Monday, July 5, 2010

University of Windsor

On the last day of our trip, we met Prof. Bill Anderson and his colleagues and students at University of Windsor. Professor Anderson is affiliated with Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Department of Political Science, and his research examines border crossing issues not only from transportation aspect, but also from economic and political aspects.

We started our meeting with Prof. Goodchild giving a presentation on Pacific Highway Border Crossing Commercial Vehicle Operations. Then each attendee introduced their research focuses. Professors and students from University of Windsor have a variety of research interests in border facilities, loop detector operations, roundabout design, and the impact of truck traffics on congestions, and so on. Later Prof. Anderson presented his research on the Border and Ontario Economy. He introduced that Ontario has an export-oriented economy, with most export goods transported by trucks and highly dependent on critical infrastructure. He also discussed the border crossing costs, supply chain risk in Auto industry resulted from uncertain border crossing time, and strategies utilized to mitigate such uncertainty. He also gave another presentation on infrastructure issues with border crossing: A second Windsor-Detroit Bridge? He talked about the public-private partnership model for building a second Windsor-Detroit Bridge and the funding issues from US government.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Detained by the Toronto Police

Unplanned stop on the tour: Your blogging correspondent had the privilege of being briefly detained by the Toronto Police for suspicious photographic activity at the security perimeter of the G20 meeting area.

As an engineer and awed by the logistical and construction challenges of such a massive temporary security infrastructure, yours truly was wandering around the city, curiously and innocently documenting the dichotomous landscape, taking pictures of beautiful Toronto landmarks with so much concrete and steel in the foreground.

According to the detaining officer, the "eye in the sky" had spotted suspicious activity and, after being followed for an undetermined amount of time and detained in a hotel lobby restroom, the suspect was searched, questioned, identified, verified, and enjoyed a suspect-officer picture sharing session of all content on the digital camera in question. The suspect's story was then verified with the other members of the traveling party after which it was decided that, yes, tourists tend to take pictures of interesting things. And, as the officer stated that the police were operating under the War Measures Act with due process temporarily suspended, more photographic prudence would be wise.

But to be fair, the officers involved were quite friendly and our dinner was only delayed by about fifteen minutes. And dinner was delicious -- freedom never tasted so good.

The Border: By Bridge and Tunnel

A study trip of border operations could not be complete without experiencing the different ways by which thousands of people cross the border every day. To begin our trip, we all piled into a rental car at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, headed northeast and crossed the Blue Water Bridge from Port Huron, Michigan across the St. Clair River to Sarnia, Ontario.

It was a beautiful day with expansive views from the bridge (which we were not able to take in so well since traffic was at free flow), experienced virtually no wait at the border, and entered Canada without any delay or complication. From an operational standpoint, it was the perfect border crossing experience.

On our return trip several days later, and with our newfound skepticism for the structural and political integrity of the Ambassador Bridge, we chose to cross the border using the two-lane Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. The process was simple and painless: We paid a cash toll before entering the tunnel, were not impeded by any traffic and, when we emerged on U.S. soil, proceeded directly to the booth where we had another timely and simple border crossing.

If every border crossing experience were as simple and painless as this, we would be out of work!

Monday, June 28, 2010


Not to be confused with TransLink, who we visited in Vancouver, Metrolinx is the transportation planning authority for the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area. We met with Julia, a transportation planner at Metrolinx for an overview of the organization and to hear about their work regarding goods movement.

MetroLinx was created in 2006 as a regional level government that reports directly to the Monitsry of Transportation of Ontario. Metrolinx's first order of business was to develop a regional transportation plan. This plan (The Big Move) was completed in 2008, and now Metrolinx focus has shifted to implementation of the plan.

There are Nine Big Moves are the priority actions of Metrolinx and impact the GTHA’s transportation system. While all important, Big Move #8 was of the most interest to us. Big Move #8 relates to goods movement, more specifically to the desire to develop "a comprehensive strategy for goods movement" with a focus on urban and regional freight. Mtrolinx is concerned with both mobility within the city and moving goods through Toronto.

