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Transportation Engineering Contents History of transportation Current U.S. state of transportation Careers in transportation Transportation education curriculum The future of transportation History of Transportation The first pipeline in the US was introduced in 1825

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Transportation Engineering

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transportation engineering

Transportation Engineering


History of transportation

Current U.S. state of transportation

Careers in transportation

Transportation education curriculum

The future of transportation

history of transportation

History of Transportation

The first pipeline in the US was introduced in 1825

First railroad opened in 1825

The internal combustion engine was invented in 1866

The first automobile was produced in 1886 (by Daimler and Benz)

The Wright brothers flew the first heavier-than-air machine in 1903

history of transportation3

History of Transportation

The first diesel electric locomotive was introduced in 1921

Lindbergh flew over the Atlantic Ocean to Europe in 1927

The first diesel engine buses were used in 1938

The first limited-access highway in the US (the Pennsylvania Turnpike) opened in 1940

history of transportation4

History of Transportation

The interstate highway system was initiated in 1950

The first commercial jet appeared in 1958

air transportation

Air transportation

Commercial air transportation began in 1914 when the St. Petersburg-Tampa Air Boat Line briefly carried the first scheduled paying passengers across Tampa Bay, Florida

After 1926, the airlines were created to carry first the air mail and later passengers in regular service.

By World War II, the United States had a well-developed modern network of air routes and airlines linking every state and reaching across the oceans.

air transportation6

Air transportation

From Douglas M-2 in 1920s

To Being 777 in 2000s

automobile history

Automobile History

General Motors offered air bags in the 1973 model Chevrolet as an option. By 1988, Chrysler became the first company to offer air bag restraint systems as standard equipment. In 1994, TRW began production of the first gas-inflated air bag.

The first car with an actual cooling system was the 1940 model year Packard. In 1953 General Motors, Chrysler and Packard each introduced an air conditioning system.

In 1901, British inventor Frederick William Lanchester patented disc brakes.

automobile history8

Automobile History

In 1929, American Paul Galvin, the head of Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, invented the first car radio.

Cruise control was first offered in the 1958 Chrysler Imperial, New Yorker and Windsor car models.

In 1854, Samuel McKeen of Nova Scotia designed the first version of the odometer, a device that measures mileage driven.

In 1904, a car called the Christie featured a tire on a mountable rim. The tire and rim could be removed to allow the motorist to repair a flat along the roadside.

automobile history9

Automobile History

Power steering became commercially available by 1951.

Buick introduced the first electric turn signals in 1938.

Volvo had the first safety belts in 1849.

Mary Anderson invented the windshield wiper. Anderson  was issued a patent for the wipers in 1905. The wipers were standard equipment on all American cars by 1916.

current state transportation

Current State Transportation

A look at transportation statistics

A look at crash statistics

careers in transportation

Careers in Transportation

What transportation engineers do

transportation topics

Transportation Topics

Geometric design of highways

Highway/intersection capacity studies

Highway safety studies

Traffic control devices

Traffic flow characteristics

Urban transportation planning

Access management / Traffic calming

Pavement design


Geometric Design of Highways

What are the four elements interacting on the roadway?

(i) Road user (or the human element)

(ii) Vehicle

(iii) Roadway

(iv) Traffic control device

Definition of the road users

The road users are defined as drivers, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians who use streets and highways

What are road user characteristics?

(i) Senses: the driver can receive useful information regarding the safe control of the vehicle through feeling, seeing, hearing, and smelling.


Geometric Design of Highways

(ii) Mind and nerves: by which the driver learns, decides, and connects his/her senses with the muscles. These are intelligence, judgement of space and motion, and coordination of bodily movements.

(iii) Bones and muscles: by which the driver directs and controls his/her vehicle and moves his/her body. These are the stature to fit vehicle and its controls, limbs to connect with and operate regular and special controls, and body movements.

Seeing or (visual perception)

The principle characteristics of the eye are visual acuity, peripheral vision, color vision, glare vision and recovery, and depth perception.


Geometric Design of Highways

Visual acuity is the ability to see fine details clearly. The most acute vision is within a narrow cone of 30-50, fairly clear sight within 100-120.

Peripheral vision is the ability of a driver to see objects beyond the cone of clearest vision.

