Emerging technologies are changing the way the world communicates. Mobile devices help us stay in touch, while empowering us to make decisions quickly and efficiently. NCTCOG and its partners are embracing innovation as an important tool to improve the efficiency of the transportation system. Progress North Texas 2017 looks at how technology is being used to enhance transportation and air quality for more than 7 million people.
Message from the Chair
Our North Texas
Outreach & Education
And while there is tremendous momentum behind vehicle automation, there are many more examples of how we are using technology to reshape the future. The work to bring high-speed rail to Texas is moving ahead, and NCTCOG is involved in efforts to connect local residents to other cities in Texas and beyond. Texas has embraced its role as a leader in transportation technology, and we are excited our region is playing a part in helping move these concepts to reality.
The transportation industry has relied on innovation for a number of years to ensure adequate funding for roads, rail and bicycle-pedestrian trails. Those efforts continue, as does the use of technology to help make travel easier. For some, that means mobile apps, while others may benefit more by increased reliability on specific roadway corridors. We will cover these and other topics in this year’s annual report, which we hope informs and inspires
you to become involved in the transportation planning process.
As chair of the Regional Transportation Council, I am fortunate to lead some of the brightest transportation policymakers and planners in the nation. Together, we are working to continue developing a comprehensive transportation system that meets the diverse needs of our residents. In a region of 7 million-plus residents, this is not a job that can be accomplished with a few people.
The best system is developed after consultation with the people who use it every day. You have many opportunities to shape the debate, and we are examining how we operate, with the goal of continued transparency so you can more easily communicate with us. I invite you to read this report and discuss it with your family, friends and colleagues. Please become part of the process. With your assistance, we can continue building a transportation system that is safer and more reliable, providing choices of how to move throughout the region and State.
Mayor, City of Grand Prairie
Chair, Regional Transportation Council
Population and job growth continue to define the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and with large employers moving to the region or expanding their operations, this trend is likely to continue for years to come.
The population of the 12-county metropolitan planning area has surged past 7 million for the first time, and projections indicate that by 2040, more than 10 million people will call North Texas home.
New residents are coming to the region in search of well-paying jobs and a good quality of life. Between 2010 and 2015, the region added more than 680,000 jobs. The population in 2017 is 7.2 million. This growth is positive because it provides a well-educated workforce for employers as they look to expand operations further. However, the new residents add to traffic congestion. Average daily traffic has increased each year since 2009, following a brief dip during the recession. In 2016, average daily traffic in the region increased more than earlier in the decade.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments and its transportation partners must find ways to meet the needs of a growing region, regardless of how esidents choose to travel. Technology provides planners with the data necessary to determine how best to program money.
The National Performance Management Research Data Set makes it possible to create speed profiles for more than 8,000 miles of roads. For example, the data can show changes by time of day and day of the week, resulting in a more complete picture of reliability.
Travel Time Maps
The performance management data has also allowed NCTCOG to create contour travel times for any location in the area at a specific time and day. Travel time contours are valuable for businesses in defining the area or population that can be reached in a given time interval from a specific location.
For example, the map below shows the area reached within an hour, at five-minute intervals, from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport at the morning peak hour on a typical weekday.
Several companies collect travel time data. INRIX, for example, uses the data to measure vehicle congestion in cities around the world. According to INRIX, Dallas- Fort Worth, the fourth-largest region in the US, is seventh in congestion. Although the INRIX data shows an increase in congestion in 2016, road construction is believed to have played a significant role. Major improvements continue to Interstate Highways 35E and 35W, State Highway 183, the Dallas mixmaster and other regionally significant roadways.
It is anticipated that the congestion in Dallas-Fort Worth will lessen in the short run with the completion of upcoming construction projects. Other data tells a slightly different story. According to TomTom, another company that collects and analyzes traffic data, congestion in North Texas is less severe than in many regions across the US. TomTom, which factors in the increases in travel times with respect to free-flow traffic, rates Dallas-Fort Worth traffic at No. 34 nationally, better than Houston, Austin or San Antonio.
NCTCOG strives to stay at the vanguard of transportation advancements, new technologies and innovative programming. NCTCOG's Travel Demand Management Program continues to market alternative forms of transportation to the region's commuters. TEXpress Lanes and peak-period shoulder-use lanes are innovative ways that increase speeds and volume while reducing emissions.
Employer Trip Reduction
NCTCOG has continued to work closely with regional businesses to educate them on trip-reduction strategies designed to reduce work-related solo ommutes. The Employer Trip Reduction Program promotes strategies such as ridesharing (carpooling and vanpooling), telecommuting and flexible work scheduling, as well as transit, bicycling, and walking. Both public and private employers are assisted with the formation of company-specific trip reduction
strategies. NCTCOG published a trip reduction guide in 2016 to introduce employers to the multiple options available in the region.
It has been a year since TryParkingIt.com relaunched. The region's commuter ride-match and trip-logging website helps users find carpool and vanpool matches. It also pairs commuters with biking, walking or transit buddies to help them navigate the options available. Users can also receive an estimate of miles saved, trips and harmful emissions reduced, calories burned, and money saved as a result of their choices. Rewards partners, introduced as part of a 2015 website redesign, help North Texas air quality and traffic congestion by providing incentives to choose alternative commutes. Through its G.R.E.E.N. Rewards Partners, TryParkingIt.com provides a variety of rewards for active members to win. These businesses Give rewards, Receive recognition, Expand their customer base and have a positive Effect on North Texas.
