Thinking Transportation: Engaging Conversations about Transportation Innovations

Thinking Transportation: Engaging Conversations about Transportation Innovations

Our ability to get from Point A to Point B is something lots of us take for granted. But transporting people and products across town or across the country every day is neither simple nor easy. Join us as we explore the challenges on Thinking Transportation, a podcast about how we get ourselves — and the things we need — from one place to another. Every other week, an expert from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute or other special guest will help us dig deep on a wide range of topics. Find out more: https://tti.tamu.edu/thinking-transportation/

Episodes

August 2, 2022 29 min

Along with the growing popularity of bicycling comes an increased need for safety. But while the number of bicycle crash injuries dropped during 2020, that was not the case for bicycle crash fatalities. TTI researchers Bahar Dadashova and Joan Hudson take a close look at that pattern, and what can be done about it.

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Numbering nearly 300, Texas has more community airports than counties. Largely out of view and out of mind for most of us, they are nonetheless central to the state’s prosperity and security.

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Predictions for an especially active hurricane season place added importance on the research and planning that begins long before extreme weather strikes, and continues long after the storm has passed.

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Some statistics like population growth and the price of crude oil are directly linked to transportation planning in Texas. But others—like commercial airline boardings and home sales—play a role, too. Collectively, the numbers paint a picture that informs how we fund our transportation system.

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Close to half of all workplace deaths result from transportation incidents, including crashes that involve large trucks. Drivers of those trucks are at higher risk than workers in other jobs. And to the degree that we share road space with truckers, the risk extends to the rest of us, too. Evolving policies resulting from new research could help to change that.

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The newest cars on the road today generate huge amounts of data, telling us much about our driving habits and helping us build and operate our roadways. How safely and efficiently we travel in the future will depend in part on how wisely stakeholders use that data.

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Today’s pavements bear little resemblance to the driving surfaces of the early 1900s. Research Engineer Darlene Goehl explains how decades of experimentation have led to development of the modern streets and highways that are central to our daily lives. 

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Sometimes vehicle crashes can’t be avoided, but it is possible to make them less life threatening. Senior Research Engineer Lance Bullard joins us to discuss how research has been making roadsides safer for travelers for as long as we’ve had roadsides.

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One of the first lessons we learned about autonomous travel remains true today: Building a self-driving car is a lot more difficult than many people expected. Senior Research Scientist Bob Brydia sits down with us again to discuss progress made in the past year related to self-driving vehicles becoming commonplace on our roadways, and how far they have yet to go.

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Government agencies, utilities, vehicle manufacturers, and related industries all have a stake in a clean transportation future. Though they share a common interest and purpose, these groups haven’t collaborated extensively in the past. They have the chance —  and the urgency —  to do so now.

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Unintended encounters with cars and trucks are bad news for animals. Not only do creatures face dangers on existing roads, they’re often imperiled from the moment road construction begins. Assistant Research Scientist Jett McFalls talks about why protecting endangered snakes and toads is good for the creatures, and good for keeping road projects on schedule and on budget, too. 

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How we develop our transportation systems has direct and lasting impacts on personal well-being. Associate Research Scientist Ben Ettelman explains how newly identified pathways can help agencies ensure that the goals for efficient mobility and robust public health are inextricably linked. 

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The concept of urban air mobility (UAM) envisions the safe and efficient movement of people and cargo at low altitudes within populated areas. Many complex issues present challenges, but as TTI Senior Research Scientist Jeff Borowiec explains, electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (EVTOLs) can help us realize the benefits and promise of UAM. 

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TTI researchers have measured traffic gridlock through an urban area lens for decades. Senior Research Scientist David Schrank explains why they’ve also been narrowing the focus in Texas, looking at specific sections of freeways and major streets, and ranking them—all 1,854 of them.

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Transportation improvements require tireless effort and inspired innovation. TTI Executive Associate Director Katie Turnbull and Neil Pedersen, executive director at the Transportation Research Board (TRB), discuss how universities help TRB to advance the evidence-based, scientific solutions necessary to sustaining a safe, efficient and reliable transportation system. 

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The number of fatal crashes in America is up by about 7 percent over the past decade. But in roadway work zones, it’s up by more than 40 percent. Senior Research Engineer Jerry Ullman explores why those work zones are dangerous not only for those who work in them, but for those who navigate them as well. 

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Supply chains everywhere were strained to their limits long before the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic simply exposed weaknesses that were already there. TTI’s Senior Research Scientist Jolanda Prozzi and Research Scientist Juan Villa share new understanding about the complexity and fragility of the systems we depend on to get our goods where they need to go. 

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 Greg Winfree and Zac Doerzaph, leaders of America’s two most prominent transportation research agencies, share their insights on the nation’s mobility priorities, and what university-based research can do to support those priorities. (They talk a little about motorcycles and teleportation, too.) 

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The latest statistics tell us that while driving drunk has become a bit less common, driving high is more prevalent than ever. As Senior Research Scientist Troy Walden explains, what exactly constitutes driving under the influence is not as simple as it once was, especially given the constantly changing landscape of state laws.

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The idea of engaging the public on decisions about how to spend public transportation dollars seems perfectly reasonable, but it’s not how things were always done. Senior Research Scientist Tina Geiselbrecht tells us how federal legislation 30 years ago made transportation planning a lot more user-focused.

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