Lunchtime Tech Talk! WEBINAR: Analysis of Local Bus Markets

On October 7, 2020, NJDOT hosted a Lunchtime Tech Talk! Webinar on the Analysis of Local Bus Markets with Deva Deka, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Research, at Rutgers – Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, and Susan O’Donnell, Senior Director, Business Analysis and Market Research at NJ TRANSIT. Dr. Deka began the presentation with a general description of the NJ TRANSIT system that operates approximately 250 bus routes throughout New Jersey. Bus riders constitute almost 60 percent of all riders using NJ TRANSIT services, including commuter rail and light rail. For many New Jersey residents, those buses are essential for meeting almost all daily travel needs.

Dr. Deka provided a profile of the demographics of bus users, including household income, race, and vehicle ownership

Dr. Deka provided a profile of the demographics of bus users, including household income, race, and vehicle ownership.

For the past five years, the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center of Rutgers University has been conducting onboard surveys of bus riders in different parts of New Jersey for projects funded by the NJDOT Bureau of Research and sponsored by NJ TRANSIT. Dr. Deka, the Principal Investigator for these survey studies, presented the bus survey methodology, and key findings. He described the questionnaire design, survey scheduling, training of surveyors, and the process of data collection, and the post-survey process that has involved data cleaning and weighting, and analysis. Over the five years, the project has generated clean data for over 15,000 riders.

Dr. Deka gave an overview profile of bus rider characteristics and trip characteristics found from the survey research. The survey showed that riders are predominantly Hispanic and/or African-American, lower-income, from households with no car or one car, and dependent on the bus system. The data support the essentiality of bus services for zero-car households and inform analyses of the broader impacts of bus services such as decreases in traffic delays and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In the second half of the presentation, Ms. O’Donnell described the use of the survey data by NJ TRANSIT for planning purposes. The data supports travel demand modeling which replicates existing conditions and predicts future conditions to inform roadway projects and transit projects. This information is shared with New Jersey’s three Metropolitan Planning Organizations, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council. Current data is required in transit grant applications, and contributes to studies related to access to transit, corridors, intermodal systems, and transit oriented development.

To fulfill the agency’s obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, NJ TRANSIT uses the data to perform an equity analysis to evaluate the effect of fare changes or service changes on low-income populations and minority populations, and to provide data to help in developing a language assistance plan for Limited English Proficiency populations.

In addition, NJ TRANSIT uses the data when working with advertisers that want to target their message efficiently to specific demographic groups.

The agency’s Newark Bus System Redesign Project will use the data collected in fall 2019 to align and modify bus routes and explore service to new areas. This is the first, and largest, of multiple systems to be evaluated to bring the agency’s entire bus system up to date.

In closing, Ms. O’Donnell presented an update on bus use during the pandemic based on surveys given during April and June. The data shows how important the bus system has been to essential workers.

Following the presentation, the Dr. Deka and Ms. O’Donnell responded to questions asked through the chat feature:

Q. What was the number of questions asked on the survey and what incentives were offered?
A. The survey comprised about 30 questions. Incentives helped increase interest in the surveys and respondents had a chance of winning 1 of 5 $100 gift cards.

Q. Did you consider using IPads rather than paper-based intercept surveys?
A. Dr. Deka noted that they did consider them, but use of IPads limits the number of surveys that can be collected at one time. The surveyor has to stay with the individual using the IPad, and cannot approach other riders at the same time, limiting the efficiency of the survey-taker. Dr. Deka also referenced a Mineta Transportation Institute report that compared data quality and costs for different approaches to on-board transit passenger surveys that found efficiencies with the paper-intercept approach for bus users. Ms.O’Donnell noted that this technology might work at a station or on a platform because a number of surveyors can be located in the same place but is difficult to use on a crowded bus. During the pandemic, IPads probably could not be used due to safety concerns with touching and handling equipment.

Q. What are typical variables used to weight the data to the total ridership?
A. The sample is weighted by direction of the bus, time of day, and the run. A trip is from an origin to the destination and all trips combined is a run. They do not weight the sample by demographic variables or geography because they do not have solid information on the total transit user “universe” population related to these variables.

