The North Central Texas Council of Governments has established an automated vehicles program area that will explore the safety, accessibility and efficiency implications of the emerging technology. NCTCOG recently issued requests seeking partners interested in transportation data sharing to advance automated vehicles and accelerate their integration into the transportation system.
Several vehicle manufacturers and travel navigation services are testing technology that will take data from infrastructure and convert it to information that will make travel easier. Many vehicles already contain sophisticated sensors and computers that offer navigation assistance, remote starting and automatic braking. Automobiles connected to the internet also provide blind-spot warnings to drivers and assistance with parking. Technology is evolving so rapidly that the vehicles of tomorrow will offer even more automation. Soon, there could be technology that will help you more easily navigate city streets. There is a continuing effort across the country to use data to improve mobility.
The City of Frisco recently demonstrated an in vehicle application from Audi that indicates to drivers when a light will turn green, how long a red light will last and what speed they could drive to optimize their chances of getting green lights at intersections. This is one application of sharing traffic-signal data. Through its requests for partners, NCTCOG seeks to encourage developers of applications and auto manufacturers to help the region assume a leadership role in the deployment of automated vehicle technologies. Additionally, North Texas was involved in a recent statewide proposal seeking US Department of Transportation designation of a Texas network of automated vehicle proving grounds.
Arlington, with the presence of a major university, well-developed street grid and Interstate Highway 30 (with a protected managed lane) is thought to be a good candidate for the testing of automated vehicles at different speeds. NCTCOG’s role in automated technologies will be multifaceted. Billions of dollars are being invested in vehicle automation by the public and private sectors in part because of the many potential benefits of the technology, an important factor in a region like North Texas seeing continued population growth and limited resources to expand the system.
Potential vehicle automation benefits include:
- Safety – Human error results in 90 percent of crashes on the roads. Travel by air or rail is statistically much safer than driving. Automation could reduce the crash rates on the roads.
- Efficiency – Highway performance has not changed much in generations. Automation could help North Texans travel more effectively through improvements such as more efficient routing.
- Environment – Shared mobility, especially microtransit, can move more people in fewer vehicles, reducing the demand for parking lots and expansion of highways.
- Access and equity – Shared mobility and automation could help provide more transportation options to more people with fewer vehicles, reducing transportation costs and improving access to jobs.
- Demand – It is difficult to know how vehicle automation will impact demand, but the efficiencies realized through this technology could allow more vehicles to travel farther. The region’s geography, well-developed transportation system and desire to attract and retain talent in the automotive technology sector make Dallas-Fort Worth a potential leader in the industry.
NCTCOG is prepared to assume a key role in the deployment of the technology and is ready to work with researchers, auto manufacturers and governments to advance the concept as it seeks safer, more efficient transportation. Automated Vehicle Technologies Here is a breakdown of the automated vehicle technologies:
- Autonomous vehicles – “Driverless cars.” • Vehicle-to-vehicle – The federal government has reserved a band of wireless spectrum for this technology, which would allow cars to communicate a basic safety message with one another to improve safety.
- Connected-vehicle – Connecting vehicles and infrastructure via cellular will support everything from infotainment to safety applications..
- Vehicle-to-infrastructure – Wrong-way driving, traffic signal phasing and work-zone warnings. For more information, visit www.nctcog.org/trans/auto.
The Fort Worth Transportation Authority received a $499 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration in December, giving full funding to the 27-mile TEX Rail commuter line between Fort Worth and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
The $1.034 billion project will provide passenger rail service to two stations in downtown Fort Worth before moving across Tarrant County, through North Richland Hills and Grapevine, and concluding at Terminal B at DFW Airport.
“A key element of our Transit Master Plan is to serve more people and more places – and TEX Rail does just that,” FWTA President and CEO Paul Ballard said. “In addition to current residents along the route, we will have multiple communities of riders in the transit-oriented developments.”
TEX Rail is expected to open in late 2018. For more information, visit https://ridetrinitymetro.org/about-texrail/
We recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of one of the most revolutionary pieces of federal transportation legislation ever conceived by our nation. The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) reshaped the way we plan for transportation needs in North Texas and across the country. With the signing of ISTEA in December 1991, local governments were given more flexibility to solve their own problems, and the focus of surface transportation shifted to include more than highways.
Transit and bicycle-pedestrian projects were given more attention as lawmakers aimed to create a transportation system that integrated modes and land use. Money became available for new programs that sought to lessen congestion and improve air quality. The North Central Texas Council of Governments, in cooperation with local, state and federal partners, administers programs to meet both these essential transportation goals.
We are aided by public input, another component of the planning process that was enhanced by ISTEA. Today, North Texas is home to a diverse, multimodal system where residents can drive, use transit or opt for more active ways (bicycling or walking) to reach their destinations. Transportation planning continues to rely on innovation, and one example is being carried out along Interstate 30.
