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  • 8 Jun 2020 11:36 AM | Deleted user

    For traffic engineers, the pandemic afforded a way to study changes in traffic patterns that are typically hypothetical, allowing them to better understand traffic flows, pinpoint potential trouble spots and rethink the future.

    Chris Hubbuch

    The Wisconsin State Journal (TNS)

    Jun 8th, 2020

    Jun. 7--In late March, the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic slammed the brakes on economic and social activity, cutting vehicle traffic nearly in half overnight. 

    For traffic engineers it presented a "real-life experiment" -- a way to study changes in traffic patterns that are typically hypothetical, allowing them to better understand traffic flows, pinpoint potential trouble spots and rethink the future of urban transportation.

    "We need to learn from these tough situations and come out with a safer, more efficient, more sustainable and more resilient transportation system through better infrastructure design, system management and use of technology," said Yang Tao, traffic engineer for the city of Madison.

    Data collected by the Department of Transportation through a variety of sensors provided the lab with near real-time snapshots of the number and speed of vehicles traveling on Wisconsin's major highways.

    While outside events -- such as a big public gathering or road construction -- do sometimes create major changes in traffic, those shifts are usually localized and very temporary, said Jon Riehl, a traffic engineer and researcher with UW-Madison's Traffic Operations and Safety (TOPS) Laboratory.

    The pandemic provided a long-term window to study a system-wide reduction and compare highway performance to computer models, Riehl said, "which ultimately leads to improvement in highway design and traffic engineering."

    On Madison's Beltline, for example, rush hour can often mean bumper-to-bumper traffic jams despite hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new lanes and engineering tricks such as metered ramps.

    "We're really at that tipping point where the Beltline is super congested," said TOPS lab director David Noyce. "There really is nothing that anyone has done across the country that could show a significant enough drop ... until we got into this."

    The data show Weekday traffic fell about 40% statewide, and weekend traffic volumes were down 60% during the week of March 25.

    Average speeds crept up, though Riehl said that was primarily a function of the elimination of rush-hour traffic.

    "In general people are just returning to the speeds they normally would (drive)," Riehl said. "It goes with what we'd expect in traffic engineering.

    At the same time as it slashed automobile traffic, the pandemic response led to a surge in bicycle and foot traffic on suddenly crowded paths and sidewalks, creating a chance for planners to try out new configurations.

    "Reduced traffic volumes present an opportunity for cities to reevaluate how they're using their public right of way," said Keven Luecke, a transportation planner with Toole Design group in Madison.

    Cities including Madison have repurposed parts of streets for bike and pedestrian traffic -- and even restaurant seating.

    In a trial run of a planned redesign, the city used barrels to block off a lane of Atwood Avenue for bikes, which bicycle and pedestrian coordinator Renee Callaway said would likely remain in place through the fall.

    "This is just a really great trial of that design," Callaway said. "This has been a need that's existed for a long time."

    Tao said one of the biggest lessons of the pandemic is that transportation systems should be designed with more than just one scenario in mind, a system that can easily shift to accommodate walking and biking, loading zones, outdoor seating or surges in traffic when other roads are closed by flooding, as they were in 2018.

    Decisions about how and where to build or expand roads are made decades in advance using models based on current trends and patterns.

    "It turns out it's incredibly difficult to predict the future," said James Longhurst, a transportation historian at UW-La Crosse. "The underlying economics can change, the cost of fuel can change, technology can change -- a pandemic. This is not in anyone's traffic forecast anywhere."

    Roads are designed to handle the traffic peaks that typically occur for just a couple of hours each day when everyone heads to work or back home.

    Spreading that traffic out -- for example, by staggering work shifts -- or thinning it by having people work from home or conducting meetings over the internet is cheaper than expanding roads.

    Businesses have traditionally resisted those types of changes, but the pandemic response showed it can be done.

    "That might be more of a possibility now than people thought of in the past," Longhurst said. "It's impossible -- until you have to do it."

    Encouraging these practices would reduce pressure on the transportation system and support the region's rapid growth "in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way," Tao said.

    Longhurst notes that modes of transportation have come and gone throughout human history in response to all kinds of factors, most of which could not have been predicted.

    "Streets and transportation networks have always been shared between different users," he said. "The fact that we've gotten used to one mode ... doesn't mean that's going to be the future."

    While traffic levels were already creeping up in May when the state Supreme Court tossed out the Evers administration's "safer at home" order, it's not clear when -- or if -- it will return to pre-pandemic levels.

    There are questions about whether most people will be comfortable using mass transit, which could lead to more cars on the road. On the other hand, with large institutions like UW-Madison continuing to rely on remote instruction, Riehl thinks it may remain 5 to 10% below normal for the near future.

    "It's not going to return to normal unless we know this thing is gone," Riehl said.

    Luecke, whose firm specializes in multi-modal design, said lowering rush-hour volumes might mean roads don't need to be as wide -- or built with only one type of user in mind.

    "If those peaks aren't going to be quite as busy as they were in the past, that means we can use that space for better walking facilities, better biking facilities," he said. "We need to build our transportation systems ... in such a way that they can be flexibly reused."


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  • 4 Jun 2020 6:36 PM | Deleted user

    MILWAUKEE — President Donald Trump on Thursday, May 28 tweeted that millions of dollars in funding is being committed to Milwaukee’s East-West Bus Rapid Transit project.

    The project received approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2016. The project has since been in research phases.

    Officials in 2016 said the proposed nine-mile BRT route would provide an improved transit connection to major employment and activity centers through downtown Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, Milwaukee’s near west side, and Wauwatosa. With more frequent service and faster travel times, BRT will give riders more time to spend with their families, more time to study for a final exam, or simply more time to relax at home.

