Getting creative

Innovative solutions are a theme in this month’s news and feature stories

Tim Bruns / May 29, 2020
Tim Bruns
How time flies during a pandemic.

It has now been over two months since the first stay-at-home orders have taken effect in states across the country. 

This month, we have seen the public transportation industry call for additional support from the federal government as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) impacts to the industry, asking for $23.8 billion in additional emergency funding to help public transit agencies across the country in economic recovery efforts. On May 15, 2020, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6800—the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which includes $15.75 billion in emergency funding for public transportation. This bill has yet to be passed by the Senate.

We are also seeing some creativity on the part of public transportation agencies to combat the spread of coronavirus. This month, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced an ultraviolet (UV) light pilot program said to kill COVID-19, with the first phase set to launch on subways, buses, and other New York City Transit facilities throughout the system. MTA says UV light is an effective technology for eliminating viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19, from surfaces in MTA’s system.

In other news, the National Transportation Safety Board is anticipating the reopening of the country by urging Americans to practice highway safety to the same degree they practice efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. NTSB says that in a typical year, more than 36,000 Americans are killed on the nation's roads. The agency recommends four major ways for motorists and their passengers to keep safe include always buckling up, avoiding speeding, avoiding driving distracted, and avoiding driving while impaired.

Once again, in the midst of all the chaos, Traffic & Transit is continuing to publish monthly feature stories from the traffic management, safety, ITS, and transit industries. And the stories from the month of May show there are no limits to the innovative solutions and projects in these industries.

First on the docket for the month of May, we have a piece from Peter Jager, who is Traffic Technology and Innovations Project Manager with the Utah DOT (UDOT) Traffic Operations Center who wrote “Improving Road Safety Through Connected Vehicle Technology in Utah.” This article discusses the work that UDOT has been doing to develop intelligent transportation system (ITS) projects for years–including the creation of the Transportation Technology Group dedicated to expanding the deployment of new technologies. UDOT’s first connected vehicle project was to add transit signal priority (TSP) in an effort to improve bus schedule reliability. The department is also using an FHWA technologies grant to develop a “V2X (Vehicle to Everything) Connected Vehicle Ecosystem.” The goal of the first phase of this project is to outfit a group of vehicles and a few select corridors to test the data collection capabilities and the interaction of the software within the system. 

Next, Norene Pen and Celeste Gilman from the Washington State DOT discuss “Rethinking How We View Existing Roads.” This piece explores how road diets help improve safety for road users in the state of Washington. Pen and Gilman say the primary benefits of a road diet are improved safety, operational benefits, and livability benefits. When the number of vehicle lanes is reduced in road diets, the extra space can be reallocated for other uses such as bike lanes, pedestrian refuge islands, transit uses, and curbside parking. The authors cite several projects in their state that have shown to be beneficial for all road users by reducing speeds, designating left-turn movements, and enhancing multimodal travel for walking and bicycling.

Finally, Sherita Coffelt and Paul Gonzales from Southern California’s Metrolink commuter rail service contributed the story “Zero-emissions Technology Fast-Tracked for Rail System Expansion Project.” The authors says there will be cleaner skies and a more reliable ride across SoCal this fall as Metrolink deploys its 40th and final Tier 4 clean diesel locomotive—which will reduce emissions by up to 85% compared to Metrolink’s oldest Tier 0 locomotives and meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s most stringent emissions standards. This project falls in line with Metrolink’s vision for a “zero-emissions future.” For this project, Metrolink has joined with the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority on a 9-mile rail line to connect the city of Redlands with the regional rail hub in downtown San Bernardino—which is scheduled to begin operations in early 2021, using eco-friendly diesel multiple units to operate along the line.

As always, thanks for reading, and enjoy the stories from the month of May!

About the Author

Bruns is associate managing editor of Traffic & Transit.

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