Lee Munnich, Director, SLPP, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
Developing a sustainable transportation system is a key goal for The Minnesota Department of Transportation. While sustainability has many definitions, reducing negative environmental impacts, increasing multi-modalism and improving safety are all elements of a sustainable system. Mn/DOT has taken a leading role in developing Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) technologies aimed at improving the overall transportation system, from improving the rural two lane highways in Minnesota, where 70% of traffic fatalities currently occur, to increased telecommuting. The State & Local Policy Program (SLPP) at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs as examined many aspects of ITS and smart growth, including institutional and political issues related to telecommuting, and development of indicators of sustainable transportation. Key technologies now in late stages of development and early stages of employment include Global Positioning Systems (GPS), telecommunication and wireless technologies. These technologies all can be significant elements of a number of ITS applications and technology bundles.
Given this potential widespread impact, this study will examine the political, legal and institutional issues raised by the application of (GPS), wireless, and telecommunications technologies to transportation, and begin to investigate the question of what additional effects may result. The first task will investigate the impacts of telecommuting and e-commerce on travel behavior. Activities will include a travel diary study of telecommuters employed by public and private employers, possibly including the State of Minnesota, a travel behavior assessment based on results of the travel diaries and data collected in previous surveys and interviews, and a scanning paper on the unfolding impacts of e-commerce on transportation demand (including the role of technology in easing intermodal linkages for commerce delivery). The second task will develop scoping papers assessing issues related to use of GPS and wireless technologies on Minnesota's transportation system, particularly in rural Minnesota. These issues will include potential for multimodal application, including transit, icycle and rail, institutional, political and legal barriers, and monetized benefits of a "zero-death" scenario. Benefits to the aging population in rural Minnesota, to freight operations and to non-automobile modes will be examined.
Initial activities for this task will include interviews with experts and practitioners from Mn/DOT and elsewhere in the US, and a survey of potential GPS applications, as they exist for transportation and for other applications, such as recreational activities. Subsequent research activities will include economic analysis, legal research, literature review, and up to three citizen focus groups in Minnesota. These focus groups may include current users of GPS technologies, such as Mn/DOT district crews, freight companies and citizens.
The third task will develop a "best practices" for sustainable transportation. Activities will include assembling key messages from previous sustainable research conducted by SLPP and using this data to create guidelines to assess the results from the first two tasks.
The fourth task will involve a series of educational and outreach activities pursuant to the research workplan topics. Activities will include faculty seminars, development of educational materials? Project and report reviews by outside investigators and national experts. This task will also include presentations at university and community forums, which may include Mn/DOT's Transportation Conference, the Center for Transportation Studies Research Conference, ITS America, the Transportation Research Board, Mn/DOT safe events and local governments.