The NJ State Transportation Innovation Council (NJ STIC) convened online for the 1st Quarter Meeting on March 16, 2022. The STIC Meeting Agenda had been distributed to the invitees prior to the meeting. Participants could use the chat feature to offer comments or ask questions of the speakers during the online meeting.
Amanda Gendek, Manager of the NJDOT Bureau of Research greeted the meeting participants, followed by Andy Swords, Director, Division of Statewide Planning, who provided the Welcome and Opening Remarks.
Ms. Gendek then introduced Brandee Chapman who has recently been hired as the NJDOT Innovation Coordinator. Ms. Gendek noted the importance of dedicated innovation staff and thanked NJDOT administration for supporting this position. Ms. Chapman will eventually become the NJ STIC Coordinator and NJDOT’s Innovation Subject Matter Expert and will support the Bureau of Research in becoming a hub of innovation.
FHWA EDC Innovations Update. Helene Roberts, Innovation Coordinator and Performance Manager for the FHWA NJ Office, reported on the status of progress on EDC initiatives. She thanked the CIA Team Leaders and SMEs for their progress report and efforts. She noted that there are only nine months left in the two-year EDC-6 cycle and observed that there may be more progress being made than has been reported.
Ms. Roberts and Ms. Gendek made a call for Every Day Counts Round 7 ideas with a focus on Safety, Equity, and Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure. The deadline for submitting suggestions for Round 7 innovations is April 11, 2022. Ms. Roberts explained that FHWA is looking for innovations that are "market-ready" — that is, they have been proven in deployment but are currently underutilized among the states. Through an extensive vetting process, FHWA will pare down the list from the call for ideas to approximately 10 innovations. Ms. Gendek added that if you have an innovation that requires a little more research to be ready for implementation, please send the idea to her at NJDOT Bureau of Research.
Ms. Roberts and Ms. Gendek reminded everyone that New Jersey will be a featured state at the next National STIC meeting on June 1, 2022 at 2.00 PM. They asked those in attendance to pull out their cell phones and participate in an interactive exercise seeking suggestions on possible topics and innovative initiatives that NJ should highlight during the national meeting.
Core Innovation Area (CIA) Updates. The meeting continued with presentations from Core Innovative Area (CIA) leaders who provided updates of the status of the prioritized EDC initiatives on the topics of Safety, Infrastructure Preservation, Mobility and Operations, and Organizational Improvement and Support.
Featured Presentation #1 — Commercial Vehicle Alerts. The first featured presentation described an initiative to proactively deploy New Jersey Commercial Vehicle Alerts to improve safety and traffic incident management. Sal Cowan, NJDOT Senior Director, Transportation Mobility, was joined by Amy Lopez, Director, Public Sector Services and Smart City Strategy for INRIX, and Marc Nichols, Director, Government & Industry Partnerships for Drivewyze. Mr. Cowan set the stage for their joint presentation by explaining that Drivewyze is the provider of North America’s largest weigh station by-pass system, Drivewyze Pre-Clear. INRIX provides real-time traffic data and analytics and has been a long-standing data partner with NJDOT.
In laying out the rationale for the deployment of commercial vehicle alerts, Mr. Cowan noted that NJDOT, NJ Turnpike Authority, and South Jersey Turnpike Authority are working together to provide commercial drivers with slow-down and congestion alerts to help them react before they are caught in congested and/or hazardous conditions. He highlighted the roadways covered by the subject deployment and reminded attendees of the importance of having a safe and reliable goods movement sector to the state's economy and to satisfying our growing expectations as consumers.
Ms. Lopez described the INRIX system and its ability to deliver real-time data that detects and describes sudden slowdowns, closures, and queues by location for specific events. Drivewyze takes this data and communicates it to commercial truck drivers. The system works with severity thresholds and trigger warnings so only events that exceed these thresholds are reported. Commercial drivers receive the messages through the electronic logging device (ELD) in their cab. The reported information can be customized to include notification of specific weather events.
