Evaluating El Paso’s Reimbursable Fee to Determine Cost-Benefit for Reducing Border Wait Times
In recent years, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staffing struggled to keep pace with the rapid increase of cargo and passenger crossing traffic at El Paso border crossings. To help supplement these needs, the U.S. Congress provides funds directly to the Department of Homeland Security to establish public-private partnerships (P3s) with the private sector and state and local governments. The goal is to reduce border wait times (BWTs) which, in turn, encourages continued economic growth in Mexico and the United States. Over two years, researchers with the Center for International Intelligent Transportation Research Center (CIITR) research project evaluated one of the first-of-its-kind public-private partnership (P3) between the City of El Paso and CBP. Researchers looked at the Ysleta-Zaragoza, Paso Del Norte (PDN), and Stanton Street crossings to determine the cost-benefit ratio of El Paso’s increasing bridge crossing tolls at specific times and at specific rates to fund the additional CBPOs. CIITR researchers found that the P3 is working as designed, providing economic benefit as corroborated by the city’s recent publications, which identify economic gains resulting from reductions in BWT and commercial shipping costs thanks to the additional staff. The agreement has also yielded closer working relationships between the city and CBP through the use of mutually agreed-upon real-time data sharing, metrics, and objectives. El Paso is using lessons learned with CBP to fine-tune the scheduling of additional CBPOs facilitate cross-border traffic, thereby reducing BWTs. The city has extended its agreement with CBP and is currently sharing lessons learned with other POEs in the United States and Mexico.
For more information contact Alfredo Sanchez at (915) 521-8111 of [email protected].
Addressing Environmental Justice Concerns When Developing Tolling Policies for the Border Region
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA) are constructing toll lanes in El Paso along the César Chávez Border Highway. Under the auspices of environmental justice (EJ), the toll lanes could severely impact residents in this community who live below the poverty level. TTI assessed EJ concerns in the area and offered TxDOT tolling policy options that consider the needs of the lower-income populations, while keeping in mind the need to recover bonded construction costs. TTI used a state-of-the-art simulation-based dynamic traffic assignment modeling to analyze baseline static toll rates, assess variable pricing, and model a scenario using an innovative algorithm that dynamically changes toll rates based on managed lanes’ speed to determine which option maximizes revenue. Regarding EJ issues, TTI used geographic information systems (GIS) and demographic data to identify low-income populations within the border region and mapped these to corresponding traffic analysis zones. Values-of-time were adjusted to determine how often drivers in these areas were diverting to non-tolled facilities. TTI then compared the diversion trends and assessed any potential changes in transportation service within the region. Researchers found that the César Chávez lanes should benefit income classes equitably without substantially impacting bike/pedestrian safety, air pollution, or—with noise abatement measures in place—noise pollution. Regarding modal equity—or travelers choosing a single- versus multi-occupancy vehicle mode of travel—TTI found no benefit/incentive for multi-occupant travelers unless high occupancy is considered for future operations and toll rates.
For more information contact Jeff Shelton at (915) 532-3759 or [email protected].
DTA-Based Congestion Mitigation Strategies for El Paso
In most cases, road construction is designed to alleviate congestion by providing additional lanes of travel. Unfortunately, the road-construction project itself usually increases the congestion problem — at least until the new lanes are available. How the construction project is conducted will determine the severity of the problems. In the El Paso area, one planned capacity-improvement project involves the widening of Interstate 10 between US 54 (Patriot Freeway) and Zaragoza Road. Researchers compared numerous alternative-construction scenarios with different lane-closure configurations and schedules to determine which procedure would have the least negative impacts. Researchers used DynusT, an open-source mezoscopic dynamic traffic assignment (DTA) model, to predict each scenario’s traffic pattern changes and impacts. As a result of the analysis, recommendations were made as to which construction scenario is preferable. Researchers found that the DTA-based tool could also be used for other construction projects to determine which intersections and corridors will be impacted the most. Anticipating problems, traffic-control measures could be improved at those locations during the construction process.
For more information contact Geza Pesti at (979) 317-2829 or [email protected].