TryParkingIt.com hosted two commuter challenge competitions in 2016. DART and TryParkingIt.com partnered on the region's first Bike to Work Challenge in May, encouraging commuters in the DART service area to incorporate bicycles into their work trips. Residents were able to ride their bikes to any DART bus or rail station and use one of more than 140 bike lids to store their bicycles. They could also take advantage of bike racks on every bus and train to combine bicycles and transit. Bicycles are permitted on any DART vehicle, all Trinity Railway Express trains and the Dallas Streetcar.
The I-30 Insider Commuter Challenge was hosted on TryParkingIt.com from October 1, 2016-April 28, 2017. The goal of this challenge, funded through the federal Value Pricing Pilot Program, was to test the effectiveness of incentives to positively affect driver behavior. The challenge encouraged commuters along the I-30 test corridor to use alternative commute modes instead of driving alone. Participants were able to earn I-30 Insider points for each alternative commute trip during the morning and afternoon peak periods and use them to purchase incentives.
TEXpress Lanes continue to allow drivers in North Texas the choice to pay to bypass congestion in adjacent general-purpose lanes. In addition to the TEXpress Lanes already operating, the region was introduced to additional managed lanes in the IH 30 corridor in Grand Prairie and western Dallas in 2016.
Data suggests that the TEXpress Lanes have provided significant congestion relief to travelers, including those on non-tolled, general-purpose lanes. For example, generalpurpose congestion is down about 70 percent on the North Tarrant Express and 60 percent on the LBJ Express since 2010.
NCTCOG continues to make strides toward improving existing capital projects using the Capital/ Maintenance process. Cap-Main seeks to boost the performance of roadways, especially freeways, through means other than widening. This can include restriping, intersection improvements, shoulder-use lanes and repaving existing facilities. This approach focuses on performance improvements that maximize benefits and minimize costs. The new 10-year plan initiated through House Bill 20, passed by the Texas Legislature in 2015,
included several current and future Cap-Main projects. Among them were a second phase of IH 35E near Waxahachie and interchanges in Parker County. Transportation officials are also beginning to research improvement to lanes and interchanges along IH 20.
US 75 Technology Lane
US Highway 75 is the primary corridor for drivers in Collin County into northern Dallas County. With its widening project scheduled to finish in spring 2017, NCTCOG and TxDOT are exploring use of the corridor's high occupancy vehicle lane as a peak-period and incidentmanagement lane with additional technological assets and datasharing applications. A similar use of the shoulders along a three-mile stretch of SH 161 led to a 50 percent decline in peak-period congestion in 2015, and the strategy will remain in place through fiscal year 2019.
Travel demand modeling shows continued congestion on US 75 and limitations on available right-of-way for future expansion. Therefore, shoulder use during peak periods along the corridor is a viable and fiscally responsible option. NCTCOG and TxDOT are also examining how technologies along the roadway can be bolstered to provide innovative transportation services. This includes integrating data from NCTCOG's traveler information service, 511DFW. The team working on the Technology Lane is considering safe and effective ways to communicate breaking traffic and travel information along the corridor using dynamic message signs.
The 511DFW Traveler Information System is a regional source to help improve the reliability of the transportation system. It can be accessed via the internet and a new mobile app, available for Apple and Android devices. Users can receive personalized travel information through the creation of a My511 account. Also available by dialing 511, 511DFW provides information on traffic, weather and transit, including a transit trip planner.
Traffic information includes speeds and travel times for freeways and arterials. The website also provides links to rideshare and paratransit resources. The traffic and transit map provides information on special events, messages posted on dynamic message signs over freeways and TxDOT camera images. The system is being updated. Once enhancements are made, there will be a marketing campaign to increase awareness of 511DFW. For information on current and future improvements, visit www.511dfw.org or dial 511.
Providing the public with transportation choices requires creative thinking. This approach has characterized the activity of NCTCOG and its transportation policymaking body, the Regional Transportation Council, for many years. Two current examples are the TEXpress Lanes on Interstate Highway 30 and the southern extension of SH 360.
IH 30 TEXpress Lanes
In August 2016, the first portion of the IH 30 TEXpress Lanes opened from SH 161 to Westmoreland Road in Dallas County. The project was funded through the Texas Department of Transportation's Pass-Through Finance Program. This program was an agreement between the RTC and TxDOT in which the
RTC was required to pay costs up front and receive State reimbursement for approximately 80 percent of the project costs.
The region began receiving Regional Toll Revenues from this partnership, which will be used to fund projects within Dallas and Tarrant counties. Construction on this project is approximately $61 million, with an anticipated $240 million return in toll revenue over 25 years. The remaining portions of the TEXpress Lanes are set to open in the summer of 2017 and in 2020.
SH 360 South
Construction on the 9.7 mile SH 360 South project began in the fall of 2015. To finance the project, the RTC entered into a financial backstop agreement with TxDOT and the North Texas Tollway Authority. TxDOT is constructing the facility and advancing approximately$300 million in construction costs.
Upon substantial completion, the project will be transferred to NTTA, which will operate it. If tolls from the facility are insufficient to cover the operations, maintenance and debt service on the TxDOT loan for the project, the RTC financial backstop may be triggered. Once the TxDOT loan is retired, excess revenue is shared 50/50 between TxDOT/RTC and NTTA.
Accountability is another essential part of the equation required with the spending of billions of dollars of public funds. To this end, a new performance-driven planning process was initiated in 2016 in the Regional 10-Year Plan.
