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Legislative Staff Talk ITS Research

Researchers from the UC Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) met with California policy makers at a Legislative Briefing Nov. 6, 2019 on the Berkeley campus for an afternoon of discussion on current research, policy needs, and how the two groups can work together.

“You are seeing just a partial view of what ITS does today,” says ITS Director Alexandre Bayen. “This table is big, but not big enough for all of ITS and our centers to be here, and it would take days to tell you about everything we do.”

The session, arranged by UC ITS Assistant Director Laura Podolsky, featured research happening throughout ITS Berkeley and its centers, touching on several departments and colleges across campus that will have a major impact on the future of mobility.

From the California Legislature, Farra Bracht, Principal Consultant, Assembly Budget Committee; Jay Dickenson, Chief Consultant, Assembly Appropriations Committee; Amy Gilson, Consultant, Senate Transportation Committee; James Hacker, Consultant, Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee; Marie Liu, Policy Consultant, Office of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon; Ted Link-Oberstar, Policy Consultant, Senator Office of Research; and David Sforza, Consultant, Assembly Transportation Committee listened to four key sessions, asked questions and learned about opportunities ITS Berkeley could help their committees, hearings and policies.

Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) Co-Director and Civil & Environmental Engineering  Professor Susan Shaheen and TSRC Research & Development Engineer Elliot Martin presented Micromobility and TNCs: Leveraging Partnerships for Curbside Management and Data. The session addressed the role of public policy and data in managing micromobility and transportation network companies (TNCs), with an emphasis on curbside management strategies. Information shared was based on numerous studies documenting on-demand mobility impacts, best practices, partnerships, and data management practices with the goal of advancing policies that maximize the social and environmental public good.

Safe Transportation Research & Education Center (SafeTREC) Co-Director Offer Grembek, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences and Department of Economics Professor Emeritus Pravin Varaiya, SafeTREC Research Associate Katherine Chen, and CA Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology (PATH) Associate Research Engineer Alex Kurzhanskiy led the discussion on Emerging Safety Issues in Transportation. The three topics covered were safety trends and considerations for micromobility, with emphasis on scooters; safety benefits of intelligent intersections and challenges with deployment; and summary of literature synthesis developed for the Zero Fatalities Task Force (AB 2363).

ITS Berkeley Director and Electrical Engineering & Computer Science Professor Alexandre Bayen and PATH Co-Director Tom West led the discussion on Automated and Connected Vehicles (CAVs). Topics included addressing the value of CAVs to California mobility, including strategic planning for Caltrans on CAVs; the savings potentially incurred through truck platooning, improved transit reliability and corridor management; the potential for limited automated vehicle (AV) introductions to reduce congestion and emissions; the impact of navigational apps on city congestion; and the impact of artificial intelligence and machine learning on mobility.

ITS Berkeley Associate Director and City & Regional Planning Professor Daniel Rodríguez and City & Regional Planning Professor Daniel G. Chatman talked about Evidence-based Strategies for Achieving Better Integration of Land Use, Housing, and Transportation. The session offered an introduction to the City and Regional Planning Department, followed by a summary of relevant research projects, including a current project to inform the activities of the Transportation and Housing Coordination Workgroup and completed projects on: the impacts of gentrification and displacement on auto use, economic costs and benefits of smart growth, implications of SB 743 implementation, municipal policy responses to autonomous vehicles, and employment impacts of public transportation.

Rodriguez also led the closing thoughts and reflections from Legislative Staff discussion highlighting the what they learned about public transit issues and the renaissance occurring in that sphere; issues surrounding Transportation Network Companies, like emissions, transit changes and what the public gets out of subsidies; how speed limits affect traffic and safety; how to talk to constituents about new modes of transportation and their benefits and detractions; looking at fairness and accessibility in transportation; and how automated vehicles can be integrated into current traffic systems.

ITS Berkeley Assistant Director Laura Melendy also reminded Legislative Staff that ITS Berkeley Professors and Researchers are available to, and have in the past, testified and offered expertise in discussions involving transportation issues and policies at the state and federal levels.