James Davenport Transportion (Past, Present and Future)

29Dec/17Off

The Rubber hits the Road in Alexandria, VA for Road Safety

Late last week, I read that the Alexandria City Council had endorsed a major safety initiative for the city. They did this by voting - on December 16, 2017 - to adopt the Vision Zero Action Plan and Guidance Document. According to the announcement, the City of Alexandria is the first jurisdiction in the northern Virginia region to take such action. The city seems to be taking the lead in making safety a priority and could be setting a precedent since this action does not require a substantial amount of funding. Just a little planning, foresight and thinking outside the box.

The purpose of the guidance document is to help the City achieve its goal of eliminating all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2028. According to the announcement sent to me, the Council adopted the Vision Zero international traffic safety concept in January 2017 as a sign that it recognizes that traffic injuries and fatalities are preventable through proper engineering, enforcement, evaluation and education.

Vision Zero
Credit - City of Alexandria

You think that the zero-death goal is a bit extreme and unreachable. The idea of zero deaths is not new. This has been an initiative of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for quite a while. When I was at the National Association of Counties, I worked on a safety grant for many years. I remember talking with a county engineer from the State of Ohio about the goal of zero deaths. He was a big supporter of the initiative. He told me, if the goal of zero deaths is impractical then whose life isn’t important enough for which to set a zero-death goal? Would that be your child, your parent, a friend of yours?

The federal initiative is generally referred to as “Toward Zero Death” (TZD). The goal of TZD is “working toward no fatalities across all modes of travel while incorporating its strategic goal of ensuring the ‘nation's highway system provides safe, reliable, effective, and sustainable mobility for all users’.” TZD is an approach based on the thinking that even one death on our transportation system is unacceptable. Additionally, the zero deaths idea was first adopted in Sweden in 1997 as “Vision Zero” and since then has evolved across the country and across the world. A growing number of state and localities have adopted the zero-fatality vision.

TZD is a data-driven approach that integrates all agencies in a state, region or local entity. As I stated in a previous post, the approach is somewhat unique in that it targets areas for improvement and employs proven countermeasures while at the same time incorporating education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical and trauma services. I was encouraged that TZD broadened the list of those involved in improving the safety on our nation’s roads. It is not just an engineering exercise. It incorporates public health, public safety, social services, economics, planning and other disciplines.

Going back to the City of Alexandria; the adopted plan highlights priority action items that will be a major focus during the first two years of Vision Zero implementation. These items include the creation of a public crash and safety data dashboard that will allow community members to track progress.  It also incorporates an accelerated timeline for Safe Routes to School engineering recommendations, and an increase in traffic safety enforcement on city roadways with higher speeds. More information is available at “Vision Zero”.

Credit - nevadadriver.com

I am encouraged with this action and hope to see this type of initiative implemented by other jurisdictions in the northern Virginia region and across the state of Virginia. For most of the counties, VDOT owns and operates the roads, so the counties will have to work closely with VDOT to move forward on the initiative. TZD is part of VDOT’s Virginia Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) which was recently updated by the Governor McAuliffe Administration.

The 2017-2021 SHSP provides strategies to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries with a focus on an assortment of issues including speed, young drivers, intersections, pedestrians, etc. A hallmark and strength of the SHSP is active input, support, and participation from all agencies and organizations involved in traffic safety.

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10Oct/17Off

The New Face to Road Safety

 

Centerline rumble strips of rural local road
Credit: Saint Louis County Public Works Department, Minnesota

As discussed in previous blogs, the provision of safety on urban, suburban and rural roads takes on many characteristics and many different approaches. One thing I learned being part of a consultant team which evaluated how state programs integrated the needs of local agencies in their safety planning and implementation, is that engagement of all parties whether public, private or academic is important. Additionally, as safety programs evolve, more agencies are finding that engaging other local/state agencies provide a broader perspective in road safety.

Last year I was part of a National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis project that published a report in January that evaluated state programs and how they worked with local agencies to improve safety on public roads across the country. The research was led by Dr. Seri Park PhD, PTP, Assistant Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Villanova University. Anthony R. Giancola, P. E., former Executive Director of the National Association of County Engineers, and I provided assistance in the research and production of the final report. In the evaluation of state programs, the project focused on the size of the program, funding sources, and administrative procedures and how local road safety programs have changed since the legislation of MAP-21. As part of this exercise, we identified noteworthy local and state program partnerships and initiatives to improve safety and examined how state and local agencies integrated the 4E (Engineering, Enforcement, Education, and Emergency Services) approaches into their local road safety programs.

As part of the NCHRP study, a list of noteworthy practices of state coordinated programs aimed at local road safety was developed from the state survey and an in-depth analysis of ten states whose safety programs have achieved reductions in local road crashes. Some key factors that came out of the survey of state DOTs, in-depth interviews with state and local agencies with particularly successful programs and intensive literature review revealed some interesting findings.

Many states identified Map 21 as a key catalyst in moving forward in the enhancement of the safety programs across their state. Please remember that the publication of this report was during most of last year when MAP 21 at the time was the latest re-authorization of the transportation bill. This report was released by TRB about two months after FAST ACT (https://www.transportation.gov/fastact) was passed. Among other things, this finding is based on the fact that MAP 21 called for additional funding through the HSIP program and additional technical assistance to assist agencies in implementing more data driven approaches to prioritize areas and road segment for safety improvements.

Another finding was that, possibly related to priorities as established in MAP 21, many states were moving toward a more proactive and systematic approach in identifying areas for safety improvements and selecting certain counter-measures to address specific road safety maladies.