Regional 10-Year Plan
In approving House Bill 20 in 2015, the Texas Legislature required TxDOT and NCTCOG to develop a 10-year plan for the region that considers performance-based planning and project-selection criteria. In August 2016, the Texas Transportation Commission announced new funding allocations for fiscal years 2017-2026 to address urban mobility, statewide connectivity and strategic priorities. The 10-year plan uses performance measures to account for:
1. Improvements to congestion and safety
2. Effects on economic development
3. Available funding
4. Air quality and environmental effects
5. Socioeconomic, health, or environmental effects on minority or low-income neighborhoods
Using this performance-based planning and project-selection process, the RTC approved $6.9 billion in projects, submitting the list to TxDOT in December 2016.
2017-2020 Transportation Improvement Program
The 2017-2020 Transportation Improvement Program was approved by Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration in December 2016. The 2017-2020 TIP outlines $4.02 billion to be spent on 875 active roadway and transit projects from 71 implementing agencies.
The TIP is a required inventory of transportation projects covering four years of local, State and federal funding. The TIP is upated quarterly and redeveloped at two-year intervals.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
It is important to be ready when opportunities to improve mobility present themselves, as was the case when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed into law in 2009. By fiscal year 2016, all $885.71 million awarded to NCTCOG and the RTC had been spent on surface transportation projects. Several significant roadway and rail projects received funding and were accelerated by ARRA.
Vehicle technologies are some of the most visible examples of innovation in transportation. They improve mobility by creating more travel options, while keeping North Texans safer and helping the environment. In fact, 44 percent of ozone forming emissions (nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds) in the
Dallas-Fort Worth area come from on-road vehicles such as passenger cars,buses and trucks.
NCTCOG promotes air quality funding opportunities and occasionally distributes funding directly. From 2006-2016, nearly 2,000 activities were funded and grants worth more than $56.6 million were awarded. These activities have reduced NOx by an estimated 1,300 tons and CO2 by over 636,300 tons. The Air Quality Funding Opportunities web page, www.nctcog.org/AQfunding, contains regional funding opportunities and promotes the use of incentives available from other agencies for activities that improve air quality.
Innovative and advanced vehicle technologies are nothing new to NCTCOG. Since the 1990s, initiatives aimed at reducing emissions have been a cornerston of NCTCOG's air quality program. The agency also engages local governments, vehicle and equipment manufacturers, fuel providers, and other interested parties through education and outreach programs.
The Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Cities Coalition, part of the US Department of Energy's Clean Cities program, has encouraged the adoption of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles since its inception in 1995. Alternative fuel vehicles have specialized engines, tanks and other components that allow them to run on fuels such as natural gas, propane and ethanol (E85).
As automobile manufacturers began responding to increasing fuel economy standards by introducing hybrid and electric vehicles, NCTCOG formed Electric Vehicles North Texas, a subcommittee of Clean Cities. EVNT seeks to advance EV adoption by providing technical resources and education to workplaces, fleets and the general public.In 2016, DFWCC stakeholders were responsible for reducing 25.45 million gallons of petroleum. That is approximately 2,800 tanker trucks. NCTCOG's National Drive Electric Week event, held annually in September, has set Texas records for the largest gathering of EVs.
Last year, nearly 130 vehicles were available for displays and test drives.
North Texas is working to move autonomous vehicles from the drawing board to the streets. In 2016, NCTCOG established an automated vehicle program area to explore the benefits of this emerging technology.
Some 94 percent of crashes are attributed to human error or the choices drivers make, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Automation could improve safety, efficiency and access to transportation. There are also potential environmental benefits since greater system efficiency could result in the need for fewer vehicles. Automated cars and trucks could follow one another more closely, increasing the capacity of existing roadways. With fewer opportunities for human error, there likely will be fewer crashes in a world with more automation.
Additionally, most automated vehicles are electric; more reliance on this type of technology could improve the environment. There is a continuing effort across the country to use data to improve mobility. Recent developments demonstrate how important North Texas will be in the delivery of automation.
• Fort Worth became the first city in Texas to join the Waze Connected Citizens Program. Waze shares user reports with local officials, and officials provide information on road closures and events, leading to a more efficient system.
• Frisco 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 was the first demonstration in Texas of how traffic-signal data can be used to power vehicles.
2017 is shaping up to be a landmark year for vehicle automation in Dallas-Fort Worth. In February, the Autonomous Vehicle Road Trip stopped in Arlington to allow residents and leaders to ride in a vehicle without a steering wheel. EasyMile's EZ10 shuttle is an example of a vehicle that could be used at universities and business parks as a last-mile connection. Autonomous vehicles are being tested by governments and universities across the US, including in Texas, which was recently named an Automated Vehicle Proving Ground by the US Department of Transportation.
As part of this designation, the technology will be examined in North Texas beginning in 2017– at the University of Texas at Arlington, on Arlington streets and the IH 30 TEXpress Lanes. NCTCOG has issued requests for applications from public partners interested in transportation data sharing. This would advance automated vehicles and accelerate their integration into the transportation system.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Unmanned aircraft are growing more popular for hobbyists, commercial users and agencies interested in using their video capabilities for planning and rescue operations. No longer are these aircraft limited to military operations. With lower costs, the opportunity for growth in governmental, recreational and commercial UAS usage is at an all-time high. There are approximately 710,000 unmanned aircraft systems registered in the US, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA predicts an increase to almost 4 million by 2021, a projected growth rate of nearly 500 percent. This growth rate can lead to more jobs and business opportunities. It also has potential negative effects, including an increase in the number of reckless users. Data shows the Dallas-Fort Worth area is third nationally in the number of reckless UAS sightings.