Mr. Cowan presented an example of the web-based dashboard that NJDOT can monitor when Drivewyze sends out a commercial vehicle traffic alert. The alert platform provides information on congestion and sudden slow-downs by road, time of day, and incident duration and indicates the number of alerts and vehicles alerted in NJ.
Mr. Cowan and Ms. Lopez also touched on the deployment timeline from planning to implementation, data interpretation challenges, and anticipated next-step applications for integration of the commercial vehicle alert data.
Mr. Nichols then detailed how the alert system worked in practice, highlighting a specific use case, the Winter Storm Kenan in late January 2022. He explained that Drivewyze set up a geofence and as drivers crossed that line, they were notified of road conditions so that drivers could find a location to stop and wait out the storm. Notably, NJDOT requested that emergency alerts be sent to commercial drivers along portions of the east coast. In coordination with the Eastern Transportation Coalition, Drivewyze sent alerts to 11 other states for northbound traffic and reached an estimated 4,800 drivers. This system was also used to inform drivers of open rest areas during the pandemic. Mr. Nichols explained how the collaboration between NJDOT, INRIX and Drivewyze was able to effectively inform commercial truck drivers and change their behavior during a severe weather event.
Featured Presentation #2 — Trenton Moves: Autonomous Vehicle-Based Urban Transit System Project. The next presentation was made by Andrew Tunnard, NJDOT Asst. Commissioner, Operations Systems and Support, who spoke about Trenton Moves — Mobility & Opportunity: Vehicles Equity System. Mr. Tunnard described the fundamental importance in planning transportation systems and services of considering all kinds of people when thinking about mobility. He introduced the "Trenton Moves" project, which will seek to identify and address the transportation needs of the carless, and those who are unable to drive due to physical limitations. Trenton has approximately 90,000 residents, and over 70 percent have one or fewer cars.
Mr. Tunnard explained that NJDOT is collaborating with the Governor’s Office, Princeton University (Prof. Alain Kornhauser and students), Mercer County, and the City of Trenton to deploy a safe, equitable, affordable, sustainable, on-demand transportation system. As envisioned, the system is expected to comprise 100 autonomous, electric shuttle vehicles and 50 kiosks. The initiative is in the concept phase and the hope is to have people riding the vehicles by early 2024. Steps in the implementation process include: creating a vision in the neighborhoods and communities and building support at the local level for the use of this technology; enticing tech companies to come work with NJDOT in a public-private partnership (PPP) to bring the technology to implementation; and up-front infrastructure funding. Although these vehicles will travel on existing infrastructure, improvements to road markings, curbs, intersections, and signage will be needed, in addition to construction of a maintenance garage and operations center and the 50 kiosks.
Mr. Tunnard touched on some of the potential operational design domain (ODD) phasing, service and pricing plan considerations that must be tackled to fully test and pilot the shuttle system. Beyond the practical challenges, Mr. Tunnard invited those in attendance to envision how the transit system might deliver needed last-mile services from the Trenton train station to government offices, among other destinations, and improve mobility and accessibility in Trenton for its residents.
The City of Trenton received a local transportation planning grant of $5M from NJDOT to support the start-up and deployment of Trenton Moves. Once the project is established, the intent is to expand the project to surrounding communities and eventually throughout New Jersey.
Reminders and Updates. Ms. Gendek closed the meeting with information and reminders on the online location of several resources that highlight the NJ STIC and other innovation topics funded through research and technology transfer activities, including:
- NJDOT Tech Transfer Website: http://www.njdottechtransfer.net/
- NJ STIC Website: https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/nj-stic/
- NJ STIC Meetings: https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/nj-stic-meetings/
She noted that STIC Incentive Program funding is available. The program provides up to $100,000 per state. Applications are due by August 2022. The NJDOT Bureau of Research has developed a set of guidelines for project administration for selected projects.
She also reminded everyone that the entry deadline for the 2022 Build A Better Mousetrap Competition is May 1st. She encouraged attendees to spread the word about the competition among their colleagues. An NJLTAP Webinar, Innovating at the Local Public Works Level: Can You Build a Better Mousetrap? will be held on March 23, 2022 from 1:00pm – 2:00pm for those who would like more information.
NJ STIC March 2022 Meeting Recording