It’s January which means DalTRAC is busy gearing up for the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting! This year, the meeting will be held entirely online. Committee meetings are hosted between January 5-8 and 11-15. Sessions and exhibits are held between January 21-22 and 25-29. You can view the entire online program here.
Yesterday brought some good news for DalTRAC, as PhD candidate, Nazmul Arefin Khan successfully defended his dissertation (from a safe social distance, of course) and has now completed all the requirements of his PhD degree.
Nazmul’s dissertation develops an activity-based travel demand forecasting model, which addresses the underlying process mechanisms and interactions between various activity and travel attributes. His research not only contributes to travel demand modelling and forecasting literature but also provides critical insights to the evolution of urban activity and travel decisions which can be used to test alternative transportation and land use policies.
Nazmul has been conducting research with DalTRAC for six years now and his hard work and dedication have certainly paid off! Congratulations Nazmul, we cannot wait to see what exciting opportunities the future will bring for you!
This week marks one of DalTRAC’s most important research dissemination events of the year. The 99th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board is held from Sunday January 12th to Thursday January 16th in Washington D.C. The meeting attracts more than 13,000 transportation professionals world-wide. Monday and Tuesday have been busy days for the DalTRAC team.
Dr. Ahsan Habib gave a presentation on the applications of VR in transportation planning and how this technology can be used for future developments.
Nazmul also presented his research on a Shorter-term Decisions Simulator (SDS) model for mode choice and vehicle allocation in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Nazmul and Dr. Habib presented Katie Walker’s research during the TRB conference on Connect Smart Scenario Planning. This research considers challenges and opportunities associated with developing a framework for connected, autonomous, shared and electric (CASE) vehicles in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Md Jahedul Alam presented Pauline Laila Bela’s research on emission modelling in Halifax, Canada. He also presented his own research on mass evacuation planning and microsimulation modelling to estimate flood risk and traffic conditions.
Md Asif Hasan Anik presenting his research on public bus discomfort based on different trip attributes.
Dr. Habib also met up with past DalTRAC students during the conference, Shalia Jamal (left) and Mahmudur Fatmi (right).
Lastly, Shaila Jamal presented research with Dr. Habib on the impacts of smartphones on travel behaviour.
This weekend marked the first ever CAA Atlantic Hackathon. The Hackathon was a weekend-long event that invited people from multiple disciplines to work together to solve transportation issues in Atlantic Canada. Sponsors and partners for this event included CAA, DalTRAC, HotSpot, LiftoffCapital, Innovate Atlantic Inc., Flexwork, and Staples.
To start the event and inspire its participants, Dr. Ahsan Habib gave a presentation on research for the future of mobility that discussed connected, autonomous, shared and electric vehicles as well as traffic microsimulation model of shared autonomous fleets and their impacts on the Halifax Peninsula.
In addition to networking and mentoring opportunities, event participants were given the chance to test an Amazon Web Services (AWS) DeepRacer by Deloitte. A DeepRacer is a fully autonomous miniature race car driven by reinforcement learning. The machine learns through a cloud-based 3D racing simulator.
On Saturday, Next Ride, a not-for-profit low carbon transportation initiative supplied an electric vehicle and a plug-in hybrid for Hackahton participants to drive or ride in as a passenger. Next Ride tours Nova Scotia to help Nova Scotians experience an electric ride. To learn more, visit their website.
The entrepreneurship and innovation seen at the event this weekend was phenomenal with business and software solutions that focused on active transportation, carpooling, car maintenance, city planning and design, and courier services. Prizes were given for best software or hardware, best business case, and best overall submission.
DalTRAC would like to say a big THANK YOU to CAA Atlantic, Arcacia Projects and Events Ltd., and all sponsors and participants who helped make this event a success!
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.
It’s been a busy week for DalTRAC’s director Dr. Ahsan Habib, and PhD student Nazmul Khan, who are currently on the other side of the world in Mumbai, India. From May 26th to May 31st, prominent transportation experts from around the globe have gathered at the 15th World Conference on Transportation Research. This event represents an excellent opportunity for the exchange of ideas on topics ranging from transportation modelling, to disaster management, to urban goods movement.
Beyond going to learn about global transportation research, members of DalTRAC were recognized for their contributions to the field. On Thursday, DalTRAC’s own Nazmul Khan received the Young Initiative Prestige Grant Award for his work on a vehicle allocation model. This global recognition emphasizes both the importance and the quality of work that DalTRAC undertakes. Congratulations to Nazmul!
Dr. Ahsan Habib, DalTRAC’s director, was also on the ground in Mumbai. Building on research undertaken by DalTRAC, Dr. Habib gave a presentation on ridesourcing (which includes services such as Uber and Lyft). A highlight of WCTR was Dr. Habib’s involvement as a co-applicant for a Canadian effort to bring the conference to the great white north in 2022. After months of planning and coordination, it was announced that in 2022, WCTR will be held in Montreal – a momentous achievement.
With WCTR coming to a close, DalTRAC now is looking forward to continuing its important research, and to attending other transportation-related events such as the Transportation Association of Canada conference happening right here in Halifax in September.