Since Dallas-Fort Worth has the most registrants in the state at approximately 15,000 (Texas is second nationally to California in the number of registered UAS), considerable effort is being made to improve safe operation of unmanned aircraft. NCTCOG's Air Transportation Advisory Committee and regional partners are discussing how to manage this increase in demand. ATAC's UAS subcommittee is working on a draft ordinance intended to help cities better understand the rules for operating unmanned aircraft and ensure they are used safely, consistently and responsibly. The ordinance could be completed by summer 2017.
Advances in technology continue to change the way people get around. The Federal Transit Administration is funding projects throughout the nation to improve the efficiency of transportation by integrating transit services with innovative technologies. Dallas Area Rapid Transit was awarded $1.2 million to upgrade GoPass into an integrated, multimodal mobile application. The goal is to leverage ride-sharing services to improve access to DART stations, particularly in non-walkable areas underserved by transit.
This project will identify opportunities for innovative transit services and partnerships that maintain federal compliance. Part of DART's project includes creating a reloadable transit card to make the system more accessible to low-income individuals who may not have a credit card or mobile device. Additionally, NCTCOG formed the Mobility on Demand Working Group in January 2017. The working group can discuss, coordinate and promote the demonstration of Mobility on Demand concepts and solutions. It also provides a forum for transit agencies, local governments and other interested parties. For more information, visit www.nctcog.org/mod. NCTCOG is updating Access North Texas, which aims to improve public transportation for older adults, people with disabilities, low-income individuals and others who rely on transit. This plan includes prioritized strategies to make the most of the region's public transit services.
DART Blue Line
DART opened new stations at Camp Wisdom and the University of North Texas at Dallas as part of a three-mile Blue Line expansion in October. This allowed DART to connect an area known as the Education Corridor to downtown Dallas. More people are now able to discover the academic programs offered not only at UNT Dallas, but also at Paul Quinn College and Cedar Valley College. In November 2016, the first full month of operation of the extension, the average weekday ridership at the UNT Dallas Station and the Camp Wisdom Station was over 1,000 passengers each weekday.
The TEX Rail commuter rail project between Fort Worth and DFW Airport is on schedule to begin serving customers in late 2018. The $1.034 billion project is under construction and is now fully funded after the Fort Worth Transportation Authority received a $499 million grant from the FTA in December 2016. The 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. DARTplans to add connecting commuter rail service from DFW Airport to Plano along the Cotton Belt at a later time. For more information on TEX Rail, visit www.texrail.com.
Love Field Surveys
Aviation is also an important part of connecting people. NCTCOG and Dallas Love Field surveyed passengers in 2014 and 2015 to gauge how the expiration of the Wright Amendment affected travel. The amendment had limited longhaul flights from the airport.
Business and vacation travel from Love Field experienced the most significant impact. Before the restrictions were lifted, 57 percent of passengers took work-related trips. The following year, 48 percent did so, according to the survey data. There was a 7 percent increase in vacation/pleasure trips from 2014 to 2015.
The proposed DFW Core Express between Dallas and Fort Worth could connect the Dallas-to-Houston high-speed rail to anpother corridor serving Oklahoma and South Texas. NCTCOG has selected firms for three station-area studies as part of the project.
- Fort Worth Station
- Arlington Station
- Dallas Station
NCTCOG has worked with the Texas Department of Public Safety to develop a data exchange system, where Commercial Vehicle Enforcement officers will be able to more quickly and securely obtain driver history information while on the side of the road. This system has entered the testing phase and is expected to be available soon.
Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Update
North Texas is one of the busiest inland ports in the nation where freight is moved, transferred and distributed to destinations around the world. Increasing truck traffic in the region means planners have made safety an area of emphasis as they look to improve the movement of freight on the roadways. To help address safety concerns, NCTCOG hosted the Commercial Motor Vehicle Violations Training for 47 area judges, prosecutors and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement officers in 2016. The goal of this training was to reduce the number of safety violations by increasing conviction rates and decreasing the number of court cases that receive reduced penalties. NCTCOG will also initiate the CVE equipment and training program in 2017. The program will allow CVE officers to obtain weight scales and training free of charge.
Truck Traffic Counts
In November 2016, NCTCOG issued a request for proposals from firms interested in conducting traffic counts for the region. Having a more complete picture of where truck traffic is most heavily concentrated throughout the day will help planners continue to refine the transportation system. The data from this project will enable NCTCOG to develop better traffic models, leading to improved mobility, system reliability and emissions forecasts. Planners will use the data to support:
• Goods movement performance-based planning in compliance with new federal performance measures for truck travel time reliability
• The calibration and validation of the NCTCOG travel demand model and the commercial vehicle model
• Identification of corridors frequently used by heavy-duty vehicles
Railroad facilities are located across the region, moving large amounts of freight to and from North Texas. When railroad tracks intersect a roadway, it is called an at-grade crossing. There are over 2,900 at-grade railroad crossings in the region, and it is important for residents to follow safety precautions around them. Sometimes there are incidents involving cars and trains at these crossings. Since 2000, the number of incidents has been trending downward. In 2016, there were 40. To continue this improvement, drivers and edestrians should heed safety signals and warnings.
Truck Lane Restrictions
Truck lane restrictions are an important element of the region's transportation network. These restrictions prohibit freight traffic from traveling in the left lane except to pass other vehicles. The restrictions, in place for about 10 years, have been shown to reduce serious truck- and passenger vehicle-related accidents. Most of these corridors are located in Dallas and Tarrant counties, but they have also been implemented in parts of Collin, Ellis, Parker and Rockwall counties.
There are plans to add truck lane restrictions to approximately 15 more corridors by 2040. Also, three new corridors will be added as construction is completed on IH 30, IH 635 and SH 114.