Q. Did you compare rider survey results by types of service area?
A. No. While there are some suburban routes if you segment or categorize by origins, such as Morristown, almost all routes are generally very urban. It would be possible to use the data to compare by counties.

Q. What is the delay imposed by traffic congestion on buses?
A. Traffic impacts have been an issue that has been looked at by traffic engineers at Rutgers – CAIT some years ago. They collected data traffic signal timings at intersections that the bus traveled through and applied VISSIM for simulations. Dr. Deka said that he could connect anyone interested with the detailed technical methods that the researchers used on that traffic impact study, if they’re interested.

The presentation given by Dr. Deka and Ms. O'Donnell can be downloaded here.

A recording of the webinar is also available (see right).

Lunchtime Tech Talk! WEBINAR: Evaluation of Precast Concrete Pavement Systems and State Specifications

On June 10, 2020, the NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted a Lunchtime Tech Talk! Webinar on "Evaluation of Precast Concrete Pavement Systems and State Specifications.” Dr. Yusuf Mehta, Director of Rowan University’s Center for Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Engineering Systems (CREATEs), introduced the presentation and acknowledged the contributions of individuals and other state DOTs to the research effort.  Dr. Daniel Offenbacker began the presentation with a description of the research study performed for NJDOT to identify, evaluate, and compare precast pavement systems, specifications, and practices currently in use for Precast Concrete Pavement (PCP). The study included an extensive literature review and surveys with Subject Matter Experts from various state DOTs that have experience with precast concrete pavement rehabilitations.

Dr. Offenbacker discussed the benefits and drawbacks of Precast Concrete Pavements.

Rigid pavements play an important role in highway infrastructure, primarily in regions with high traffic density such as New Jersey. NJDOT is continuously exploring innovative pavement rehabilitation strategies, such as Precast Concrete Pavement (PCP), that allow for faster and more durable rehabilitation of rigid pavements. Precast concrete is cast off-site to specifications and installed to match a particular location. Dr Offenbacker noted the benefits of precast concrete systems including quick installation that limits the duration of road closure and requires minimal interaction with drivers. The material is durable and long-lasting. Drawbacks include the high cost, challenges to installation requiring tight specifications, and limited capability among contractors and systems.

The researchers surveyed 17 states and followed up with 8 states that are using PCP systems. Other states shared experiences with systems in use, standards for manufacture and installation, permitting of new systems, and experiences with installation and performance. Eight different state specifications were identified that addressed panel fabrication, bedding and grout stabilization, installation tolerances, and encasement grout.

The research led to the conclusion that installation is critical to PCP performance. Failure is generally due to misalignment or poor leveling. Dr. Offenbacker described a proposed five-step system approval process to be used in New Jersey for acceptance of newly-developed precast pavements. The approval system included materials and slab approval, demonstration of system installation, and proof of performance. Recommendations included use of documented experiences from other states in establishing specifications and exploring development of a generic PCP system for New Jersey.

The research resulted in recommendations for a Precast Concrete Pavement approval process for use in New Jersey

Dr. Offenbacker noted the need for future work to investigate the long-term performance of PCP systems, to prepare a life cycle cost analysis to quantify the economic benefits, to assess the usefulness of intermittent precast systems in light of surrounding pavement deterioration, and to develop a training platform for contractors to insure proper installation.

Following the presentation, participants posed questions via the chat feature. Responding to a question about the use of planar vs. non-planar slabs, Dr. Offenbacker noted that the existing conditions of the roadway would determine which slab would be used to match the existing structure.

A participant asked if there was any criteria for choosing between rapid-set concrete and PCP. Dr. Offenbacker responded that there was no criteria yet for when one would choose one over the other.

A participant asked what Dr. Offenbacker considered the key takeaway from the surveys. He responded that installation was the key consideration. He emphasized the need to understand the economic benefits of PCP, which are starting to outweigh the benefits of other rehab techniques such as rapid-set.

