Congratulations to DalTRAC team members, MD Jahedul Alam and MD Asif Hasan Anik for being awarded the Izaak Walton Killam Predoctoral Scholarships! These scholarships awarded to outstanding students planning to enroll or already enrolled in thesis-based programs (at the Master’s or Doctoral level). The Izaak Walton Killam Predoctoral Scholarships are considered to be the most prestigious graduate awards administered by Dalhousie University.
Earlier this week, Halifax hosted the largest Transportation Conference in Canada. The Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) and Intelligent Transportation Systems Canada (ITS Canada) teamed up to organize the 2019 TAC-ITS Joint Conference and Exhibition. This conference saw over 400 presentations split up into 70 sessions, panel discussions, workshops and keynote presentations that touched on topics from road operations and safety to connected autonomous vehicles and other forms of new mobility. DalTRAC was fortunate enough to share our research in five different presentations and one panel discussion.
The panel session discussed the importance of emergency management, flood and evacuation traffic modelling, and evacuation preparedness. In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, it is clear that discussions like these are precedent in Nova Scotia. Speakers at this session included Dr. Ahsan Habib, Director of the School of Planning and DalTRAC; Dr. Kevin Quigley Professor and Director of the MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance; Erica Fleck, Division Chief Emergency Management with Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency; And Emilie Pothier, a recent Bachelor of Community Design grad and Research Assistant at DalTRAC.
That same morning, PhD Candidate MD Jahedul Alam presented his research on evacuation route determination based on a mass evacuation mircosimulation Model. Later that afternoon, DalTRAC hosted a seminar with guest Dr. Eric Miller who presented his and his student’s research on analyzing mobility service data in the city of Toronto.
The next day was a busy one for DalTRAC. In the morning, Dr. Ahsan Habib presented his and his student’s, Pauline Laila Bela’s, research on the development of an urban transport network and emission model for the city of Halifax. In the same session, PhD Candidate, Nazmul Arefin Khan, presented his work on a microsimulation of mode choice decisions within an activity-based shorter-term decision simulator. That afternoon, Dr. Ahsan Habib presented two more presentations, the first discussing the research by Dr. Habib and Research Assistant, Stephen McCarthy on the relationships between travel behaviour and health and the second presenting the research by Dr. Habib and Project Coordinator, Katie Walker on the planning considerations and research needs of new mobility through a participatory approach.
We would like to that all of those who came out to watch our presentations as well as the organizations that sponsored and hosted the event.
Halifax is changing. From projects such as the Argyle Street revitalization, to the Cogswell District project, to a new 30 km bike lane network, the city is in the midst of a grand transformation. An important element of these projects is helping residents and businesses understand these changes. While presentations and posters have been the norm for informing citizens on the impacts of these changes, the emergence of new technologies has given rise to opportunities to help people better understand what these urban renewal projects will be like once completed.
At DalTRAC, we understand that technology can be an asset for the process of urban planning. With the rise of virtual reality (VR) technology, and with the help of research grants, DalTRAC purchased two “Oculus Rift” VR systems. While wearing a VR headset, the user can experience and interpret the world around them in 360 degrees, a truly immersive experience.
An important undertaking that is currently in the planning stages is the “Spring Garden Road Enhancements Project”. By widening sidewalks, installing more benches, and planting more trees and garden areas, this transformation of the street intends to enhance the pedestrian experience by focusing on people, rather than cars. It has the opportunity to vastly change how people experience the heavily used street.
This project, located minutes away from DalTRAC’s lab, was selected as the first candidate to get VR treatment. While plans printed on posters and paper rollouts are typically used in urban planning, it made sense for such a transformative project to be expressed in VR, so that people could gain a better understanding of what the final version of the project could resemble. By using maps, pictures of the street, and technical plans for the revitalization, a section of Spring Garden Road between South Park Street and Queen Street was re-created digitally for the purpose of DalTRAC research.
