the U of M’s Minnesota Traffic Observatory recently developed a highly complex traffic model of the entire Twin Cities metropolitan area. In testing it, they learned that the Green Line light-rail transit line and the accompanying road and bus changes increased road congestion on nearby roads—but not by much.
A researcher at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) is experimenting with video games in an attempt to change teens’ attitudes toward distracted driving. Edward Downs, associate professor of communication at UMD, used a PlayStation 3 video game console and a popular racing game to create a simple driving simulator. His goal was to demonstrate the dangers of cell phone use behind the wheel in a safe, controlled environment—and ultimately make teen drivers less likely to drive distracted in the real world.
Traffic delays typically grow 3 to 5 percent per year due to outdated signal timing. However, most traffic signals in the United States are only retimed every two to five years (or longer), largely due to the expense associated with retiming efforts. But over the past several years, University of Minnesota researchers have developed and refined the SMART Signal system to make it easier and less expensive to retime signals. The system not only collects traffic and signal-phase data automatically, but it also identifies under-performing traffic signals and generates optimal signal timing plans with minimal human intervention.
Publication Credits 

Publisher/Director: Laurie McGinnis
Managing Editor: Pamela Snopl
Editors: Christine Anderson, Amy Friebe, Michael McCarthy
Designer: Angela Kronebusch
Freelance Writer: Megan Tsai