All Member Forum

Virtual Meetings to Virtual Streets

By Mr. Ransford McCourt P.E., PTOE posted 07-31-2020 03:03 PM


Over the last five months, we all have become more familiar with the virtual world. ITE is hosting its first virtual Annual Meeting this month, and a few of our Districts (Midwestern, Western, and Mountain) have jumped in to create virtual events that expanded the sharing of information for our members in new and valuable ways. Members facing travel challenges to attend in-person meetings are now able to attend virtually, saving time and money.

In this new virtual world we live in, events have become easier to navigate, creating a new experience—not one that replaces faceto-face, but complements and enhances it.
The virtual world has opened our eyes to new ways of doing things. The pandemic has forced us to consider alternate ways in solving transportation issues. ITE members should be on the lookout this month for guidance on how to deal with traffic counts and studies during a pandemic. Emerging “big data” sources are allowing us to look at data in different ways. These new data approaches are being put to the test in unique ways that will become more applicable in daily analysis. Commute trip reduction through virtual work-from-home practices are altering travel patterns that will be a legacy beyond the pandemic.

Transportation professionals are constantly finding innovative ways to shape our communities. In this edition of ITE Journal, you will learn more about roundabout techniques
and interchange configurations—the details and context of these designs can improve how people can navigate their transportation system.

Setting speed limits is another area we can help all road users have a better experience. Our streets can be safer if we shed single-track mindedness about 85th percentile speed, opening our eyes to a balanced approach of context, characteristics, users, and the science of speed distribution. Just as we don’t use the exact same science that launches a moon rocket to make a racecar go fast, we should not use the same science for freeway speed studies as we would neighborhood or urban street speed studies. With proper context, both can be great.

This new experience might become more cost and time efficient. Consider the idea of using a few simple facility types with ranges of target speed limits, then using knowledge of context, characteristics, and users to position where in the range the limit should go. For example—flatter, wider, straighter, less access, median, fewer vulnerable users (upper end of the range); traffic calmed, landscaped, on-street parking, multiple road users (lower end). We may even consider averting repetitive speed studies
where conditions are unchanged. Where conditions stray out of the typical range, detailed studies can be done.

Many communities are looking at how our streets can be designed and managed with greater safety and efficiently. How are the lessons of the virtual world opening your
eyes to better shape your community?