Tag Archives: sustainability

Technology Used To Improve Traffic Flow And Road Safety

MARTA project. (Credit: Image courtesy of Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya)

The Research Group in Mathematical Programming, Logistics and Simulation (PROMALS) and the Seat Chair of Innovation and Sustainable Development (Seat-UPC) create technological solutions to improve traffic flow, make driving safer and more comfortable, lower the accident rate and reduce traffic congestion and emissions of contaminant gases.

New advances will see vehicles equipped with sensors and interfaces which gather information on the traffic situation and display it on screen or alert the driver through automated voice announcements. The Seat-UPC Chair is involved in designing and fitting human machine interfaces (HMIs) and running automated tests of the electronic systems used in the MARTA project, which incorporate new technologies such as specialized image recognition applications.

New on-board sensors will be able to monitor the status of mechanical components such as brakes when a vehicle is in motion, while others will provide automatic control of driving speed and the distance maintained from the vehicle in front. Interfaces will enable data to be shared between vehicles, providing updated information on their position and speed every 200 meters. A system of nodes installed in the road network transmits the data to a mobility management center, where they are processed and used to maintain traffic flow by providing real-time information on congestion spots and suggesting optimum routes in the event of an accident.

The PROMALS group, attached to the Department of Statistics and Operations Research at the UPC, is looking at ways of using the data received by the management center. Its researchers are designing simulated traffic scenarios in which to test the new technologies developed under the MARTA project: a recent example is a traffic priority system in which the real-time data are used to determine the ideal intervals between traffic light phases across a given area, which optimizes traffic flow and reduces congestion.

The MARTA project has a budget of over thirty-five million euros and receives funding from the Center for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI). The project, scheduled for completion in 2011, is coordinated by the company FICOSA as part of a wider program run by the National Strategic Consortium in Technical Research (CENIT), and brings together experts and researchers from nineteen companies and nineteen scientific centers and national universities.

Source : sciencedaily

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Activists: Car-Free Days Are ‘A Waste’

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Environmental activists on Monday urged the Jakarta Administration to temporarily halt its car-free days on selected city roads, saying a re-evaluation was needed because the event had failed to reduce air pollution and loose regulations have resulted in many violations, including those by senior officials.

“Legally, the car-free days cannot be stopped, but the city administration should halt them temporarily and conduct a review of what went wrong. Honestly, it’s been such a waste,” Selamet Daroyni, the executive director of the Jakarta branch of Indonesian Forum for the Environment, or Walhi, told a press conference.

Selamet said car-free days, generally on Sundays, had failed to achieve the short-term objective of minimizing air pollution and also had failed to encourage Jakarta residents to be more environmentally friendly and less dependent on cars.

“If we perceive this issue from the three success indicators, I’d say these events did not help much,” Selamet said.

He said the indicators were public participation, air pollution reduction and public obedience, including by government officials and law enforcers.

Ahmad Safrudin, of the Committee for Phasing Out Leaded Gasoline, said car-free days merely relocated traffic flow from one place to another without reducing air pollutants.

He said that a report by the Jakarta Environmental Management Board, or BPLHD, that air pollution has decreased significantly was unreliable.

“Jakarta has five air quality monitoring systems, but only one of them is working, so I doubt the report,” he said.

Ahmad said the inefficiency of car-free days had been proven by many violations, with some of the violators being government officials and policemen.

Responding to criticism, Rina Suryani, the BPLHD head of natural resources monitoring, said they had scientific measurements to prove that car-free days had in fact contributed significantly to air pollution reduction.

“In some parts of Jakarta, the air quality has gotten better because of this program,” she said.

Rina said the board could not enforce sanctions against violators because the 2005 bylaw enabling car-free days had not stipulated any.

Jakarta’s car-free days began in September 2007 and are held on the last Sunday of each month.

This year BPLHD has scheduled 22 road closure events.

Source : http://www.thejakartaglobe.com

Photo : http://bataviase.files.wordpress.com

February 23, 2009, by Dessy Sagita

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History of the bus bike rack

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The first bike racks were installed on a select few of the former Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle (Metro Transit) buses in the late 1970s. This bike rack was initially purchased from a company in California and was quite expensive (around $1,000) for the time.

Originally, the racks were only on buses that traveled across the SR-520 Bridge because there are no bike lanes on the bridge.

In 1982, Metro’s machine shop re-designed the rack to facilitate easier removal and replacement when washing the buses. Also, Metro wanted to lower the cost because the biking public was lobbying for more routes that could provide bike service. Metro wanted racks on the outside of buses because managers thought there would be too many problems with bikes inside the coaches. Approximately 300 racks were manufactured in-house by Metro employees.

