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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley has supported transportation research at the University of California since 1948. About 50 faculty members, 50 staff researchers and more than 100 graduate students take part in this multidisciplinary program, which receives roughly $40 million in research funding on average each year. Alexandre Bayen, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, is its director.

Cover page of Background Paper: The General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) Makes Trip-Planning Easier — Especially During a Pandemic — Yet its Use by California Agencies is Uneven

Background Paper: The General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) Makes Trip-Planning Easier — Especially During a Pandemic — Yet its Use by California Agencies is Uneven

(2020)

The General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) is an open source data format public transportation agency use to share information about routes and vehicle arrival and departure times. A variety of trip-planning applications, including Google Maps, rely on GTFS feeds to incorporate public transit information. In April 2020, the California Integrated Travel Project conducted a Feasibility Study that called for the widespread adoption of GTFS-static (GTFS-s) and GTFS-realtime (GTFS-r) to make transit simpler for California residents; however, there is little research on patterns of information sharing across transit agencies. This background paper highlights findings from an analysis of GTFS use among agencies that report to the National Transit Database (NTD) in California. The prevalence of transit service modifications in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were also studied.

Cover page of Research Synthesis for the California Zero Traffic Fatalities Task Force

Research Synthesis for the California Zero Traffic Fatalities Task Force

(2020)

This research synthesis consists of a set of white papers that jointly provide a review of research on the current practicefor setting speed limits and future opportunities to improve roadway safety. This synthesis was developed to inform thework of the Zero Traffic Fatalities Task Force, which was formed in 2019 by the California State Transportation Agencyin response to California Assembly Bill 2363 (Friedman). The statutory goal of the Task Force is to develop a structured,coordinated process for early engagement of all parties to develop policies to reduce traffic fatalities to zero. Thisreport addresses the following critical issues related to the work of the Task Force: (i) the relationship between trafficspeed and safety; (ii) lack of empirical justification for continuing to use the 85th percentile rule; (iii) why we need toreconsider current speed limit setting practices; (iv) promising alternatives to current methods of setting speed limits;and (v) improving road designs to increase road user safety.

Cover page of Supercharged? Electricity Demand and the Electrification of Transportation in California

Supercharged? Electricity Demand and the Electrification of Transportation in California

(2020)

The rapid electrification of the transportation fleet in California raises important questions about the reliability, cost, and environmental implications for the electric grid. A crucial first element to understanding these implications is an accurate picture of the extent and timing of residential electricity use devoted to EVs. Although California is now home to over 650,000 electric vehicles (EVs), less than 5% of these vehicles are charged at home using a meter dedicated to EV use. This means that state policy has had to rely upon very incomplete data on residential charging use. This report summarizes the first phase of a project combining household electricity data and information on the adoption of electric vehicles over the span of four years. We propose a series of approaches for measuring the effects of EV adoption on electricity load in California. First, we measure load from the small subset of households that do have an EV-dedicated meter. Second, we estimate how consumption changes when households go from a standard residential electricity tariff to an EV-specific tariff. Finally, we suggest an approach for estimating the effect of EV ownership on electricity consumption in the average EV-owning household. We implement this approach using aggregated data, but future work should use household-level data to more effectively distinguish signal from noise in this analysis. Preliminary results show that households on EV-dedicated meters are using 0.35 kWh per hour from Pacific Gas and Electric (PGE); 0.38 kWh per hour from Southern California Edison; and 0.28 kWh per hour from San Diego Gas and Electric on EV charging. Households switching to EV rates without dedicated meters are using less electricity for EV charging: 0.30 kWh per hour in PGE. Our household approach applied to aggregated data is too noisy to be informative. These estimates should be viewed as evidence that more focused analysis with more detailed data would be of high value and likely necessary to produce rigorous analysis of the role EVs are playing in residential electricity consumption.

Cover page of Review of California Wildfire Evacuations from 2017 to 2019

Review of California Wildfire Evacuations from 2017 to 2019

(2020)

Between 2017 and 2019, California experienced a series of devastating wildfires that together led over one million people to be ordered to evacuate. Due to the speed of many of these wildfires, residents across California found themselves in challenging evacuation situations, often at night and with little time to escape. These evacuations placed considerable stress on public resources and infrastructure for both transportation and sheltering. In the face of these clear challenges, transportation and emergency management agencies across California have widely varying levels of preparedness for major disasters, and nearly all agencies do not have the public resources to adequately and swiftly evacuate all populations in danger. To holistically address these challenges and bolster current disaster and evacuation planning, preparedness, and response in California, we summarize the evacuations of eleven major wildfires in California between 2017 and 2019 and offer a cross-comparison to highlight key similarities and differences. We present results of new empirical data we collected via an online survey of individuals impacted by: 1) the 2017 October Northern California Wildfires (n=79), 2) the 2017 December Southern California Wildfires (n=226), and 3) the 2018 Carr Wildfire (n=284). These data reveal the decision-making of individuals in these wildfires including choices related to evacuating or staying, departure timing, route, sheltering, destination, transportation mode, and reentry timing. We also present results related to communication and messaging, non-evacuee behavior, and opinion of government response. Using the summarized case studies and empirical evidence, we present a series of recommendations for agencies to prepare for, respond to, and recover from wildfires.