Texas Freight Plan
Last year, TxDOT completed the first Texas Freight Mobility Plan and is updating the plan to bring it into conformity with the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. This is a requirement for Texas and the region to receive freight-specific funds.
Work is continuing this year. To help with this update, TxDOT held a workshop in February 2017 that focused on trends, challenges and opportunities for freight in Texas and freight system designation. In June, TxDOT will hold a second workshop, this one focusing on freight project recommendations and the freight investment plan. TxDOT hopes to have a draft of the new plan for public review in August.
Trucks are the most popular way to move goods, as 77 percent are shipped in this fashion. For expensive freight that needs to arrive at its destination quickly, however, airplanes are often the preferred option. The volume of goods shipped by air from the region’s three air cargo facilities grew substantially last year, led by the 14.5 percent increase at Alliance Airport.
NCTCOG and its partner agencies continue their commitment to improving regional traffic safety for all users by supporting and coordinating planning efforts to develop safety policies, programs, and projects. Working with the four E's of transportation safety – Engineering, Enforcement, Education and Emergency Response – NCTCOG is initiating projects to address traffic safety concerns from all sides.
Regional Crashes and Fatalities
Each year, NCTCOG receives crash data from the TxDOT Crash Records Information System, or CRIS, the State's depository for crash records. Crash data from all roadway types in Texas is reported in the CRIS. NCTCOG uses crash data to:
• Identify high-crash corridors, intersections and hot spots
• Determine types and severity of crashes
• Identify contributing factors for serious-injury and fatality crashes
Develop county, regional and corridor-level crash rates for limited-access facilities NCTCOG uses the crash data for projects throughout the Transportation Department, including those aimed at making the roads safer for drivers, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians.
Trucks are the most popular way to move goods, as 77 percent are shipped in this fashion. For expensive freight that needs to arrive at its destination quickly, however, airplanes are often the preferred option. The volume of goods shipped by air from the region's three air cargo facilities grew substantially last year, led by the 14.5 percent increase at Alliance Airport.
In 2016, the 12-county metropolitan planning area experienced 129,803 crashes, 20,250 of which resulted in serious injuries and 679 of which were fatal. Nearly 90 percent of crashes occurred in the four urban core counties of Dallas County (43 percent), Tarrant County (27 percent), Collin County (11 percent) and Denton County (9 percent). Historically, the vast majority of crashes happened in these urban counties.
Traffic Incident Management Training
About 50 percent of the congestion in the region is caused by nonrecurring traffic incidents and crashes. To address this congestion and improve safety for motorists and emergency responders, in 2003 NCTCOG became the first agency in the nation to formalize a Traffic Incident Management Training Program for all responders in the region. The goal of the NCTCOG TIM Training Program is to initiate a common, coordinated response to traffic incidents that will build partnerships, enhance safety for emergency personnel and motorists, reduce upstream traffic crashes, improve the efficiency of the transportation system, and improve air quality in the region. NCTCOG has offered 98 classes at the first responder level to over 2,720 regional fire, police, towing, EMS, Mobility Assistance Patrol, and transportation agencies. Additionally, since February 2005, 23 classes have been offered at the executive level to 810 decision- and policymakers.
In 2007, NCTCOG began offering a Photogrammetry Training Workshop as a complement to the region's TIM Training Program. The Photogrammetry system, used for crash reconstruction and forensic measurements, helps alleviate congestion and reduce secondary collisions.
The Photogrammetry software reconstructs accident scenes from digital images, allowing police and fire departments to clear roadway incidents much more quickly and conduct accident investigations from their offices. Since 2007, 204 police officers have been trained through the NCTCOG-hosted Photogrammetry Training Workshops.
Intersection Safety Plan
Intersections are a small part of the Texas highway system, but each year roughly 50 percent of crashes occur at or near them. To address this issue, in 2015 TxDOT, the Federal Highway Administration and the five largest metropolitan planning organizations across Texas, initiated the Texas Intersection Safety Implementation Plan, or ISIP. The goal of this plan is to implement effective, low-cost countermeasures at intersections to increase visibility and driver awareness, and improve intersection design and operation.
The Texas ISIP focuses on the Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio areas. The NCTCOG ISIP, completed in 2013, was the catalyst for the development of the Texas ISIP. The regional plan identified 1,047 candidate signalized intersection locations throughout North Texas. NCTCOG, FHWA and members of the Regional Safety Advisory Committee identified the following
systemic countermeasures to improve safety at similar locations:
1. Re-time traffic signals for better coordination and proper red and yellow change intervals.
2. Install an additional signal head per approach.
3. Change permitted and protected/permitted left-turn phasing to protected.
4. Install basic pavement marking and sign improvements.
5. Install advanced signal-ahead warning signs.
In 2016, NCTCOG surveyed the cities identified in the regional ISIP to determine the progress of improvements. Here is a snapshot:
• 262 total improvements at ISIP intersections
• 178 total intersections with improvements
Wrong-Way Driving Projects
NCTCOG continues to work with TxDOT and local cities in Dallas and Tarrant counties to implement intersection, roadway and technology improvements that will reduce the likelihood of wrong-way crashes.
NCTCOG, TxDOT and nine Dallas County cities initiated Phase I of the Wrong-Way Driving Pilot Mitigation Project in 2014. Phase I focused on 350 diamond interchanges throughout Dallas County. Improvement strategies included the replacement of conflicting lane and arrow markings, signal enhancements and other intersection-related improvements.