Color blindness is the reduced ability to distinguish between red and green. It is estimated that 8% of all men and 4% of all women suffer some degree of color blindness.

Glare vision and recovery is important in designing and locating street lighting, median barriers, tunnel lights.


Geometric Design of Highways

Perception-and-reaction process (PIEV theory)

The driving task is a continuous series of sensory cues that the motorist must monitor and respond to. The perception of, and reaction to, a particular cue or stimulus involves four distinct actions on the part of the driver:

i. Perception: The recognition or realization that a cue or stimulus exists that requires a response

ii. Intellection or identification: The identification or interpretation of the cue or stimulus

iii.Emotion or decision: The determination of an appropriate response to the cue or stimulus

iv. Volition or reaction: The physical response that results from the decision


Geometric Design of Highways

Consider a typical example of a driver approaching a STOP sign. The driver first sees the sign (perception), then recognizes it as a STOP sign (intellection), then decides to STOP (emotion), and finally puts his or her foot on the brake (volition).

Why is perception-reaction time important in design?

(i) Used to determine safe stopping distance

(ii) Used to determine minimum sight distance

(iii) Used to determine the length of the yellow phase at a signalized intersection

See Figure 3-2 (McShane&Roess) for 85th-percentile perception-reaction time

AASHTO recommends a perception-reaction time of 2.5 seconds for design


Geometric Design of Highways

What is the Distance Traveled During Perception-Reaction Time?

Distance (d) = Speed (v) x time (t)

d in feet, v in ft/sec, and t in seconds

Example: Given: t=2.5 seconds and v=55 mph

Find: d

Solution: d = v . T = 55 x 1.47 x 2.5 = 202 ft.


Geometric Design of Highways

What are important vehicular characteristics considered in design?

i. Length

ii. Width

iii. Height

iv. Wheelbase

v. Weight

vi. Acceleration/deceleration

vii. Speed

viii. Tire friction

See table for details

Type of trucks on highways

Minimum turning path


Geometric Design of Highways

What are the four basic elements of geometric design?

a. Horizontal alignment

b. Vertical alignment

c. Cross-section design

d. Channelization

Horizontal and vertical alignment are controlled by two basic design criteria:

a. Design speed

b. Sight distance


Geometric Design of Highways

Design speed

Design speed is defined as the maximum safe speed that can be maintained over a specified section of a highway when conditions are so favorable that the design features of the highway govern.

Sight distance

There are two types of sight distance used in designing highways:

a. Stopping sight distance

b. Passing sight distance


Geometric Design of Highways

Stopping sight distance

Stopping sight distance is the distance required to see an object 6 inches high on the roadway. It is intended to allow drivers to stop safely after sighting an object on the roadway large enough to cause damage to the vehicle or loss of control

Passing sight distance

Passing sight distance is the distance required to see an oncoming vehicle of a certain minimum size. A passing driver must have sight distance to observe an oncoming vehicle at a distance sufficient to allow him or her to enter the opposing lane, pass a moving vehicle, and return to the travel lane safely. See Figure 3.2 (Banks) for illustration of passing distance.

Highway geometric design and visualization tools


Traffic Signals

Importance of signals

Signal timing fundamentals


Traffic Calming

Example of traffic calming


The Future of Transportation

Intelligent Transportation Systems

signal timing
Signal Timing

1. Definitions

A signal cycle is one complete rotation through all of the indications provided

The cycle length is the time (in seconds) that it takes a signal to complete one full cycle of indications. See Figure 8.7.

A phase is that part of a cycle allocated to a stream of traffic, or a a combination of two or more streams of traffic, having the right of way simultaneously during one or more intervals. See Figure 11.1.

An interval is any part of the cycle length during which signal indications do not change.

The change interval is the total length of time in seconds of the yellow and all-red signal indications. This time is provided for vehicles to clear the intersection after the green interval. See Figure 8.6.

A “permitted” left turn is made across an opposing through vehicle flow. In such cases, the driver is “permitted” to cross the opposing though flow, but must select an appropriate gap in the opposing stream through which to turn.

A “protected” left turn is made without an opposing through vehicular flow. The signal phasing “protects” left-turning vehicles by prohibiting the opposing through movement.