In response to a question about training needed, Dr. Offenbacker noted that training is needed in the specific systems. California requires each contractor to go through a certification process if they want to use precast pavement systems on a regular basis.

A participant asked if deterioration of slabs adjacent to a replacement slab was due to the replacement slab. Dr. Offenbacker replied that the replacement slab would not cause deterioration if installed properly. The roadway may be deteriorating incrementally.

A participant asked if the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provided input on QA/QC for underslab grouting and grouting dowel bar slots. Dr. Offenbacker responded that there are thorough specifications for these elements and they are available in the final report.

In response to a question about whether there is a maximum and minimum size for PCPs and how that correlates to performance, Dr. Offenbacker noted that this has not been explored well yet. The typical length is 15 feet.

The presentation given by Dr. Mehta and Dr. Offenbacker can be downloaded here.

A recording of the presentation is also available here (or see right).

For more information about the research study, please access the final report and technical brief here.

For more information about research at Rowan University's CREATES, click here.

Lunchtime Tech Talk! WEBINAR: Dredging, Dredged Material Management and the NJ Marine Transportation System

On May 12, 2020, the NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted a Lunchtime Tech Talk! Webinar on "Dredging, Dredged Material Management and the New Jersey Marine Transportation System.” W. Scott Douglas, Dredging Program Manager in NJDOT’s Office of Maritime Resources (OMR), discussed the dredging process, management of dredged material, OMR’s asset management system, and dredging case studies.

Mr. Douglas discussed the extent of New Jersey's Marine Transportation System, and its significance to the local, and larger economy.

Mr. Douglas described the New Jersey Marine Transportation System (MTS) that includes all infrastructure and equipment that connects land-based transportation assets to navigable water. The MTS supports a $50 billion industry that encompasses international and domestic freight, commercial fishing, recreational boating, travel and tourism, marine trades and ferries. NJDOT is directly responsible for maintaining some 200 of the 600 nautical miles of engineered waterways that provide safe navigation pathways to and from the shore-based infrastructure, and provides dredged material management services for another 150 nautical miles of Federal waterway. Since Superstorm Sandy, OMR is the State’s lead agency for these responsibilities, providing planning, design, procurement and construction services and coordinating the State’s waterway emergency response.

The system is divided into three regions: the New Jersey/New York Harbor (the third largest port in the country), the Delaware River, and the Atlantic Shore where NJDOT takes a larger role. Much of their work involves managing clean dredge materials in shallow draft areas where there is little land on which to place the dredged material. Mr. Douglas described the various aspects of the dredging process including bathymetric surveys, sediment sampling and analysis, and permitting, and went on to explain uses of dredged material.

As a natural part of the aquatic ecosystem, sediment is a resource. The Office of Maritime Resources works to reuse the material in various ways depending on the nature and composition of the sediment. Mr. Douglas offered several examples of reuse such as construction fill, beach replenishment, landfill capping, and brownfield redevelopment. The OMR is exploring the use of sediment to increase shoreline resiliency through marsh and dune restoration and other shoreline stabilization techniques, island creation, dredged hole replacement, and habitat creation.

The talk highlighted several facets of collecting, tracking, and dispersing dredged materials.

Mr. Douglas discussed his agency’s Maritime Asset Management tools developed to evaluate cost, conditions, and to help prioritize the Office’s work. Their Waterway Linear Segmentation database, comparable to the roadway Straight Line Diagrams, is a first in the nation for maritime asset management. OMR is assembling a dredged material database. Deployment of these tools is anticipated later this year. OMR’s Maritime Asset Management Systems comprises these two tools and produces plans based on current and future conditions, cost, and availability of dredge system management. The output is similar to the asset management reports used by highway and bridge engineers to assist management in decisionmaking.

Successes of the state’s channel dredging program include 54 channels cleared and 45 nautical miles of waterway opened. Mr. Douglas highlighted three dredging case studies including projects in the Port Jersey Channel, Shark River, and Upper Barnegat Bay. In 2020, OMR has four ongoing projects and four planned projects to open a total of 25 channels.