The commercial bike rack the transit system purchased in the late 1970s was actually a set design, but Metro employees made improvements to suit their needs. In 1982, machinist Bruce Hargin designed and built all the tooling necessary to produce the bike rack in-house and over the course of time did a great deal of the associated machine tasks necessary for production runs. A number of Metro employees during and since those early days have contributed with modifications and ideas. Machinist Dick Huggett, metal constructor Augusto Desimone, machinist Jim King, and machine shop chief Larry Whitney all contributed. When Whitney came to the machine shop in August of 1983, he implemented a change in the mounting method making the rack easier to remove and install. Metro stayed with the last generation rack until it quit building them in 1993.

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At that time, Metro started looking for a commercial product that was better suited to the task and especially one that did not need to be removed every time the bus was washed. If the racks were not removed, they would be mangled in the wash and also damage the expensive oversize brushes in the washing unit.

Metro ultimately selected Sportworks in Woodinville to build a bike rack to the transit system’s specifications. This helped launch the private company into the bike-rack expert they are today. Sportworks’ bike racks are currently on buses in more than 400 cities.

From that point on everytime Metro ordered new buses a request for a bike rack was included in the bid. Today, all Metro buses are equipped with bike racks.

source : http://transit.metrokc.gov

picture : http://www.fta.dot.gov, http://www.metrokc.gov

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Bicycle Makes a Comeback in China, for Fashion and Health

bicycle photo in china

Updated
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Jan 02 2009 11:50:51 Beijing Time

To celebrate the New Year, Shen Kailun, a white-collar in Hangzhou, capital of east China’s Zhejiang Province, rode a bicycle onto a hill top in the “First Ride in 2009”-theme activity.

The motorist used to commute by car developed the hobby of cycling for health from last year.

Born in 1978, Shen, like many of his peers, has a reminisces about his experience of bicycles.

A “Phoenix” brand bicycle was his parents’ wedding gift, a luxury at that time, which cost his father four months of salary.

At the age of 12, he got his first bike. He rode it to school like most of his classmates did until finishing high school education. In 1980s and 1990s, to the majority in China, pedaling was a means for everyday transportation and thus made China “kingdom of bicycles”.

Throughout Shen’s undergraduate and postgraduate study, he witnessed soaring car ownership in China, which is no longer a symbol of wealth and achievement in this country, until he can afford one after a few years of work.

With the number of vehicles on roads nearly twenty-fold since 1978 (from 3 million to 60 million), China has become one of the largest auto markets in the world.

“Cycling is a remedy for obesity. Cycling invigorates and inspires me,” said Shen, “I’m now better off on my bike.”

In the eyes of Xiao Jing, cycling symbolizes a fashionable and “green” lifestyle, compared to fitness equipment. The assistant editor of a local newspaper joined a “night cycling” club three years ago.

“Almost each of the cyclists that I know can afford a car. However, in a world where people live to work, not work to live, cycling can add fizz to our lives,” said Xiao. “Bicycles led us to stunning and hidden mountain paths with friends of the same interest.”

Besides Xiao’s club, there are more than 50 cycling clubs in Hangzhou. These clubs are organized by different groups such as women, cross-country bicycle (BMX) fans and retired workers. “Bicycle has witnessed the change of lifestyle in China,” says Zhang Shunrong, Chairman of Zhejiang Bicycle Association.

Along with the cycling fashion, there is a boom in bicycle sales, especially in sales of up-market bicycles.

“Two years ago, we sold about 70 bikes at best in a month, but now over 100 per month,” says Xu Quansong, a salesman at a franchised mountain bike store near the West Lake in Hangzhou.

According to official statistics, Zhejiang Province, one of China’s bicycle manufacturing bases, witnessed bicycle production and sales volume up for three consecutive years with 17 million units sold in 2007 and 18 million in 2008.

bicycle photo in china

Source : http://www.lifeofguangzhou.com

Photos : http://www.world-of-bicycles.com

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Congestion Charge in London (1)

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photo : AP and telegraph.co.uk

About the Congestion Charge

Vehicles which drive within a clearly defined zone of central London between the hours of 07:00 and 18:00, Monday to Friday, have to pay an £8 daily Congestion Charge.

Payment of the charge allows you to enter, drive within, and exit the Charging Zone as many times as you wish on that day.

The charge aims to reduce traffic congestion and improve journey times by encouraging people to choose other forms of transport if possible.

Some individuals and vehicles are exempt from payment, or can claim a discount on the charge.

All monies raised from Congestion Charging are spent on London’s transport facilities.

Benefits

More than five years after the Congestion Charge was launched, and over a year after the Western Extension began, traffic levels are still down but congestion has risen back to pre-charging levels.

