GIS for Transportation: Principles, Data and Applications

8.2 Getting to Know a Transportation Organization


This week, you’ll take some time getting to know Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center. Volpe, which is part of the USDOT, is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts and was founded in 1970. It provides a variety of engineering and scientific services to the public and private clients it services and is fully funded by the project work it performs. Its mission is to promote innovative ideas in order to improve the US transportation system. An overview of Volpe’s activities is provided here.

Congestion Pricing

Congestion pricing represents a variety of approaches which are aimed at shifting traffic away from a congested section of roadway by implementing pricing surcharges during peak periods to shift some traffic to off times, alternate roadways or alternative modes. In 2007 – 2008, the USDOT invested over a billion dollars to implement congestion-reducing strategies in six US cities. For two of the cities, Volpe was asked to conduct surveys to better understand how congestion pricing affects travel choices. A summary of Volpe’s findings is here.

To promote the use of congestion pricing, the FHWA published a primer series on the topic, the first of which provided a high-level overview of the concept.

Assignment 8-3 (15 points)

Spend some time learning about Volpe and congestion pricing using the references provided. Submit a M.S. Word document to Assignment 8-3 in Canvas which addresses the following items:

  1. To promote the use of congestion pricing, FHWA published a primer series on the topic. Review the first document in this series which presents a high-level overview of congestion pricing and list the different categories of congestion pricing they identify. In addition, briefly describe the interesting approach implemented in Germany to impose a distance-based toll on heavy trucks on the Autobahn (note: Germany has since looked to expand this system of tolling to lighter weight vehicles, including automobiles). (4 points)
  2. Identify some interesting observations/conclusions of the congesting pricing implementation in Stockholm, Sweden which were presented by Jonas Eliasson in his TED talk titled “How to Solve Traffic Jams”. (4 points)
  3. In your own words, summarize some of the findings which came out of Volpe’s evaluation of congestion pricing in Seattle and Atlanta. (3 points)
  4. Identify a Volpe project/initiative which is relevant to GIS-T and/or which could benefit from the application of spatial technologies or processes. (4 points)