Participants posed questions via the Q&A feature. Mr. Douglas was asked what quality controls are in place before dredged material is moved. He noted that New Jersey has one of the most stringent systems in place in the country. NJDEP has a list of contaminants related to locations. They test both the sediment before it is moved, and the water, and a mixture of sediment water. If the material is stabilized and placed upland, it is exposed to lab testing and leachate tests on site. Another participant asked if dredging stirs up contaminants. Mr. Douglas replied that it can, and that the rigorous testing is designed to address the possibility. He noted the distinction between navigation dredging to clear a channel and environmental dredging conducted to clean contaminants from a waterway.

In response to a question concerning locations of island creation, Mr. Douglas stated that a group led by the US Fish & Wildlife Service is looking into potentially creating islands in Barnegat Bay.

A participant asked if dredged material could be used in new embankments and walls that NJDOT is building throughout the state. Mr. Douglas responded that the biggest barrier is cost. Straight fill is less expensive and easier to schedule; timing of highway projects with maritime projects has been difficult.

A participant wondered how the required dredge depth is verified once it is completed? Dredge depth is determined before dredging begins. Generally, channel depth has been determined for the entire state. Usually the depth changes only if conditions change, such as would be required with the introduction of larger vessels needing access to ports.

In response to a question concerning work continuing during the COVID-19 outbreak, Mr. Douglas noted that work is continuing and inspectors are on site every day following appropriate and requisite protocols.

The presentation given by Mr. Douglas can be downloaded here.

A recording of the webinar is also available (see right).

FHWA’s Ray Murphy Presents EDC-5 Weather-Responsive Management Strategies

On April 14, 2020, the NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted a Lunchtime Tech Talk! webinar on "EDC-5 Weather-Responsive Management Strategies." This event featured a presentation by Ray Murphy, ITS Specialist with the FHWA's Resource Center. Under Round 5 of the Every Day Counts (EDC) program, FHWA promotes Weather-Responsive Management Strategies (WRMS) to manage traffic and road maintenance during inclement weather to improve safety and reliability, and minimize environmental impacts associated with weather events. Weather affects: traffic safety, with 21 percent of the nearly 6 million roadway crashes in the past decade related to weather; mobility, resulting in reduced efficiency and productivity; and environmental impacts on watersheds, air quality, and infrastructure.

Mr. Murphy provided examples of weather responsive practices being tried by state DOTs, including an advanced traveler information notification deployed by Iowa DOT.

Mr. Murphy provided examples of weather responsive practices being tried by state DOTs, including an advanced traveler information notification deployed by Iowa DOT.

Mr. Murphy described the prior-round, EDC-4 innovation, Road Weather Management – Weather-Savvy Roads, that formed the basis for this EDC-5 initiative. The innovation promoted data collection including Pathfinder, a collaboration between the National Weather Service, state DOTs, and state support contractors to provide weather information and forecasts, and Integrating Mobile Observations (IMO) that collects weather and road condition data from instruments on agency fleet trucks.

Through WRMS, FHWA promotes the use of mobile data to support decision making. Benefits to agencies include improved safety, system performance and operations, and reduced costs and environmental impacts. Agencies can use Weather Responsive Management Systems to address diverse internal needs such as staffing, material use, and route optimization, and condition and performance reporting. Data sources include transportation agency fleets, private vehicles, third party entities, agency operators, road users and infrastructure. Some data is collected by in-vehicle sensors, video and camera images, and automatic vehicle location. Other data sources include fixed Roadway Information System (RWIS), National Weather Service, reports from road users and operators, mobile observations and connected vehicle data, among others.

The traveling public benefits through safer pre-trip and real-time route decision making based on enhanced traveler information, roadside messaging, variable speed limits, and road lane closures or restrictions. Unified, localized, and more accurate messaging gives the public increased confidence in the messaging and the agency.