Eight cities (Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Garland, Grand Prairie, Irving, Mesquite, Richardson and Rowlett) have completed the Phase I countermeasures. The project has also been expanded into Collin and Denton counties, where improvements are in either the design or construction phase in Allen, McKinney, Plano, Carrollton (Denton County), and Lewisville. The City of Dallas has 19 intersections under construction and an additional 42 in the design phase.
Phase II of the project was initiated in 2015 and focused on 54.2 miles of seven freeway corridors in Tarrant County. The Phase II pilot project is nearing completion. It includes installation of wrong-way pavement markings in the travel lanes, enhanced signage with active detection units, optimized sign placement and use of technology for wrong-way driving incident notifications.
NTTA is also working to combat wrong-way driving by implementing similar countermeasures including intelligent transportation systems technologies. A pilot program using traffic cameras and specialized software to detect vehicles moving in the wrong direction has been implemented in Dallas County.
Did you know that nearly 70 million airbag inflators are or will be under recall by 2019? More than a halfmillion defective airbags are in North Texas alone. NCTCOG has joined with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and several local partners to urge drivers to check their Vehicle Identification Numbers to make sure their airbags are not under recall.
The North Texas climate makes the situation particularly urgent locally. Prolonged exposure to high heat and humidity degrades the chemical propellant in a defective airbag inflator over time, which makes it more explosive and increases risk of serious injury or death. Even a minor fender bender can cause the defective airbag inflators to rupture, spraying metal into drivers and passengers. To date, there have been 11 deaths due to defective airbags. Two occurred in Texas. The NHTSA is prioritizing the recall based on the risk of injury or death to vehicle occupants.
The recalls are phased by vehicle location and age. Recall zones have been established based on regional temperature and humidity. Texas has been assigned to Zone A, which has been given top priority.
For information on affected vehicles, visit www.safercar.gov or www.airbagrecall.com, and enter the VIN, located on the driver’s side of the front windshield. Airbags under recall can be replaced free of charge. Additionally, vehicles not currently under a recall could be affected in the future. Sign up for email alerts at www.nhtsa.gov.
Just as technology is being used to improve the efficiency of the transportation system, communities are embracing it to improve quality of life. Cities are becoming "smart," integrating innovative elements that improve parking, lighting and efficiency. These elements focus on data collection, resource optimization and connectivity.
The Dallas Innovation Alliance, a nonprofit public-private partnership, has launched a multi-phase smart city strategy for Dallas' West End. The "living lab" aims to encourage a city where technology and social infrastructure accelerate sustainable economic development while conserving resources and improving quality of life. DIA is taking a multifaceted approach that will allow it to analyze and measure the collective impact.
Here are examples of the work being done:
• Lighting along Market Street will be converted to LED and equipped with sensors that can measure air quality, crowd noise and other environmental factors.
• Interactive kiosks are intended to serve as a focal point for community engagement, providing such things as public Wi-Fi, USB charging stations and wayfinding/transit options.
• Connectivity will be aided by the presence of fiber and cellular networks.
• Smart parking will monitor lots and garages for available spaces, which could allow drivers to locate and reserve parking ahead of time. Not only would this improve the parking experience, but it could also increase parking utilization rates and decreased traffic congestion/carbon dioxide emissions.
Light poles are an important piece of the strategy because they have
many potential uses and are already in the public right-of-way. In the West End, they can help reach connectivity goals by being equipped with monitors and smart cells that will enable Wi-Fi.
The City of Arlington is also taking advantage of lighting infrastructure to achieve a variety of benefits. In 2014, the City began an effort to upgrade its 21,478 high-pressure sodium light bulbs to low-wattage LEDs to reduce costs and its carbon footprint. Thus far, the City has converted more than 11,000 streetlights in two phases.
Arlington's streetlight conversion has led to a 47 percent reduction in energy costs and helped finance projects at 21 city buildings.
PHASE I (2015): Retrofit approximately 10,500 150- to 200-watt light fixtures to 95-watt LED.
PHASE II (2016): Retrofit approximately 320 Entertainment District lights, 310 250-watt lights and 210 high-mast fixtures.
The upgrade project has yielded greater benefits than expected, allowing Arlington's streetlight crew to focus on priorities besides constant maintenance. The crew can now focus on upgrading wiring to make the system more reliable.
Regional Trail Use
Technology is assisting planners on bicycle-pedestrian facilities throughout North Texas. The Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Traffic Count Program is recording data with equipment installed on trails throughout the region. In 2016, there were 39 equipment count locations on trails recording the number of pedestrians and bicyclists for transportation planning purposes. Equipment was also installed on a street with bike lanes to count the number of bicyclists using the roadway.
A snapshot of findings from the data collection effort includes:
• In 2016 the proportion of pedestrian traffic at the trail count locations was 58 percent, with bicyclists representing 42 percent of the trail traffic in those locations.
• On some trails, usually near more populated areas, most users are pedestrians. In lessdeveloped locations, bicyclists are the primary users. For example, pedestrians account for over 80 percent of traffic on the Katy Trail. By contrast, bicyclists represent over 80 percent of traffic on White Rock Trail.
• While weather does affect the overall use of trails, usage is generally greater during warmer months.
More information and annual data collected at the count stations is included in the 2016 Annual Report, available at www.nctcog.org/trans/sustdev.
NCTCOG led two planning studies in 2016 using innovative technologies to find solutions: the River Oaks Boulevard (SH 183) Corridor Master Plan and the Northwest Highway and Preston Road Area Plan. Information about these planning studies can be found at www.nctcog.org/planningstudies.