As a major east-west corridor connecting the central business districts of Dallas and Fort Worth, as well as Arlington’s Entertainment District, I-30 has been chosen for a pilot study to encourage commuters to select alternatives to driving alone. Over the next few months, North Texans who commute on I-30 between Dallas and Fort Worth have an opportunity to earn rewards by opting for choices that will allow them to get to work through other means, thanks to the federal Value Pricing Pilot Program. By becoming I-30 Insiders, commuters will accumulate points for choosing alternatives to driving alone and qualify for prizes.
The I-30 Insider Challenge runs through April 28, while supplies last. You have the power to improve air quality and mobility in one of our region’s most well-traveled corridors by reducing the number of single-occupant vehicles on the roads during rush hour. To join the I-30 Insider Challenge, simply register at www.tryparkingit.com, the Dallas-Fort Worth region’s commuter ride-match and trip-logging website. If you drive alone to work, consider another option that works for your schedule.
Carpool or vanpool.
Bike or walk.
Work from home.
If these options don’t work, the answer could be a compressed work week or occasionally working from home. We are striving to be a region of transportation choice, where we respond to your transportation needs and you have multiple options for getting to your destination.
In 2015, the regional vanpool program reduced an average of more than 115,000 vehicle trips per month. That translates to additional capacity for those on the roads and time saved, adding to productivity at work and a better quality of life.
We can improve on this through tools such as the I-30 Insider Challenge. Participating commuters will earn points for logging alternative commutes along I-30 during morning and evening peak periods, and points will accumulate and may be used to purchase gift cards to restaurants, retail stores, online retailers and more.
Not everyone uses I-30 or is able to choose an alternative commute. We understand that and want to involve those residents, too. North Texas commuters who get to work using other roads in the region, or can’t switch to an alternative commute are eligible to be entered into a drawing for a $250 Amazon gift card when they register for Try Parking It and take a survey on the I-30 Insider website.
Just as innovative thinking more than a quarter-century ago reshaped the transportation system, today’s planners are relying on creativity as they seek to modernize the system for tomorrow. The continued development of the choices provided by ISTEA and other transportation legislation will help us get there. After all … mobility matters.
Toyota’s new $350 million North American headquarters expected to open this year will result in thousands of employees added to the Legacy area of Plano, already home to a growing number of major employers. FedEx Office opened in 2015, joining JC Penney, Frito Lay, Pizza Hut and others.
Also in the plans for 2017 are regional headquarters for JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Liberty Mutual. Corporate additions and expansions will bring more workers to an area already bracing for growth over the next two decades. Collin County is expected to see an increase of 744,000 residents by 2040 to push its population past 1.5 million, nearly twice as many people as in 2010. The county’s employment is expected to jump 66 percent by 2040.
As new residents flock to the area, local officials must find ways to get them to work and home reliably. Quality of life is a major reason companies locate in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and local leaders want to keep it just that way.
Plano Mayor Pro Tem Lissa Smith is one of those officials working to make sure transportation progress can take place alongside economic progress. Plano is spending millions of dollars on infrastructure, but the solution to keep people moving will involve a multimodal focus, she said.
“We can’t lay enough concrete to address our transportation,” she said. “We’re going to have to look at other options, including transit, making our communities more walkable and enhancing our citizens’ quality of life. I think if we can do that, the region will continue to thrive.”
Work continues to accommodate the growth in Legacy and other areas of Plano.
“Plano has always been at the forefront of transportation planning,” Smith said. “We’ve always planned ahead. But I think what we didn’t anticipate in Plano, and what our challenge has been, is that pass-through traffic. With all the growth north, that’s one of our biggest challenges.”
The corporate relocations in Plano, major projects in Frisco and development along Sam Rayburn Tollway are just a few examples of expansion the northeast quadrant of the region has seen in recent years that is causing officials to look at an integrated approach to mobility. Smith, who has served on the City Council since 2009, said she developed an interest in transportation while serving on the staff of former State Senator Florence Shapiro.
As a member of the Regional Transportation Council since 2009, Smith has needed to also think about the 12-county area when confronted with questions about transportation. She likes being part of the solution, making sure there are plans in place to keep the region prosperous. Her work on the City Council has helped Smith in her role as policymaker for the region. Although the RTC requires a broader focus, the issues are similar.
“As a council member, you’re constantly looking at the quality of life of your citizens and, of course, economic development,” she said. “Transportation plays such a big role in both of those.” Smith has also served as president of the NCTCOG Executive Board since June. In that capacity, she must guide the 17 voting members of the board to make decisions for the entire NCTCOG region.
Transit is an important component of the overall transportation plan, but so is technology, Smith said. She recently visited Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Uber is testing driverless vehicles. She didn’t ride in any, since there was no way to specifically request one, but they were evident on the streets, she said. The North Central Texas Council of Governments has taken an interest in automated vehicles, which could improve safety and efficiency for consumers.
“To be sitting at a table talking about autonomous vehicles is really interesting when you consider where we’ve come from in such a short time,” she said of the RTC. “ … The future’s here, and we have to look at other options for mobility other than just our car. And I think that’s key to changing the mindset of citizens.”
Being part of the RTC, an organization that will make such a tremendous impact on the future, is most fulfilling to Smith.