Mr. Murphy addressed some common challenges that agencies face in adopting this innovation, such as a lack of connectivity in remote areas, the need for buy-in from agency leadership and from road crews, hesitance to adopt the innovation, and funding.

Mr. Murphy cited some of work that NJ DOT has accomplished in the field of Weather Responsive Management Strategies.

Mr. Murphy highlighted recent initiatives undertaken by NJDOT related to Weather Responsive Management Strategies that have been funded in part through FHWA innovation grants.

He noted that the State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) Incentive Program and STIC Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) grants can help fund implementation of these technologies. NJDOT received a STIC incentive funding grant to support pilot testing of technology used by the Safety Service Patrols. NJDOT was also awarded an AID Grant from FHWA to support a weather savvy roads pilot program, installing video camera dashboards and sensors onto NJDOT maintenance trucks and safety service patrol vehicles to collect streaming video and weather / pavement information to support road weather management throughout the state.

Webinar participants had an opportunity to pose questions of Mr. Murphy. One participant asked about possible resistance to installation of automatic vehicle locators due to privacy concerns. Mr. Murphy noted that agencies must operate openly and inclusively when implementing this technology. Training and education can help users become more accepting of the technology.

A participant asked about the use of IMO data versus information gathered from a public entity such as WAZE. Mr. Murphy responded that the agency receives the IMO data directly and can oversee the accuracy of the data, but that information should come from multiple sources to create a robust dataset.

When asked what agencies consider the biggest challenges, and what arguments can be used to support this innovation, Mr. Murphy responded that funding is always a concern but that buy-in is often the larger issue. He emphasized the need for a champion who can demonstrate the benefits of the strategies through performance measures.

When asked if specific applications of WRMS were being considered for EDC-6, Mr. Murphy responded that various innovative practices were being considered and no decisions had been made yet.

A participant asked if these systems can be adapted to rockfall data. Mr. Murphy noted that visibility apps used with dust storms or fire events could be adapted for other weather events.

Mr. Murphy’s presentation offered several examples of DOTs nationwide employing these strategies. A participant asked if any states are quantifying the benefits of WRMS implementation. Mr. Murphy offered that Caltrans is one agency.

The presentation given by Mr. Murphy can be downloaded here.

A recording of the webinar is available here.

More information on this innovation is available on the FHWA Weather Responsive Management Systems resources page.

 

TECH TALK! Webinar: EDC Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian

UPDATE: This live webinar has been postponed and will be rescheduled for a later date.

Those who are registered will remain registered.

 

Please join the NJDOT Bureau of Research on April 2nd for an Innovation Exchange Webinar, “EDC Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP)”, that we are convening in Training Room A in the E&O Building at NJDOT Headquarters.

Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP), an Every Day Counts (EDC) innovation, is about a new type of “STEP” to keep pedestrians safe at uncontrolled road crossing locations. This webinar will outline five cost-effective countermeasures available to local agencies, and identify resources to guide in their selection and installation. Stories from local agencies will tell of county, city, and Tribal deployment leadership, with details on site and countermeasure selection, installation, monitoring, and improved safety measures of success.

AICP and NJ PE credits are available. This “live” webinar event is free to attend, but you must register ahead of time to guarantee a seat as there is limited space in the training room:

WEBINAR: EDC Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP)

POSTPONE AND WILL BE RESCHEDULED.

Time: 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM; Sign-in: 12:50 pm
Location:  NJDOT E&O Building, Training Room A
1035 Parkway Avenue, Trenton, NJ 08625

This Innovation Exchange webinar is one in a series sponsored by the Center for Local Aid Support (CLAS) in the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Innovative Program Delivery.  Through Innovative Exchange webinars, CLAS is bringing cutting-edge transportation leaders to the table to share ideas and out of the box innovative practices that have proven results.

 

Tech Talk! Webinar: The Connected Job Site

On November 14, 2019, FHWA sponsored an innovation exchange webinar, "The Connected Job Site," that was live broadcast by the NJDOT Bureau of Research as part of its Tech Talk! series, for NJDOT staff at NJDOT Headquarters in the Foran Building Training Room.

