Wednesday, August 10, 2016

UNO’s Tara Tolford Awarded $142K Grant to Study Statewide Bicyclist and Pedestrian Data Collection

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It’s one thing to make a city more transportation-friendly for bicyclists and pedestrians. But how does a state effectively implement strategies to accommodate its increasingly multi-modal population?

First, says the University of New Orleans’ Tara Tolford, it needs to have a good way to measure just how many bicycles and pedestrians there are on the roads and where.

Tolford, a research associate at the Merritt C. Becker Jr. UNO Transportation Institute, has been awarded a $142,463 grant from the Louisiana Transportation Research Center to study the most effective and cost-efficient ways to collect data on bicyclists and pedestrians statewide.

“Understanding how many people are traveling on foot or by bicycle on Louisiana’s roadways is essential to evaluating safety outcomes relative to rates of exposure, identifying appropriate, context-sensitive complete streets infrastructure interventions and understanding overall statewide and location-specific transportation trends which will impact long-range planning and investment,” Tolford wrote in her research proposal.

Since 2010, Tolford has been involved in an effort to calculate bicycle usage in metropolitan New Orleans, one that relies largely on college students going out and counting the numbers of bicycles that pass at various locations. Data collected through that effort—called the Pedestrian and Bicycle Resource Initiative—has shown an 88 percent increase in the number of bicyclists and 67 percent increase in pedestrians at 12 locations between 2010 and 2015.

“You can’t really do that on a statewide basis,” she said. “We are interested in figuring out how we can scale it so that we can collect data across Louisiana.”

Over the next 18 months, she and her research team will research emerging methodologies for counting bikes and pedestrians, including how best to utilize existing technology such as the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s network of traffic cameras on state routes. In a report she plans to present to the DOTD, she will also identify potential funding sources to pay for a multimodal count program.

In 2009, the Louisiana legislature passed a resolution that called for the creation of the Complete Streets Work Group to develop a comprehensive statewide transportation policy for Louisiana that balances the needs of motorists, transit users, bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities. Among other things, the Work Group recommended collecting pedestrian and bicycle data and analysis. And the resulting policy was recognized in 2011 as the second-best in the nation by the National Complete Streets Coalition.

Tolford, who received a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from UNO in 2011, has been involved with the UNO Transportation Institute since 2009. She leads all bicycle and pedestrian-related programs and research at the University, including managing the Pedestrian and Bicycle Resource Initiative, a project of the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission.

She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, serves on the Louisiana DOTD Complete Streets Advisory Council and chairs the New Orleans Sustainable Transportation Action Committee.

She’s been using her bicycle for daily transportation since 2004.

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Tara Tolford, UNO Transportation Institute
Merritt C. Becker UNO Transportation Institute
Pedestrian and Bicycle Resource Initiative at UNO
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