Economic Costs of Critical Infrastructure Failure in the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez Region
Cross-border trade with Mexico forms the backbone of economic growth in the United States. The interdependence of U.S. national and global transportation supply chains means that any kind of disruption in one supply chain can have a significant impact on the chains it connects to. The specific objectives of this study were to: develop and calibrate a simulation-based dynamic traffic assignment (DTA) model for the binational region and to assess the effect of a critical infrastructure failure; determine the traffic impact on the border region after the transportation infrastructure closure, specifically, at POEs; and analyze the economic consequences of disruptions to the critical infrastructure using the DTA model developed. In addition to developing the model, TTI derived a method to link the DTA modeling method to a cargo diversion method for analyzing the economic costs of a critical transportation infrastructure failure. The research team developed an assessment of costs based on connections between origin-destination pairs for three major trip types: base case, short term, and long term. While both regions stand to lose economically, it is a given that these costs will ripple not only across the El Paso–Juarez bi-national region, but also to the main trading partner regions across the United States. However, the El Paso region has more to lose financially. To minimize these kinds of losses, effective mitigation planning that takes into account the traffic and business continuity effects of disasters is key. The DTA model route choice effects after a disruption in the network provided insight regarding how traffic can propagate across the entire network and over time. Behavioral effects and queuing effects are a significant component requiring follow-up investigation in the context of binational commodity flow.
For more information contact Jeff Shelton at (915) 532-3759 or [email protected].
El Paso Socio-Economic-Health Data Assessment
Communities are vulnerable. While transportation can benefit local communities—facilitating evacuations during disasters, for example—it can also present hazards. Knowing more about a local population can help engineers, planners, and policymakers minimize potential threats and better serve a community’s needs. The goals of this project included identifying where data about social, economic, and health vulnerability can be obtained, how agencies in El Paso are currently using these data, and making recommendations for improving both processes. CIITR researchers queried local/state agencies and other organizations in El Paso regarding their use of social, economic, and health data. The team then cataloged federal, local/university, and private data resources and identified limitations with currently available data sources. Suggestions for stakeholders to effectively use population data in their planning processes include:
- Train personnel on data sources and availability and ensure resources are available to integrate data into community planning.
- Improve communication with national/state agencies that might already have existing data resources for a given topic.
- Leverage existing expertise by using a third party to access the data needed.
- Establish relationships with Census Data Research Centers to access micro-level data not otherwise easily accessible.
- Identify specific information particularly relevant to stakeholders and use appropriate statistical techniques to achieve more thorough analyses across variables.
- Use social, economic, and health variables to enhance assessment and analysis aspects of planning studies for transportation, health, and emergency.
For more information contact David Bierling at (979) 317-2563 or [email protected].
Estimating Traffic-Related Air Pollution in El Paso
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), El Paso is the only border area in Texas that has violated national air quality standards. Mobile source emissions (including vehicle exhaust) contribute significantly to the problem, along with other sources including industrial, residential, and cross-border. CIITR researchers used multivariate receptor modeling—specifically positive matrix factorization (PMF)—to separate unobserved vehicle emissions from air-pollution mixtures indicated by ambient air quality data. They collected and analyzed two sets of multivariate air pollution data: 1) speciated PM2.5 (particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 microns) mass concentrations (measured every 3 days from 2006 to 2008) and 2) hydrocarbon hourly concentrations (measured in 2008) at El Paso’s Chamizal monitoring station. The team also used wind-direction analysis to estimate the contribution of sources from Mexico. Regression models were applied to relate traffic levels to vehicle emissions (taking the other sources into account). The findings of this project may interest local stakeholders—such as the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Texas Department of Transportation, the City of El Paso, and TCEQ—in understanding source apportionment of pollutants measured in El Paso. It can potentially inform transportation planning strategies aimed at reducing emissions across the region or the development of more efficient traffic-management strategies. Other broader applications of this approach include supporting health impact analyses and risk analyses for border communities.
For more information contact Eun Sug Park at (979) 317-2466 or [email protected].