“I always say the decisions we make for today are easy in comparison to the decisions we make for the future,” she said. “Those are the difficult ones. And those are key to the success of this region, making sure we can move people and goods."
The cooperative spirit of those serving on the RTC will ensure North Texas continues to attract the population and employment growth that Smith has witnessed in her own backyard.
State legislators will be in Austin through May to debate transportation and other important issues, during the 85th Session of the Texas Legislature. In advance of the session, the Regional Transportation Council approved a legislative program in November that aims to continue the improvements made in transportation and air quality during recent years, invest in further progress to meet the region’s needs and provide support for additional transportation topics that may be addressed.
Continue progress made toward improving transportation and air quality during recent legislative sessions The Texas Legislature has taken major steps over the past four years to fund transportation and, as a result, new sources of revenue are available across Texas and the region. Proposition 1, Proposition 7 and the end to diversions of the state’s gas tax to non-transportation purposes will each provide the state with additional transportation revenue.
The RTC supports the progress made during recent legislative sessions, specifically the continued full appropriation of these revenues to fund transportation. In addition, after years of limited funding, the Legislature reinstated funds for the Low Income Repair and Replacement Assistance Program (LIRAP), also known as the AirCheckTexas Program, and Local Initiative Projects (LIP). LIRAP helps reduce automobile emissions by offering financial incentives to repair or remove high-emitting vehicles from the roadways and LIP administers several regional air quality programs, both helping to improve air quality in North Texas. The RTC offers support for continuing to fully appropriate LIRAP/LIP revenue.
Retaining the ability to utilize tools such as tolling, managed lanes, debt financing and public-private partnerships, as well as allowing eminent domain authority for high-speed rail, commuter rail, freight rail, roadways and trails is also a goal of the RTC this legislative session. Support is also offered for efforts to utilize performance-based transportation planning.
Invest in further progress toward meeting transportation and air quality needs In addition to continuing the current progress made in recent legislative sessions, the RTC seeks to invest in further progress to meet transportation and air quality needs.
The RTC supports identifying additional revenue for transportation and authorizing the use of a Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA) for the Interstate Highway 635 East project from US Highway 75 to IH 30 as methods to meet the region’s transportation needs. Additional CDA projects may be supported at a later date. Related to air quality, the RTC seeks to appropriate LIRAP’s residual balance of previously collected funds, as well as increase the program’s flexibility to better balance demand.
Another air quality program, the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP), is aimed at reducing emissions from polluting vehicles and heavy-duty equipment. Protecting TERP revenue, while ensuring funds are utilized for projects that effectively meet the intent of the program, is another priority.
Provide support for other transportation topics As lawmakers consider bills on several issues over the next few months, the RTC will provide support for additional transportation areas that improve air quality, increase safety, relieve congestion, work to implement all modes of transportation, utilize innovative technology, support land use and transportation connections and more. For more on the RTC’s Legislative Program, visit www.nctcog.org/trans/legislative
Aircraft maker Boeing has forecast 617,000 new commercial airline pilots will be needed over the next 20 years. Technicians will be in even higher demand. Boeing projects 679,000 new commercial aircraft maintenance workers will be required by 2035.
With this shortage in mind, the North Central Texas Council of Governments partnered with local aerospace companies and educators to develop FLYBY DFW, a game that allows participants of all ages to fly some of the most sophisticated aircraft in the world – and learn about key aspects of aviation while they are at it. Participants can pilot aircraft such as the F-35, built by Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter’s V-280 and Airbus Helicopters’ H155 and EC255 through different levels that test their maneuvering abilities, as well as their industry knowledge.
The vast majority of today’s youth play video games, whether by themselves or in an online community. According to a survey conducted by The NPD Group, a market research firm, 91 percent of children 2-17 spend time gaming on a variety of devices. Gaming could be an effective way to inspire the next generation to pursue aviation careers.
FLYBY DFW takes players through three areas: Alliance Airport, Dallas-Fort Worth and Corpus Christi. The latter was selected because the game’s sponsors wanted a setting on the water that would allow aircraft carrier landings. Participants amass points by collecting coins, completing airdrops, dodging other aircraft – and not crashing. They can also pick up bonus points at the end of each level by correctly answering a trivia question about aviation.
Competitors start by flying the JG-16, a student-designed aircraft. As they progress, participants are able to unlock parts of different aircraft, from helicopters to fighter jets.
FLYBY DFW seeks to generate interest in aerospace and aviation careers for elementary, middle, and high school students in an effort to build the local talent pipeline for future employment opportunities.
With two major commercial airports, a significant military installation and aviation and aerospace companies with operations in the region, opportunities abound for the next generation to become involved in the industry.
By embracing the educational side of gaming, the industry has found a way to reach those future aviators and aviation professionals. The game is available for Apple and Android devices.
Download FLYBY DFW and begin flying today. More information on how to pursue aviation opportunities in Dallas-Fort Worth is available at www.nctaviationcareers.com. In addition to careers in aviation, the site provides information on educational programs in the area and available grants and scholarships.