Protected/Permitted or Permitted/Protected Left Turns: More complicated signal phasing can be designed in which left turns (on a given approach or approaches) have a protected turn for part of the cycle and a permitted turn for another part of the cycle.

The peak-hour factor (PHF) is a measure of the variability of demand during the peak hour and is given by:

The design hourly volume (DHV) is therefore given by:

DHV = Peak-hour volume / PHF. See Example 8.3

The passenger car equivalent (PCE) is a factor used to convert straight-through volume of buses and trucks to straight-through volumes of passenger cars.

Turning movement factors are required because turning vehicles generally require a longer green time than straight-through vehicles.

2. What is the objective of Signal Timing?

The main objectives of signal timing at an intersection are to reduce the average delay of all vehicles and the probability of accidents. These objectives are achieved by minimizing the possible conflict points when assigning the right of way to different traffic streams at different times. See Figure 8.3.


3. Yellow Interval

The main purpose of the yellow indication after the green is to alert drivers to the fact that the green light is about to change to red and to allow vehicles already in the intersection to cross.


Intelligent Transportation Systems

  • 1. Definition
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) is the application of modern computer and communications technologies in transportation systems, resulting in improved mobility, safety, air quality, and productivity.
  • 2. Why do we need ITS
  • we cannot build our way out of congestion
  • to reduce accidents and improve safety
  • improve economic productivity
  • international competition
  • reduce driver stress
  • 3. Elements of Intelligent Transportation Systems

(1) Advanced Traffic Management Systems (ATMS)

(2) Advanced Traveler Information Systems (ATIS)

(3) Advanced Vehicle Control Systems (AVCS)

(4) Commercial Vehicle Operations (CVO)

(5) Advanced Public Transportation Systems (APTS)

(6) Advanced Rural Transportation Systems (ARTS)

  • 3.1 Advanced Traffic Management Systems

The objective of ATMS is to monitor, control, and manage traffic on freeways, arterials, corridors, etc. through:

  • real time and area wide surveillance
  • fast detection, verification, response & clearance of incidents

coordinated control with other jurisdictions such as police,

emergency, fire crews, etc.

  • prediction of congestion
  • provision of timely information to travelers
  • 3.1.1 Expected benefits of ATMS
  • reduced travel time by 10-15 percent
  • reduced fuel use and vehicle emission of pollutants
  • reduced accidents
  • 3.1.2 Further R&D in ATMS needed:
  • to improve traffic detection technologies
  • to develop interactive traffic signal control
  • to improve communication technologies
  • on “real time” traffic models
  • driver behavioral issues
  • 3.2 Advanced Traveler Information Systems
  • The objectives of ATIS are to provide to travelers:
  • current traffic and road conditions
  • navigation information and routing advice
  • safety advisory and warning systems
  • yellow pages functions
  • 3.2.1 Expected benefits of ATIS
  • reduced travel time by 10 to 15 percent
  • reduced fuel use and emissions
  • reduced accidents
  • improved commercial productivity
  • improved safety

3.2.2 Further R&D in ATIS needed:

  • traveler information requirements
  • system communication interface
  • 3.3 Commercial Vehicle Operations (CVO)

The objective of CVO is to expedite and improve commodity movement through:

  • Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI)
  • Automatic Vehicle Classification (AVC)
  • Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL)
  • Automatic Cargo Identification
  • Weigh-in-motion
  • 3.3.1 Expected Benefits of CVO
  • increased productivity -- faster dispatches, efficient routing, and more timely pickup and deliveries
  • reduced time spent at weigh-in stations
  • reduced variance in travel time -- important for just in-time


  • improved hazardous material tracking
  • reduced labor cost to administer gov’t truck regulations
  • increased toll collection
  • 3.4 Advanced Vehicle Control Systems (AVCS)
  • The objective of AVCS is to provide drivers with warning, assistance, and control of their vehicles through:
  • lateral and longitudinal control e.g. rear proximity warning system and intelligent cruise control
  • vision enhancement devices (infrared night vision equipment)
  • heads-up display

“May Day” Capability

4. Barriers and Challenges for ITS

  • willingness of the public to pay
  • public acceptability of in-vehicle advice
  • liability in case of accident
  • anti-trust law
  • standards
  • human factors -- information workload
  • institutional cooperation among public & private institutions
  • privacy issues