The River Oaks Boulevard project sought to produce a vision and recommendation for transportation improvements along River Oaks Boulevard from SH 199 on the north and the West Fork Branch of Trinity River on the south. The plan balanced mobility and accessibility improvements with economic development. The recommended improvements included shared-use paths, sidewalks, enhanced pedestrian amenities, landscaping and on-street parking.
Among the recommended innovative solutions to enhance the boulevard were contra-flow lanes. The contra-flow lane design simplifies traffic movement patterns by limiting automobiles to right turns. This decreases the number of potential bicycle and pedestrian conflict points with automobiles.
The Northwest Highway and Preston Road project examined existing conditions and future needs in the north Dallas study area. It resulted in a preferred community vision. The study's approach included integration of transportation operational improvements, land-use intensity and mix, and context-sensitive street design.
One of the elements was a weeklong study within the Preston Center commercial area parking garages. License plate reader technology was used to gather information related to occupancy and the time vehicles spent in each parking space.
FTA Transit-Oriented Development Planning Grant
NCTCOG led a regional partnership to advance transit-oriented development when it won a $1.4 million grant from the FTA for a TOD planning pilot study. Dallas, Garland, Plano, Richardson and DART are partners in the effort, aided by $350,000 of local money. The planning study will use innovative technologies to prioritize infrastructure improvements for pedestrian and bicycle connections to DART Red Line and Blue Line light-rail stations. It will also leverage the latest techniques used to study parking, reduce labor cost and improve efficiency.
By studying these existing corridors and data, insights generated in this pilot study will moveNorth Texas TOD policies into a better future for all the region’s rail stations.
Clean air is easy to take for granted. Yet, it is important to know that many federal, State and local efforts are underway to protect this precious resource. Since 1991, North Texas counties have been in nonattainment for ozone, and have been engaged in efforts to reduce emissions, protect health and comply with federal air quality requirements. These efforts have helped reduce ozone concentration levels from 102 parts per billion in 1998 to 80 ppb in 2016, as seen in the chart below. Although progress is being made, continued efforts and innovations are needed to keep up with the recently revised ozone standard and rapid population growth.
Under the Clean Air Act, the US Environmental Protection Agency established the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, or NAAQS, designed to protect human and environmental health. Six criteria pollutants – lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide – are regulated under the NAAQS. North Texas meets the federal standard for all except ozone.
The EPA is periodically required to review and revise ozone standards to ensure they protect human health. In 2015, after a full review of the available scientific literature on health and welfare effects of ozone, the EPA released the 2015 ozone standard. Notable changes include:
• Reducing the ozone standard from 75 ppb to 70 ppb
• Extending the ozone monitoring season for North Texas by one month (now from March 1 through November 30)
• Updating requirements to modernize and streamline the Photochemical Assessment Monitoring Stations network, which helps provide information on ozone formation and transport
Currently, 10 counties in North Texas are designated as nonattainment for ozone. Hood County could join Dallas, Collin, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant and Wise counties to form the new nonattainment area under the 2015 designation.
Role of NCTCOG
Serving as the metropolitan planning organization for the 12-county region, NCTCOG and the RTC are required to ensure transportation planning and development activities conform to the "emissions budgets" set for the region in the State Implementation Plan. The SIP is a regional air quality plan outlining how ozone concentrations will be reduced in the nonattainment area.
In North Texas, the RTC takes an active role in assisting with development of SIP revisions. This includes help with air quality technical planning and implementation of strategies at the local level to enhance federal and state efforts. Numerous other regional stakeholders, including local governments and business coalitions, also support this process and facilitate implementation. As a result of these efforts and improved vehicle technologies, ozone levels in the region continue to improve. Even though there are more people living, working and commuting in the area, resulting in more miles being driven, the levelsof ozone-creating pollutants continue to decline.
Ozone and Health
Unlike many pollutants, ground-level ozone is not produced directly by an emission source. It does not come directly out of a vehicle tailpipe or from a smokestack. Instead, it is the result of a reaction of other pollutants – nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) – that mix in the presence of sunlight and heat.
Clinical studies indicate prolonged exposure to elevated concentrations of ground-level ozone may reduce lung function, increase the frequency of asthma episodes and reduce the body's ability to resist respiratory infections. High ozone concentrations also pose a risk to the environment, wildlife and agriculture. Monitors are placed in strategic locations around the region and provide ongoing feedback about ozone concentrations.
Ozone in the Region
NCTCOG and the RTC are focusing on reducing NOx and VOCs, which are called precursor pollutants, in order to reduce ozone. In 2017, most NOx emissions (67 percent) are expected to come from mobile transportation sources. Therefore, air quality initiatives in the region are focused on reducing pollution from this sector, especially from cars and trucks.
Air Quality Programs
NCTCOG staff administers many air quality programs, makes policy recommendations, participates in partnerships and supports other stakeholders in their own emissions-reducing activities. NCTCOG programs help individuals, fleet operators and freight companies contribute to cleaner air. Programs concentrate on light- and heavy-duty vehicles and equipment. NCTCOG works with local governments, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the EPA and DOE to improve air quality.
The region's air quality also benefits from efforts to repair and replace older vehicles. Older vehicles typically pollute more, but not everyone can afford to replace their vehicles with cleaner-burning ones. Administered locally by NCTCOG, AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine provides qualifying motorists vouchers worth up to $3,000 toward vehicle replacement ($3,500 for hybrids and some other fuel efficient models) or repair vouchers of up to $600.