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  • 14 May 2020 8:44 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    MADISON, Wis. — Metro Transit named Justin Stuehrenberg its new general manager Wednesday morning.

    According to a news release, Stuehrenberg recently served as Vice President of Planning and Capital Projects of the IndyGo system in Indianapolis.

    The release said he was responsible for implementation of that city’s Bus Rapid Transit program and oversaw the establishment of one of the largest electric bus fleets in the country.

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  • 12 May 2020 12:22 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    MADISON (WLUK) -- The 14-day trend of positive tests for coronavirus has reached the point where it meets the requirements to reopen Wisconsin.

    The state Department of Health Services has turned the light green on its "Badger Bounce Back" dashboard, meaning that there is a statistically significant downward trend of the percentage of positive tests over the past two weeks.

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  • 5 May 2020 3:14 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    The federal government’s $25 billion COVID-19 public transit aid could keep fuel flowing in the city’s shared-ride taxi and commuter bus services now struggling under the pandemic’s emergency orders.

    Federal funding could also boost mass transit services to city residents needing help.

    Wisconsin’s Safer at Home emergency order to curtail the spread of COVID-19 cut city public transportation ridership as businesses and schools shut down, and employees and others were encouraged to stay home.

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  • 5 May 2020 3:11 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    At 71, Marvin Garner is very worried about the coronavirus.

    Before retiring, he spent 25 years as a certified nursing assistant. He knows what the damage could be, especially for someone like him who has heart trouble.

    "I'm worried because of the fact that my condition makes me vulnerable," he said.

    His health problems landed Garner in Aurora Sinai Medical Center for several days recently, where doctors also found fluid in his lungs. But despite his worries about the transit system, when it was time to return to his home at North 29th Street and West Highland Avenue, he waited for the bus — with a mask on.

    "I do (feel safe)," he said of riding the bus. "So far, so good."

    For those traveling on public transit, the potential to catch the coronavirus from other riders is real. Still, most people interviewed for this story said they've relied on the bus to get them around for years and won't stop now, despite fears of the pandemic.

    But the county bus system is likely to take a sizable financial hit as a result of the pandemic, and concerns remain for both riders and drivers.

    Lorena, a Milwaukee native who didn't want to give her last name, was waiting for a ride home one recent day after her work ended at Northwestern Mutual Insurance Co.

    The 52-year-old said she is taking extra precautions — wearing a face mask and gloves — because she has diabetes. Still, she said she thinks the buses are fairly safe.

    "I feel safe," she said. "As safe as I can be."

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  • 7 Apr 2020 9:05 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    MADISON, Wis. (WKBT) – Local governments throughout Wisconsin are receiving more than $99 million in transportation aid this week, including $565,501 for the city of La Crosse and $215,332 to the city of Onalaska.
    The Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s quarterly payments to 1,850 villages, towns and cities total $99,147,647 are for General Transportation Aids, Connecting Highway Aids and Expressway Policing Aids.
    General Transportation Aids help cover the costs of constructing, maintaining and operating roads and streets under local jurisdiction. Connecting Highway Aids reimburse municipalities for maintenance and traffic control on certain state highways within municipalities.
    “The importance of a sound transportation system is especially evident as we face the challenge of the COVID-19 public emergency,” Transportation Secretary-designee Craig Thompson said.
    “The local system is the essential first and last miles, making sure that vital goods like food and medical supplies are getting to where they’re needed,” Thompson said.
    For calendar year 2020, local governments will receive an estimated $521 million in financial assistance to support transportation related projects. The tally is a 10 percent increase over the previous biennial budget.
    Quarterly payments for cities, towns and villages are sent the first Monday in January, April, July and October. County payments are made in three installments, with 25 percent of the total annual payment on the first Monday in January, 50 percent on the first Monday in July and 25 percent on the first Monday in October.
    Other amounts in the area include the following:

    • City of Sparta, $139,999
    • City of Tomah, $157,060
    • City of Viroqua, $59,625
    • City of Westby, $24,028
    • Village of Holmen, $78,580
    • Village of West Salem, $35,846
    • Town of Shelby, $43,938
    • Town of Onalaska, $31,793.

    The full list is available here:

    State Highway Money

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  • 19 Feb 2020 3:11 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    If you’re looking for a sign of the need for more road money in Wisconsin, here it is: The Wisconsin Department of Transportation recently sought applications from local governments for one-time grants to improve infrastructure.

    The DOT made a total of $75 million available. Individual grants are capped at $3.5 million a project.

    So how many applications did WisDOT receive? A total of 1,600 eligible applications.

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  • 7 Feb 2020 12:01 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Local governments are seeing the first of the additional local road funding provided by the 2019-2021 budget. Last month Governor Tony Evers announced that local governments received quarterly payments totaling $132,198,446 for General Transportation Aids, Connecting Highway Aids and Expressway Policing Aids from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT).

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  • 7 Feb 2020 11:58 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    It took two days for her car to get fixed. In the meantime, Williams discovered that Mauston offered a taxi service. For about $10, she was able to make it to work in the morning.

    “I didn’t know what to do, I was stressed out,” Williams said. “I was outside the city, so I didn’t think they’d come get me, but they did and I was able to get a ride home after work with (a coworker).”

    For many residents of rural communities, public transit like the Mauston taxi service is a necessity. Whether because of age, disability, or unexpected circumstance, those services allow residents to get to work, shop for groceries, or make it to their doctor appointments.

    Read More...

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