However, congestion would be significantly worse without the sustained traffic reductions brought about by the charge.

Decreasing levels of road space in both the original charging zone and Western Extension has caused congestion to return to levels experienced before the charge was introduced.

A widespread programme of water and gas main replacement works has greatly reduced the road capacity in both zones, as have various traffic management measures to assist pedestrians and other road users.

One of the biggest current contributory factors within the Western Extension is a major property development at the Scotch House Corner junction in Knightsbridge.

By law, all net revenue raised by the charge has to be invested in improving transport in London.

Since the Congestion Charge scheme started:

  • Traffic entering the original charging zone remains 21 per cent lower than pre-charge levels (70,000 fewer cars a day)
  • Traffic entering the Western Extension has fallen by 14 per cent (30,000 fewer cars a day)
  • There has been a six per cent increase in bus passengers during charging hours
  • There has been a 12 per cent increase in cycle journeys into the Western Extension
  • £137m being raised, in the financial year 2007/08, to invest back into improving transport in London

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photo : http://www.london-congestion-charge.co.uk

Background

Traffic congestion clogs up roads, threatens businesses and damages London’s status as a thriving world city.

When the Mayor took office in 2000:

  • London suffered the worst traffic congestion in the UK and amongst the worst in Europe
  • Drivers in central London spent 50% of their time in queues
  • Every weekday morning, the equivalent of 25 busy motorway lanes of traffic tried to enter central London
  • It was estimated that London lost between £2-4 million every week in terms of lost time caused by congestion

The Mayor’s election manifesto included a pledge to tackle congestion. Following his election the scheme was fine-tuned in order to meet demands from businesses, residents and a large number of other interested groups.

In February 2002 the final form of the scheme was announced, and the charge was introduced in February 2003. In February 2007 the charging zone was extended Westwards.

Congestion Charging is part of a wider, comprehensive transport strategy, which was published in July 2001.

(source : Transport for London website)

Related topic read here.

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Texas State Bicycle Survey Reveals Danger Concerns, Cycling Perceptions

Chandra Bhat poses with bicycles at The University of Texas. (Credit: Photo By: Beverly Barrett)

ScienceDaily ( Dec. 15, 2008 ) — Bicyclists in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio are more concerned with being involved in vehicle crashes compared to bicyclists in other Texas cities, according to a survey conducted by the Center for Transportation Research at The University of Texas at Austin.

“This is quite intuitive, given the high levels of traffic congestion in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio,” said Professor Chandra Bhat, who spearheaded the survey and is one of the world’s foremost authorities on travel behavior.

In addition, almost 70 percent of the survey respondents feel bicycling is “very dangerous” or “somewhat dangerous” in terms of traffic accidents. In contrast, only 21 percent of respondents feel bicycling is “somewhat dangerous” or “very dangerous” in the context of crime.

The survey, sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, was conducted entirely online. The results should help establish planning guidelines for the design of safe and efficient bicycle facilities and environments in Texas and around the country.

Respondents were 18 years or older living in more than 100 Texas cities. The sample included 1,605 bicyclists, of which 810 (or slightly more than 50 percent) used their bikes for commuting. The remaining 795 bicycled only for non-commuting purposes. Each group was presented with questions pertaining to their particular habits.

Bhat said the transportation sector accounts for about one-third of all human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. Within that sector, travel by personal vehicles accounts for nearly two-thirds of those emissions. And only 0.9 percent of all trips in the United States are made by bicycle, and the number drops to 0.4 percent for commute trips — despite the fact that a significant amount of trips are deemed short-distance and can be made using a bike. A 2001 National Household Travel Survey revealed that 41 percent of all trips in 2001 were shorter than two miles and 28 percent were shorter than one mile.

Bhat’s research attempts to understand the reasons for the low bicycling use and inform the development of appropriate and effective strategies to increase bicycling, thereby cutting down motorized vehicle use and carbon dioxide emissions while promoting a healthier, more physically active lifestyle.

One finding that may have immediate relevance is that individuals who have a more positive perception of the quality of bicycle facilities have a higher propensity to bicycle to work. In October, Congress passed the Bicycle Commuter Act (as part of the bailout package), which starting in January will give companies a tax credit of up to $20 a month per employee who bicycles to work.

However, only about 14 percent of commuter bicyclists report the presence of bicycle lockers or safe storage rooms at their work place, and 72 percent of commuter bicyclists indicate they travel on unsigned roadways during their commute.

“The frequency and use of bicycling to work can potentially be increased by having bicycle lockers, bicycle racks and showers at work,” Bhat said.

