A tool with real-world applications for city planners as well as a robust survey of drone technologies were the highlights of the Spring 2016 end-of-semester symposium of the Transportation Management and Policy (TMP) program. The students presented their work on May 6th to a gathering of interested staff, faculty, other students, and a representative of the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board.
Eli Miller, a student in the TMP Colloquium and project assistant for CFIRE kicked off the symposium with a summary of key takeaways from the semester’s colloquium. The class studied drone technologies—more appropriately called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs. The students learned about the broad range of technologies that fall under this categorization. These include everything from the small, familiar-looking, hovering craft with four helicopter-like propellers that drone hobbyists have popularized to the 32,000 lb., airplane-shaped Global Hawk used by the U.S. military.
These technologies already fill many roles and are expanding their reach. Beyond entertaining hobbyists, UAVs serve roles where cost, safety, time, and task desirability are a factor. With these technologies, human labor costs are reduced, tasks that would be unsafe for people can be done remotely, certain tasks can be done more quickly, and undesirable jobs can be done without people.
The second presentation by Kirsten Brose, Daniel Handel, James Markosian, Eli Miller, and Chelsea Morrison outlined methods and results from their project to modify a national tool, making it more applicable for City Planners in Madison, Wisconsin. The students took on this real-world challenge for the Madison Sustainability Committee as part of their work in the TMP Practicum.
The U.S. Department of Transportation recently released its Transportation and Health Tool (THT), which was developed in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to help analyze the health impacts of transportation systems. City planners were finding that this tool did not fully meet their needs due to issues of scale, what data was available, and how applicable the data was for the metropolitan area.
The team started by evaluating the 190 data points from the THT and selecting the 14 most relevant and useful indicators for Madison planners. They then determined which data could be used, subdivided the metropolitan area into evaluation districts, and developed a scoring methodology for utilizing the data across the area.
“I’m always interested in seeing the GIS projects students are working on and was happy to be part of this practicum,” said Dan Seidensticker, GIS Specialist and Madison Area Transportation Planning Board Staff Member. “The students were well aware of transportation planning issues in the Madison area and presented a refined, practical tool for planners.”
At the conclusion of the project, the team provided the tool, a snapshot of the districts’ transportation-related health scores, and a couple of recommendations for maintaining and updating the tool moving forward. They expect that the methods used in developing the tool will be useful for other metropolitan areas, as well.