In order to move forward with Big Move #8, a GTHA Urban Freight study was conducted. The study did not include data collection or modeling, but instead created a framwork that helps guide future data collection and moceling efforts. Additionally, a roundtable group of industry representatives, as well as a technical advisroy board were established.

University of Toronto

Our first business of the trip was meeting Prof. Matt Roorda for dinner. We had spent the day exploring the city and acquainting ourselves with its layout, urban form, and mobility options and were all a bit nervous to hunker down to work. Needless to say, we were pleasantly surprised to discover how friendly Prof. Roorda was (Prof. Goodchild already knew this). We were delighted even more when we met him on campus the next day, and we learned how very similar his research group is to our own.

The University has recently built a new transportation lab with attached board room. It was similar to our own new TransLab with computers available for research and a panel of flat screens suitable for video monitoring feeds. They have done a very nice job with their lab and it was a great place to meet.

We spent some time as Prof. Roorda introduced his research, and then listened as Prof. Goodchild presented a lecture on some of her recent work modeling freight flows in Washington. We concluded with each of the students in attendance (us plus 4 or 5 of the UofToronto students) giving an overview of their work. Nearly each of us had a corresponding student at the partner university doing similar work.

Thanks Prof. Roorda!

Toronto, Detroit, and the Great Lakes border crossings

After our trip to Vancouver, we took a few weeks to finish up our end-of-term requirements and then packed our bags for an exciting trip to Toronto, Ontario, Detroit, and the Great Lakes region border crossings.

Here was our agenda:
1) Travel to Detroit, cross the border, and drive to Toronto
2) Explore Toronto, ride transit, get a feel for the city
3) Meet with Matt Roorda and others from the University of Toronto
4) Meet with Julia Salvini at Metrolinx
5) Meet with Bill Anderson and others at the University of Windsor
6) Meet with and tour the CBSA crossing at the Ambassador Bridge
7) Explore the area surrounding the Ambassador Bridge
8) Cross the border
9) Meet with the Detroit Chamber of Commerce

We really enjoyed the contrast between Toronto & Vancouver, Metrolinx and TransLink, and the two border regions. Even though the Cascade Gateway is so important in the northwest, we were stunned to see how much larger the Great Lakes crossings are.

More to come on each of our stops . . . .


In Vancouver, B.C., we had an extremely informative meeting with Keenan Kitasaka, TransLink’s manager in intelligent transportation systems, on transportation planning in the Greater Vancouver Region.

TransLink is the Greater Vancouver Region’s transportation authority. It plans transportation services and infrastructure as well as financing and managing of all public transit. It also plans the future of freight in the region. He started with a presentation explaining how TransLink is organized and how it relates to other agencies. He called our attention to the fact that the board of directors’ members are volunteers and the positive impact of having an unique authority coordinating municipalities’ transportation-related actions. This last point has allowed coordinating infrastructure investment and traffic management projects in the area.

We also were introduced to the transit planning and operations in the region. Transit is a fundamental component in TranLink’s vision for a sustainable future. Billions of dollars have been spent in new infrastructure and equipment as new heavy rail lines (the famous SkyTrain) have been installed, bus fleet have been updated and transit corridors improved. TransLink can also regulate land uses and has the authority to buy land (at market price) when a new transportation project requires it. This ensures the uses and densities exist to create transit-oriented developments. It was interesting to contrast the more top-down approach Vancouver and, in general, Canada has in transportation planning. On the contrary, the US follows a more bottom-up approach where citizens and local agencies have more power.
Finally, we were shown the different road infrastructure projects in the region to keep delay low for trucks. These projects are complemented with new investments in intelligent transportation systems to improve the management of infrastructure and traffic in the area.

We were incredible thankful to Keenan for his enriching and thoughtful presentation and left discussing the similarities and differences between the Greater Vancouver Region and the US.