He also said two other viable ways to increase bicycling include: land-use strategies to encourage compact developments to reduce commute distances and education/information campaigns to highlight the environmental, financial and health benefits of bicycling.

Bhat and his graduate students, Ipek Sener and Naveen Eluru,will present this research at the National Transportation Research Board Meeting on Jan. 12 in Washington, D.C. His research is supported by the Adnan Abou-Ayyash Centennial Professorship in Transportation Engineering.

Other survey findings:

  • Individuals living in Austin, Bryan and Fort Worth are more satisfied with the quality of bicycle facilities than bicyclists living in the rest of the state.
  • Bicyclists prefer no parking on their route, which is logical because parking reduces sight distance. If parking is necessary, they prefer angled parking over parallel parking.
  • Men and young bicyclists perceive the bicycle facilities in their community to be better than do women and older bicyclists.
  • The commute distance of those who bicycle to work ranges from one-fourth of a mile to 35 miles. The average is about 6.5 miles.
  • Bicycling is more common for non-commute reasons than for commuting. Those who bicycle to work tend to be young and environmentally conscious. Also, men are more likely to bike than women, regardless of the purpose of the bicycle trip.
  • Fitness and health concerns, followed by leisure, are the most compelling reasons for bicycling.

Adapted from materials provided by University of Texas at Austin.

Source : sciencedaily.com

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The Energy Debates: Hydrogen Vehicles

General Motors.

Diagram of the fuel cell and hydrogen tanks in the Chevy Equinox. Credit: General Motors.

By Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience

The Facts

Imagine a car that had water come out its tailpipe instead of pollutants. That is the promise of vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Hydrogen fuel cells react hydrogen with oxygen to generate an electric current that in turn can drive an electric motor. The only tailpipe emission would indeed be water.

There are no hydrogen cars commercially available from any major company, and their cost is currently too high to make them close to entering showrooms. Yet buses powered by hydrogen are now seen in many cities across the United States. A number of automakers are also leasing hydrogen cars to customers for short periods of time to test their performance, said Spencer Quong, senior vehicles analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a science advocacy group.

Pros

The emissions from the hydrogen cars themselves are clean, possessing none of the dirty mix of toxins and carbon dioxide (the major global warming gas) that the burning of gasoline spews forth. The cleanliness of hydrogen is in large part why government and industry support for hydrogen vehicles has reached billions of dollars.

Hydrogen cars, like other cars that run off electric motors, are more efficient than conventional vehicles — roughly twice as efficient as those that rely on gasoline. They are also quieter than regular cars, and their electric motors give full torque when they accelerate, without the delayed revving-up that happens when you step on the gas pedal in a gasoline-engine vehicle.

Hydrogen cars have ranges much like conventional cars. Today’s electric vehicles that rely on batteries, on the other hand, can put in roughly 100 miles before they need recharging.

Cons

Hydrogen cars face a host of challenges. While hydrogen fuel cells only emit water, current methods of large-scale hydrogen production often extract it from natural methane gas, generating substantial amounts of carbon dioxide in the process.

Scientists instead would like to generate hydrogen by using electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. However, currently fossil fuels provide nearly two-thirds of the electricity generated in the United States, according to the Department of Energy, which means a hydrogen economy could still emit toxins and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Eventually, if the electric grid becomes more environmentally friendly by adding on wind, solar and other renewable forms of power, so too would hydrogen vehicles grow even greener. However, if hydrogen vehicles were to completely replace the more than 250 million passenger cars in the United States, a dramatic increase in the nation’s electricity generation would be necessary.

Hydrogen cars would need an infrastructure of refueling stations and fleets of tankers. The fuel tanks of hydrogen cars also need further development. Currently hydrogen is stored at high pressure aboard most prototype cars, and it takes a significant amount of energy and money to pressurize the gas, which detracts from the efficiency of the hydrogen economy. Researchers are striving to engineer ways to store hydrogen aboard vehicles at lower pressures, using materials such as carbon nanotubes or metal hydrides, with the aim of significantly reducing the costs of a hydrogen infrastructure.

Converting the United States to hydrogen “would certainly be a major challenge, but you could imagine it done over time,” Quong said. “What’s done in California is really smart — they focus on setting up fueling stations where they know vehicles are going to be, like in Los Angeles, and then scatter other stations across for longer drives.”

Although hydrogen vehicles might conjure up images of the Hindenburg going down in flames, “hydrogen is no more safe or less safe than a gasoline vehicle, just different,” Quong said. If a hydrogen storage tank ruptures, all the gas goes into the air, as opposed to gasoline, which spills all over the ground. Hydrogen is odorless and invisible, so researchers are working on sensors to detect any leaks and avoid any problems.

What do you think?

Source : livescience.com

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