Cover page of Current State of the Sharing Economy and Evacuations: Lessons from California

Current State of the Sharing Economy and Evacuations: Lessons from California

(2019)

In many evacuations including wildfire evacuations, public agencies often do not have enough resources to evacuate and shelter all citizens. Consequently, we propose that the sharing economy, through private companies and/or private citizens, could be leveraged in disasters for transportation and sheltering resources. To assess this feasibility, we distributed surveys to individuals impacted by three major wildfires in California: 1) the 2017 October Northern California Wildfires (n=79), 2) the 2017 December Southern California Wildfires (n=226), and 3) the 2018 Carr Wildfire (n=284). Using these data, we find that private citizens are moderately to highly likely to share transportation and sheltering resources in future disasters, but numerous reservations persist about sharing. We also find significant spare capacity in evacuating vehicles and potential homes. To supplement this work, we also conducted four focus groups (n=37) of vulnerable populations to determine the benefits and limitations of a sharing economy strategy in terms of equity. Groups included low-income (2017 December Southern California Wildfires), older adult (2017 October Northern California Wildfires), individuals with disabilities (2017 October Northern California Wildfires), and Spanish-speaking (2018 Mendocino Complex Wildfire). We find that while severe equity limitations exist, groups were able to develop several recommendations for successfully leveraging sharing economy resources for the general population and their specific vulnerable group. We conclude with several local agency and statewide recommendations for building a sharing economy framework for California to prepare for future evacuations.

Cover page of Meeting SB1 Transportation Systems Performance Goals

Meeting SB1 Transportation Systems Performance Goals

(2018)

This research project directly addresses the Caltrans policy question of “How to meet the SB 1 ten-year (2027) mandated preliminary performance outcomes for additional state highway investments?”  More specifically, the study focuses on performance outcome number 4: “Not less than 90 percent of the transportation management system units in good condition”. As part of this project, the research team evaluated the Caltrans performance-based methodology to achieve the 90% performance goal in addition to completing a review of relevant reports from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), state departments of transportation, and Caltrans. The research team also conducted multiple meetings, phone calls and emails with Caltrans management. The research team found that the Caltrans Transportation Asset Management Plan, which governs its SB 1 implementation, follows FHWA guidance and published best asset management practices. Further, Caltrans has a solid asset management plan in place to meet the SB 1 target. The research team also provides several recommendations including but not limited to: 1) Caltrans should continue working on defining deterioration rates or models for transportation management systems (TMS), 2) state of being in “good condition” for TMS must be more clearly defined, 3) Caltrans should continue monitoring innovations in asset management, and 4) Caltrans should consider conducting more pilots of performance-based ITS maintenance.

Cover page of Measuring the influence of recurring sporting events on freeway characteristics

Measuring the influence of recurring sporting events on freeway characteristics

(2017)

Freeway traffic is subject to the effects of recurring and non-recurring events.  Changes in the traffic stream as a result of recurring special events, specifically sports, is an area that is not well researched.  This study examined freeway detectors adjacent to two baseball stadiums in California to analyze the contribution of a baseball game to freeway flow and occupancy for weekday evening games.   In addition, hourly volumes on local rail transit were analyzed in the San Francisco case.  Findings include a statistically significant effect of baseball increasing the flow by approximately 1,000 vehicles over the afternoon commute in both locations.  San Francisco volumes were influenced by day-of-week, type of opponent, as well as starting pitcher.  Games on a Friday against their noted rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers produced the highest volumes with 4,000 vehicles more than the average weekday evening baseball game.   Anaheim volumes were only affected by month-of-year.  As cities explore transportation options to their sporting venues, it is important to take an inventory of the impact of events on the existing network.

Cover page of California’s Freeway Service Patrol Program:  Management Information Systems Annual Report Fiscal Year 2015-2106

California’s Freeway Service Patrol Program:  Management Information Systems Annual Report Fiscal Year 2015-2106

(2017)

The Freeway Service Patrol (FSP) is an incident management program implemented by Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol and local partner agencies to quickly detect and assist disabled vehicles and reduce non-recurring congestion along the freeway during peak commute hours.  The first FSP program was piloted in Los Angeles, and was later expanded to other regions by state legislation in 1991.  As of June 2016, there were fourteen participating FSP Programs operating in California, deploying over 340 tow trucks and covering over 1,800 (center-line) miles of congested California freeways.

 

The purpose of this research project was to evaluate the effectiveness of the Caltrans FSP program in reducing incident durations and removal of other obstructions that directly contribute to freeway congestion for Caltrans fiscal year 2015-2016.  The project provides valuable information to agencies managing the FSP program so that resources are distributed within the various statewide FSP operations in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.  The tools used and the operational performance measures provided by this research effort will significantly contribute on the ongoing agencies’ efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the FSP program.