Three different models were produced: one representing the current state of Spring Garden, another envisioning the “pocket park” design, and the last representing the “paver promenade” vision. These VR models provide an immersive experience for users, which express a realistic vision of what the space could look and feel like upon completion.
Designed by DalTRAC’s summer intern Devin, the Spring Garden Road VR model took over three months of work to complete. Using advanced programs such as SketchUp and Lumion, he was able to add realistic features such as plants, which move in the wind, and pedestrians who occupy the environment. The detailed design of the VR model attempts to emulate the proposed streetscape designs as closely as possible, to ensure that those experiencing it feel as though they are walking down the street a few years into the future. Dalhousie Faculty of Planning and Engineering students were then invited to experience the models and provide feedback on the proposed enhancements and how their perceptions of the project changed after experiencing it in VR.
Though DalTRAC is not involved in the Spring Garden Road Enhancement project in an official capacity, and did not design the revitalized street, this VR model acts as a proof-of-concept and a validation of VR technology for future projects that the lab may undertake.
This past Saturday, DalTRAC attended the Heartland Tour in Halifax. The Heartland Tour describes itself as “… an effective vehicle for raising the awareness of the benefits of physical activity and encouraging all Nova Scotians to enjoy at least 150 minutes of physical activity of their choice each week”. Attendees arrived and departed on bicycles, emphasizing the importance of active transportation on personal health.
DalTRAC spent the afternoon handing out “Share the Road” car magnets, bookmarks, and posters. Promoting cycling safety best practices is an important part of promoting a mode-shift towards active transportation, and DalTRAC was thrilled to be a part of it.
Throughout this week, DalTRAC’s director Dr. Ahsan Habib has been in Ottawa, Ontario for the annual Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) conference. During the event, exceptional planners from across Canada are recognized for their outstanding achievements in the field. This year, one of the award winners had a connection to DalTRAC.
Shaun Heffernan, one of DalTRAC’s earliest students, received the Canadian Institute of Planners Award of Merit for “New and Emerging Planning Initiatives: University of Victoria Campus Planning and Sustainability”. He was one of the pioneers of initiating the NovaTRAC data collection program in 2012. He received the award for his work with Urban Systems, a leading Vancouver-based consulting firm.
On Friday the 22nd, DalTRAC hosted another successful workshop as part of the Connect2 program. The multidisciplinary group of participants collaborated to create four diverse scenarios regarding the future of new mobility in Nova Scotia. Participants also discussed potential implications and follow-up strategies for each scenario. The four scenarios generated are as follows:
i. Blue Sky Mobility
ii. Eagerly Prepared BUT Disappointed
iii. Evolution of the Status Quo
iv. The Great Atlantic Wheel-spin
Another successful year of DalTRAC students’ transport research – 10 full papers accepted for 98th Annual Meetings of Transportation Research Board, the most prestigious conference (12,000+ delegates) in this field. One of the paper is emerged from PLAN 6000: Independent Project report, and another paper is co-authored by a recent BCD student. Our presentations start Sunday, January 14-17. Good luck presenters and contributors.
DalTRAC would like to acknowledge and congratulate MD Jahedul Alam, a Civil Engineering PhD student and DalTRAC researcher for receiving the Izaak Walton Killam Predoctoral Scholarship. He presented his evacuation research at the Killam Celebration Luncheon, November 19, 2018. MD Jahedul Alam accepted the Killam Predoctoral Scholarship for his research on the “Development of a Mass Evacuation Microsimulation Model for the Halifax Peninsula”. His research focuses on developing an evacuation traffic microsimulation model to understand the intricacies around how to evacuate the Halifax Peninsula due to flood risks during a natural disaster occurrence. He has developed a sequential modeling framework and methods to develop strategies for an efficient evacuation. The research will help emergency planners to better prepare for a mass evacuation.
The DalTRAC team was featured in The Star Halifax’s news article on Friday, October 5th. Our director, Dr. Habib, discusses the significance of modeling evacuation scenarios for the Halifax Peninsula.