With the recent influx of new technologies such as smartphones, tablets, and drones, and their growing and widespread availability, many ingenious applications have been developed for their effective deployment in construction and operations and maintenance activities in transportation. These technologies have allowed for real-time project monitoring, improved communication among team members, documentation stored on the cloud, and more efficient online scheduling. During this webinar, attendees learned about what exactly connected job sites are, and how various local agencies from around the country have started to utilize these technologies in innovative ways.

FHWA launched the webinar with a short presentation, Ten Examples of Connected Technologies, that highlighted examples of tools and technologies found on the connected job site. The primary objective behind the adoption of these connected technologies is to save time and money and improve safety in operations.  Hardware like smartphones, tablets, laptops, wearable technology and various vehicles and equipment have streamlined communications and planning in performing field work, while software solutions like 3D Modeling and Building Information Modeling (BIM) have improved the accuracy and efficiency of digital representation for physical facilities and infrastructure design. Virtual reality (VR) technologies have also started to find applications in the field, allowing professionals to safely experiment and test ideas in an artificial environment and bring products and concepts to life through visualizations.  Using VR in conjunction with drone technology, for example, has allowed maintenance crews to safely examine parts of bridges that were previously hazardous to inspect. The advent of unmanned aerial vehicle systems, in general, has provided the ability to garner visual information at a lower cost than traditional methods, while keeping workers out of harm’s way.

Connected job sites do not always have to deploy new technologies; sometimes they just re-purpose applications of older technologies in conjunction with new ideas. GPS systems have been around for decades, but when used with new software they are immensely effective in improving efficiency.  Two case examples of this were provided by the local public agencies who participated in the webinar.

Township staff can review actual snow plow routes to improve cost-effective coverage and verify citizen complaints

The Township of Edison’s presentation, Improve Fleet Operations Through the Use of GPS and Telematics, provided by the New Jersey municipality’s Information Technology Manager, described some benefits and challenges of the installation of GPS tracking devices on its vehicle maintenance fleet.  During snow events, the Township was able to monitor the entire routes taken by its snow plow trucks and the specific segments where the plows were used.  Once the monitoring systems were in place, the Township found that it had the capability to more effectively evaluate individual citizen complaints of streets not being plowed adequately.  For example, the Township could check its mapped records of fleet route deployment during storm events, and see if the complaints were "true" and then determine whether a specific snow removal job needed to be repeated.  More broadly, the tool allowed the agency to ascertain whether designated routes were being followed by operators and whether the priority routes themselves were efficient and effective in both design and operation.

This capability had the added benefit of reducing the Township’s liability for alleged property damage. In fact, the Township found that some 50 percent of the claims that asserted that snow plows were hitting parked vehicles could not be substantiated after checking the GPS location of the snowplow trucks and their route history. Insurance claims and payouts were reduced by some 60 percent due to this capacity to technically validate the potential merits of a claim. The Township also found that it was able to improve efficiency in route designs, leading to less wear and tear on equipment, less use of salt and brine, and a reduction in person-hours and overtime costs.

The Township touched upon tool features that improved the monitoring of vehicles for preventative maintenance. As vehicles systems were now connected to a central hub, needed repairs were identified more quickly and systematically, and less dependent on individual driver reports of faults in a vehicle's operation.  Eventually, low use and high maintenance cost vehicles were better identified and retired, allowing for an overall fleet reduction of 35 percent which, in turn, has reduced costs for fuel, insurance, parts and labor.

For Lauderdale uses available individual vehicle operations measures to improve safety and support preventative maintenance progam for its fleet.

The City of Fort Lauderdale’s presentation, How to Improve Fleet Sustainability, jointly given by the City’s Program Manager for Fleet Services and their Automotive and Equipment Specialist, described several features and benefits of their fleet management program, including the use of geofencing. A geofence is a virtual perimeter dynamically generated for a real-world geographic area around a point location, or a predefined set of boundaries. It is typically used for security purposes and to better track people and equipment. Fort Lauderdale used geofencing to help preserve its infrastructure, as it was able to monitor overweight trucks using historic bridges; with this real time technology, they were able to reduce over-weight vehicles crossing the bridge by nearly 90 percent.