I have now been working for a local transportation agency for about 1 ½ years now. From my experiences over that period, I am not surprised that we found that most of the states we surveyed, reported that the administration and reporting requirements for the use of federal dollars dissuades many local agencies in pursuing federal funds. There are a few federal programs through which we don’t pursue funds due to the report requirements. If the state agency can provide technical, administrative and/or financial assistance, it goes a long way in encouraging local agencies to pursue federal funds to help meet safety priorities.

Representatives from different agencies/disciplines conducting Road Safety Audit (RSA)
Credit: Connecticut Technology Transfer Center

One key challenge to state DOTs is the lack of resources both at the state and local levels. One thing we found in the research is that States were using a variety of approaches to help tackle this problem. State DOTs engaged local agencies through summits, conferences, workshops and meetings to educate and train local agencies to apply for safety funds and meet safety requirements. Additionally, states reached out directly to local agencies to provide training and technical assistance, establish procedures in local road manuals, and help formulate comprehensive guidance and policy for local agencies.

 

For more information on the report and/or how to obtain a copy of this very importance piece of research, please see the information below. For my next blog, I plan to discuss the future research needs that were identified in the report and some of the approaches local and state agencies will be implementing to improve safety on our nation’s roads given the changes in technology and the unpredictability of driver behavior. So stay tuned.

Park, S., P. McTish, J. Holman, A. Giancola, and J. Davenport. “States Practices for Local Road Safety,” National Cooperative Highway Research Program Synthesis Report 486, Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2016, 300 pp. http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_syn_486.pdf

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9Oct/17Off

Toward Zero Death, it involves more Players than you Think

At the time I had originally posted this, I had planned to focus the blog predominantly on road safety issues, parallel to the synthesis report I co-authored, “State Practices for Local Road Safety.” The Transportation Research Board released the report at its January 2016 national meeting. More changes in my life came after that and I decided to orient the focus of the blog to transportation planning and programing.

The photo is an aerial view of traffic with green trees in shanghai china. From the TZD Newsletter http://www.towardzerodeaths.org/newsletter

 


Well, it’s been a while since I posted on my blog. Quite a bit has changed in my life taking on various work commitments then landing a full-time job last October. The focus of my blog has been quite broad in the transportation and planning perspective, but now I would like to focus it a little more distinctively and bring out key issues related to safety on our nation’s roads and how we can integrate safety at the local, regional and state planning levels. Over the next few months, some news will be coming out which will clarify what I’ve been doing over the past year or so and I would like to integrate the results of that research in the blog. However, over the next few months as we venture into the holidays I want to cover many key initiatives and programs that work to improve safety on rural, suburban and urban roads. One initiative I want to discuss with you is the “Towards Zero Death” (TZD). What is the history behind it, how have state and local agencies used it in moving forward on their safety initiatives, and how will this change road safety as we know it.

U.S. Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) state on the website that the goal of TZD is “working toward no fatalities across all modes of travel and incorporates “FHWA's strategic goal of ensuring the ‘nation's highway system provides safe, reliable, effective, and sustainable mobility for all users’.”

The thinking is that even one death on our transportation system is unacceptable. The zero deaths idea was first adopted in Sweden in 1997 as “Vision Zero.” Since then, the idea has evolved across the country and around the world. A growing number of state and localities have adopted the Zero fatality vision.

TZD is a data-driven approach that integrates all agencies in a state, region or local entity. FHWA has been promoting this approach for a while and it is somewhat unique in that it targets areas for improvement and employs proven countermeasures while at the same time incorporating the “4Es” of safety which are (wait for it!!!) education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical and trauma services. I am encouraged with this approach because it broadens who or what should be involved in the effort of improving safety on our nation’s roads. It is not just an engineering exercise, it incorporates public health, public safety, social services, economics, planning and other disciplines.

The key to moving forward on such an initiative is engaging all key partners. Many of the State Departments of Transportation across the country are incorporating TZD as part of their safety program and working to bring in local agencies and other entities to help promote the TZD principle. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recently issued a news release in which AASHTO officially joined the National Strategy on “Highway Safety Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) effort.” In that news release, the executive Director Bud Wright stated, "The TZD National vision brings together a wide range of organizations and individuals under a unified commitment to transform our nation's traffic safety culture. Everyone has to be part of the solution -- including the nation's educators, roadway designers, engineers, law enforcement officers and motorists." Additionally, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated, "The U.S. Department of Transportation will do our part by aggressively using all tools at our disposal - research into new safety systems and technologies, campaigns to educate the public, investments in infrastructure and collaboration with all of our government partners to support strong laws and data-driven approaches to improve safety."

What is different about TZD is the focus on driver behavior and working with educators and safety experts in planning and implementing TZD as part of a safety program. The state of Minnesota recently held a conference on TZD. One interesting aspect of the conference was the list of disciplines invited to attend. The list included
• Attorneys
• Child Passenger Safety Advocates
• City and County Engineers
• Departments of Transportation, Public Safety, and Health Employees
• Driver Educators
• Drug Recognition Experts
• EMS and Health Care Personnel
• Government Employees
• Judges
• Law Enforcement Officials
• Local and State Elected Officials
• Probation Staff
• Public Health Officials
• Safe Communities Coalitions
• Traffic Safety Stakeholders

If that doesn’t show how broad and diverse the TZD initiative aims to be, I don’t know what would. I like the fact that this is more of a pro-active approach to safety. The goal is impossible to reach, but it is not impossible to strive for it. Implementing approaches to engage all actors to improve road safety is a more sustainable effort than focusing exclusively on road design and construction. See, improving safety doesn’t have to be so boring.

If you know of good examples of TZD going in your area, please let me know through the blog response. Let provide all the partners involved, what prompted it, how do you think the approach may be unique, what made the program successful. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving and have a safe and enjoyable holiday.

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