Every year UCLA students and faculty fly out to Washington DC for the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board.  The conference is held every January and provides researchers, students, and transportation professionals with the opportunity to share the latest research into all things transportation.  The theme for the 96th annual conference for 2017 was Transportation Innovation: Leading the Way in an Era of Rapid Change and as usual UCLA was well represented, presenting the latest research on fourteen different sessions and panels. 

Two notable awards were presented at the event to UCLA ITS members.  Director Brian Taylor and UCLA alumn co-authors Eric Morris and Jeffrey Brown were awarded the Wootan Award for their paper Negotiating a Financial Package for Freeways:  How California’s Collier–Burns Highway Act Helped Pave the Way for the Era of the American Interstate Highway.  The award is presented annually to exceptional papers in the fields of policy and organization.  In the paper the authors use government and legislative text to point out the ways California’s 1947 Collier-Burns Highway Act provided a financial blueprint that eventually influenced transportation finance on a nationwide scale.

Recent graduate Severin Martinez, MURP ’16, was awarded the 2017 Neville Parker Award for his paper Who Wins When Streets Lose Lanes?  An Analysis of Safety on Road Diet Corridors in Los Angeles.  Recognized as the best transportation policy planning capstone project in the country, the award was bestowed by the Council of University Transportation Centers. Martinez examines the effects of “classic road diets”, or the reduction in through traffic lanes to make room for a center turn lane.  By comparing rates of collision on five Los Angeles streets receiving this cost-effective treatment, Martinez’s research reveals a significant reduction in crash and injury rates. 

The Department of Urban Planning’s distinguished professor emeritus Martin Wachs presented on the California Gas Tax Swap, based on his previous research.  In his presentation he considered the implications of the 2010 tax swap and the ways it failed to address the underlying revenue problem, introducing volatility to the state’s transportation revenue.  He looked ahead to measures currently pending, offering suggestions for future avenues of revenue growth. 

Planning for pedestrians was another topic of interest: UCLA’s Carole Turley Voulgaris, Evelyn Blumenberg, and Madeline Brozen along with recent MURP alumnus Kate Bridges gave attendees a presentation of their research on walkability in four California cities.  In Are These Streets Made for Walking? Walking and the Built Environment in Four California Cities the team of researchers investigated the factors that influence the likelihood that residents will take walking trips in built environments.  

Further examining the causes and effects of walkability the same team of Brozen, Blumenberg, Voulgaris and Bridges presented a poster on changes in walking mode share.  Their recent research was highlighted in Walk on: Are Changes in Neighborhood Characteristics Associated with Changes in Walking? which showed that the rising rate of walking mode share corresponded to changes in neighborhood characteristics such as reduced poverty rate and increased accessibility.  Their recommendations for future expansions in walkability included enhancing the pedestrian environment in low income neighborhoods and increasing intersection density, which causes pedestrian routes to become more direct. 

Funding for new public transportation efforts was of significant interest, and the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program was considered by UCLA Doctoral candidate Carole Turley Voulgaris.  Her presentation on reducing errors in project estimates illuminated the changing trends in cost estimation. Costly Errors: Analyzing trends in cost estimate accuracy for New Starts projects compares the error rate for initial cost estimates with errors in final cost estimates. 

As always, UCLA students, faculty, and researchers had a great experience at the Annual Meeting, presenting their innovative research, reconnecting at our annual reception at Busboys and Poets, and learning from other experts all across the country.  Interested in learning more about the research coming out of ITS?  Follow the UCLA ITS Twitter for updates, quotes, photos and more.