Vehicle tracking had the side benefit of making their drivers operate more safely.  The City found that its personnel were less likely to go over the speed limit if they were monitored, and “harsh events” such as braking and sharp turns were also reduced.  Examples of some of the specific and aggregate dashboard performance measures that can be monitored for equipment usage were highlighted.

In the dialogue following both presentations, it was clear that the adoption of the connected technologies changed the way business is being performed. Notably, the tools and performance measures permit increased tracking of the workforce on-the-job.  The presenters acknowledged that it can raise concerns about the level of monitoring available to the local public agency's management team.  However, according to the presenters, the implementation of the systems has generally improved the safety and efficiency of daily operations and contributed to improved maintenance and longevity of their fleets.

While the webinar shared just a couple of case examples primarily focused on fleet management, the FHWA hosts stressed that the future of connected job sites will only grow as the “internet of things” becomes more complex. Everything from automated vehicles, intelligent compaction, drones, and RFID scanners will continue to find new applications, and new ways to save money and enhance safety.

The Connected Job Site webinar is one in a series of Innovation Exchange webinars sponsored by the Center for Local Aid Support (CLAS) in the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Innovative Program Delivery. Through Innovative Exchange webinars, CLAS seeks to bring cutting-edge transportation leaders to the table to share ideas and out of the box innovative practices that have proven results.  More information about this webinar, upcoming webinars, and webinars available on demand can be found here.

Tech Talk! Webinar: Crowdsourcing for Local Operations

As the technology and portability of communications have become more widespread and instantaneous, "crowdsourcing" has become an increasingly popular method for identifying and addressing problems quickly. Crowdsourcing enables an organization to distribute workloads across a large group of people, utilizing their collective wisdom and amplifying the reach of the organization. Long popular for applications such as customer reviews for shoppers and critical takes from moviegoers, crowdsourcing tools are spreading in transportation and transforming the way operating agencies work with the public.  Most often we have seen crowdsourcing used on apps like Waze for up-to-date traveler information or incident management, as these apps allow for every driver on the road to serve as the eyes and ears of the larger community.

On October 17, 2019, FHWA sponsored an innovation exchange webinar, "Crowdsourcing for Local Operations" that was “live” broadcasted by the Bureau of Research as part of its Tech Talk! series, for NJDOT staff who convened in the E&O Building, Training Room A.  The webinar illustrated how local agencies are working, often with state partners, to expand the use of crowdsourcing across a wider set of application areas.

FHWA kicked off the webinar with a brief presentation, Introduction to Crowdsourcing and Improved Transportation Operations, that provided a definition and historical context for crowdsourcing, and a summary of typical sources of crowdsourcing data and applications in transportation.  The presentation included an overview of the Every Day Counts (EDC) Program and technical assistance resources available at FHWA to support deployment of crowdsourcing.  However, the primary purpose of the event was to showcase examples from around the country where Local Public Agencies and partnering stakeholders have deployed crowdsourcing solutions for emergency management, roadway and other  maintenance, and wildlife protection.

City of Myrtle Beach uses Facebook comments, direct messages, emails, phone calls, and other tools to receive citizen input.

Crowdsourcing Using Social Media for Emergency Roadway Management, City of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Mark Kruea, Public Information Director, described how the City of Myrtle Beach uses social media to help engage with residents quickly and effectively. The city takes phone calls, e-mails, and even messages and comments on Facebook on every topic, including trimming trees, fixing potholes, broken street lights, and other maintenance and needed capital improvements. The city tries to address requests within the same day which, in turn, encourages residents to use the system more frequently as they realize the city is listening and acting on suggestions. Mr. Kruea said that there was no reporting "threshold" for when a city would act on a specific comment or request, and even a single report of an issue can trigger a response.  His talk made clear the potential benefits of fostering a strong trust between the community and the municipality, particularly in planning for and managing emergency situations.  For example, during Hurricane Dorian, residents were able to send pictures of downed trees for clean-up crews to address, and adjustments were made to the storm level capacity of a regional detention pond prior to the storm event in response to community requests.