North Texans whose vehicles have failed the emissions portion of the State inspection or are at least 10 years old are encouraged to apply for assistance if they meet the income criteria. Since the program's creation, AirCheckTexas has helped repair or replace more than 66,000 vehicles. Additionally, the program helped to reduce emissions of approximately 90.51 tons of NOx and 24.47 tons of VOCs during FY 2016 alone.
More than $31 million is available through the program. This is one of many programs designed to improve the region's air quality. For more information on NCTCOG air quality programs, visit www.nctcog.org/airquality.
In 2016, courts determined Volkswagen had violated the Clean Air Act by selling diesel vehicles equipped with "defeat devices." These devices allowed vehicles to emit levels of NOx beyond what federal standards permit. This ruling resulted in a settlement of over $20 billion, including two different portions that could bring substantial investment in clean vehicle projects to North Texas, where more than 10,000 vehicles were affected by the settlement.First, the Environmental Mitigation Trust consists of $2.9 billion. Texas could receive up to $209 million to be used on NOx mitigation efforts. Eligible actions could include projects aimed at doing the following:
• Reducing NOx from heavy-duty diesel sources near population centers
• Replacing or repowering older engines for newer engines at a rail switchyard
• Replacing older transit buses with new electric-powered
Second, through the Zero Emission Vehicle Investment, $1.2 billion will be available to states other than California to support the increased use of zero-emissions vehicle technologies, including development and maintenance of related infrastructure. NCTCOG has submitted a proposal to Electrify America — the organization established by Volkswagen to manage the ZEV Investment
program — outlining the region's plans to address key electric vehicle infrastructure gaps and build awareness of EVs. Proposed actions include developing a highspeed, intercity EV charging network and identifying multi-family properties and workplaces best suited to support EV charging goals.
NCTCOG is engaged with other stakeholders to provide comments on potential investments. For more information about the settlement, visit www.nctcog.org/airquality.
To continue to meet the diverse transportation needs of North Texas, NCTCOG must listen intently to residents and businesses. With rapid advances in communication, the Transportation Department is rethinking the distribution of information.
Many people's schedules prevent them from driving across town for an afternoon or evening meeting, even when they may have a compelling reason to attend. Maybe their neighborhood is going to be affected by a proposed roadway project, and they want more information on the construction phase. Perhaps a sidewalk they need to get from home to the rail station down the street is up for discussion. The RTC discusses such issues on a regular basis. With live streaming, anyone, anywhere can watch as these and other crucial transportation decisions are made. Recordings of RTC sessions, public meetings and other meetings are also available for residents to watch at www.nctcog.org/video when convenient.
Since September 2015, RTC meetings have been streamed live on the internet. This option, available by clicking the "live" tab, is growing in popularity. Data shows approximately 61 percent more people per month watched the live streaming in 2016.
Public meetings are also undergoing changes in an effort to effectively deliver information to stakeholders. An analysis of public meeting attendance indicated that for some topics, a full series of meetings is not necessary. In such cases, it may be more effective to hold one public meeting and post a recording online. In other instances, it is more effective to provide the public with opportunities to comment online.
When major policy changes, such as a new Metropolitan Transportation Plan, are under consideration, residents will still have numerous opportunities to attend public meetings and comment. The goal of this approach is to foster a continuing dialogue with residents and ensure the right tools are being used to communicate information to busy people.
The department also interacts with residents on social media, maintaining a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Vimeo. Facebook and Twitter are the department's primary social media channels, and they continue to expand substantially. In 2016, NCTCOG's Facebook audience grew 19 percent, while its Twitter following increased by 24 percent.
Understanding that people respondwell to visualization, the department is using more graphics in social media posts. And the results can be seen in increased reach and engagement. Advertising is also an important part of the department's social media strategy.
Education and Outreach
The department is also focused on inspiring young people to become involved in planning and other aspects of transportation. One of the best ways NCTCOG has found to reach people of all ages has been through involvement in community events. In 2016, the Transportation Department participated in 12 community fairs, celebrations and back-to-school events attended by more than 140,000 people of all ages.
Through its involvement in STEM programs, the NCTCOG Aviation Education Program seeks to inspire young people to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. With North Texas school districts' high
participation rate in STEM programs, students are likely wellprepared to meet the aviation industry's demand for a skilled labor force.
The demand for aviation will continue to grow in North Texas and with it a workforce willing and able to fly planes and keep them operating safely and efficiently. In addition to STEM, which also prepares students with an interest in becoming pilots, air traffic controllers, aircraft mechanics or aviation economists, NCTCOG is using technology to reach students. It partnered with aviation and aerospace companies, as well as educational institutions last year to develop FLYBY DFW, a mobile computer game available for Apple and Android devices.
The Transportation Department also reaches the public through educational campaigns such as Look Out Texans, which uses 21 tips to encourage residents to bike, walk and drive safely. Targeted outreach occurred through social media, online videos, videos airing on local government cable channels and safety tip announcements on digital display boards at strategic locations. Packets of bicycle and pedestrian safety information were also distributed to elementary and middle schools.
NCTCOG will continue to identify new ways to reach the public with the ultimate goal of inspiring more participation in transportation planning and program development. More informed participants means better decisions. And better decisions will lead to safer, more efficient travel. For more information or to become involved, visit www.nctcog.org/input.
2017 Art Contest Winners-
Grand Prairie Independent School District
1st Place- Bryce Charles (age 12) has been a student at Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy, under the tutelage of Sharon Miller, since 2015. Bryce loves art and particularly enjoys drawing futuristic buildings and cars. Bryce also enjoys playing video games in his spare time. Bryce hopes to become an architect when he grows up and feels that his art training will prepare him to create new and innovative designs in the future.