June 2015 Catalyst

June 2015
Motorists are experiencing less delay on metro-area highways thanks to major changes to the Twin Cities’ ramp-metering system. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has reconfigured ramp meters to be more in sync with real traffic conditions. According to MnDOT, the system is operating better because of changes implemented approximately one year ago based on results of a 2012 MnDOT-sponsored study by U of M researchers. The study included the development of new software algorithms for the ramp-metering system.
Transportation engineers and planners see firsthand the positive impacts of transportation investments on economic development. They are frequently challenged, however, to demonstrate that relationship to the public and to elected officials entrusted with prioritizing investment decisions for their communities’ needs. Local agencies in particular need a way to demonstrate the value of transportation investment by showing its impact on economic development. To accomplish this goal, a U of M research project quantified the relationship between transportation investment and economic development, represented by the effect of investment on a county’s property tax base.
One of the most striking findings from a recent travel survey by the Metropolitan Council was a marked decline in the rate of daily trips per household. The decrease could be partially attributed to the long-term trend toward smaller household size, but researchers immediately wondered what else could explain the decline: Rising fuel prices? An aging population? Or the impact of shifting attitudes toward travel? To sort out these factors, U of M researchers used “cohort analysis” to study travel behavior. Their goal was to determine whether preferences toward vehicle ownership and travel vary among different segments of the population based on their age and life experience.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota Duluth are investigating the use of technology to make merging from freeway entrance ramps easier and safer for drivers. The team is using vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications to collect real-time vehicle trajectories in these merging situations—a first step toward providing merge-assist information to drivers. The technology works by enabling vehicles equipped with DSRC devices to communicate important details about their location, direction of travel, and speed to each other. Using that information, the system calculates the relative trajectories of the vehicles in real time.
Publication Credits 

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