City of Richmond’s 311 portal makes it easy for citizens to report and track non-emergency service requests.

Crowdsourcing for Road Maintenance, City of Richmond, Virginia. Peter Briel, Director, Citizen Service & Response, spoke about the City of Richmond’s establishment of a 311 portal – phone, public internet portal, smartphone app -- for intake of most citizen requests for non-emergency services.  The 311 program includes a call center, a request platform, and performance reporting.  Once received, citizen requests are categorized by type and automatically routed to appropriate teams within the City’s various departments. Citizens can report a range of road issues through RVA311, including requests for new road infrastructure to report issues with maintenance, signage, traffic signals, and storm drain cleaning, among others. Citizens are able to upload photos through the app or the internet, check the status their requests, and receive push notifications when updates have been made by the city.  Mr. Briel’s presentation highlighted some of the mapping and performance management measures available in using the 311 system along with some of the organizational, technical and cultural changes required for deploying the tool for the city residents and workforce. He noted that the most challenging part of implementation of the innovation was initiating the culture change between the citizens and the city so the 311 system would not become simply an app for complaints, but instead, for citizen empowerment.

While the first few presentations dealt with infrastructure maintenance and emergency response, the next two presenters showed how crowdsourcing could be used to avoid wildlife collisions and protect their habitats.

 

Maine Audubon uses an online tool, Wildlife Road Watch, to identify roadkill “hot spots”.

Crowdsourcing for Wildlife Road, Maine Audubon Sarah Haggerty, a Conservation Biologist with Maine Audubon, described how her organization in association with Maine Department of Transportation and other environmental protection organizations, have worked to identify the worst areas for animal fatalities in order to prevent future accidents. Using an online tool created by the University of California-Davis Road Ecology Center, residents are able to upload photos and locations where they encounter roadkill, allowing the tool to identify hotspots around the state. In turn, municipalities can construct road-stream crossings that make it safe for wildlife passage as well as vehicular traffic, a strategy that was incentivized through extra points in state grants.

 

MassDOT has used historic roadway mortality data reported by citizen scientists and its maintenance personnel to prioritize and design signage, fencing, and crossings to protect wildlife endangered by traffic.

Linking Landscapes for Massachusetts Wildlife, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. David Paulson, a Senior Endangered Species Environmental Specialist, described how his agency is working to incorporate habitat conservation into transportation planning and project development.  Through the use of volunteers and MassDOT maintenance personnel, historic data on wildlife roadway mortality on particular road segments have been compiled.  Citizens and workers have been asked to report locations where multiple turtles experience roadway mortality on a yearly basis, typically on roads which bisect wetlands. Concurrently, they also enlisted volunteers to help research amphibian migrations across roadways to establish documented migration routes that could be engineered around. The online tool collected data on location and roadkill numbers, giving Massachusetts a good idea of where countermeasures could be implemented.

Throughout the webinar, presentations highlighted different ways in which transportation system users and citizens can be turned into real-time sensors on system performance, providing low-cost, high-quality data on traffic operations, roadway conditions, wildlife mortality, and maintenance issues.  Using crowdsourcing as a tool to garner information met with success in each of these cases, and the resulting actions taken by state and local governments have promoted trust between users and governing agencies.  Given its wide-ranging impact and low costs to implement, FHWA surmised in closing that these and similar tools leveraging engagement would become industry standards in the future.

The Crowdsourcing for Local Operations webinar was one in a series of Innovation Exchange webinars sponsored by the Center for Local Aid Support (CLAS) in the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Innovative Program Delivery. Through Innovative Exchange webinars, CLAS seeks to bring cutting-edge transportation leaders to the table to share ideas and out of the box innovative practices that have proven results.  More information about this webinar, upcoming webinars, and webinars available on demand can be found here.