Risk-Based Toll Revenue Analysis for the Loop 375 Border Highway West Project
Construction will begin next year on a toll road in El Paso designed to provide commuters with an alternative to Interstate 10. At a cost of $800 million, the nine-mile, Loop 375 Border Highway West project should alleviate some of the congestion in the region, provide better connectivity for motorists and provide additional infrastructure to accommodate future growth. But, as with any toll road, how do officials know what to charge to ensure that people will use the facility? CIITR researchers are currently developing an innovative risk-analysis toll-revenue modeling methodology to identify the variables that affect financial performance of toll road projects and provide a more realistic probability-based estimate of future traffic revenues. The researchers have been asked to conduct a test of the methodology using the Border Highway Project as a case study. After examining numerous variables — speed, capacity, toll rates, population and employment density along the corridor, and many others — researchers will assess the suitability of the methodology for investment-grade traffic and revenue studies. Faced with a growing population, tight budgets and little-to-no room to build high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, the El Paso region is considering a flexible carpooling program to alleviate congestion and environmental concerns. This research project included a literature review to analyze the leading flexible carpooling systems around the country, including those that use smart-phone applications that do not require pre-arrangement measures by users. Following a survey, researchers discovered a strong interest among area-college students in the use of a dynamic carpooling system. The project examines how other flexible carpooling systems are operated and financed, and documents their strengths and weaknesses. In order for such a system to be successful at area-college campuses, researchers point out that an aggressive publicity campaign and the use of various communication channels would be crucial.
For more information contact Ipek Sener at (512) 407-1119 or [email protected].
Sharing the Road in El Paso: An Examination of Flexible Carpooling Systems
Faced with a growing population, tight budgets and little-to-no room to build high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, the El Paso region is considering a flexible carpooling program to alleviate congestion and environmental concerns. This research project included a literature review to analyze the leading flexible carpooling systems around the country, including those that use smart-phone applications that do not require pre-arrangement measures by users. Following a survey, researchers discovered a strong interest among area-college students in the use of a dynamic carpooling system. The project examines how other flexible carpooling systems are operated and financed, and documents their strengths and weaknesses. In order for such a system to be successful at area-college campuses, researchers point out that an aggressive publicity campaign and the use of various communication channels would be crucial.
For more information contact Gabriel Valdez at (915) 532-3759 or [email protected].
Teens in the Driver Seat – El Paso
The El Paso region of Teens in the Driver Seat represents one of the strongest concentrations of activity in Texas for the Teens in the Driver Seat® program. Teens in the Driver Seat is the nation’s first peer-to-peer program focusing solely on teen-driver safety. The program is different from other teen-driver safety initiatives in two ways. First, it focuses on the most common dangers for young drivers: driving at night; distractions such as cell phones, texting and other teen passengers; and speeding. Second, the program relies on the teen audience to both develop and deliver safety messages to their peers, minimizing the “adult fingerprints” that characterize other teen-driver safety efforts. During 2013, the Teens in the Driver Seat program was active in 10 area high schools and 8 junior high schools. Teen participants planned and led a wide array of activities that creatively reached thousands of their peers, as well as school administrators and parents. Other examples of the region’s standout status include the awarding of the TDS Cup to six area schools and student awards presented to 10 students for their service in the name of TDS in their local schools. The following teachers received the SponStar award this year: Laura Rizo (Desert View Middle School), Janice Briones (El Dorado 9th Grade Academy), and Sylvia Garcia (Jefferson/ Silva High School).
For more information contact Russell Henk at (210) 321-1205 or [email protected].
Time Savings Benefits Assessment for Secure Border Trade Program
The initial phase of this study, which related to the issue of security, trade efficiency and economic development along the U.S.-Mexico border, was completed by researchers in 2013 as part of the El Paso Secure Border Trade (SBT) project (begun in 2011). In the SBT project, both tractor and trailers from three maquilas were outfitted with GPS devices. In addition to collecting detailed travel-time data between twin plants located in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, the SBT project has other goals, including enhancing relationships between the maquilas, customs, transporters and border security personnel. The CIITR study centers on the analysis of the GPS data generated by the participating SBT trucks that ship goods across the border. In phase one of the CIITR study, researchers determined the availability and quality of the data and conducted a preliminary analysis using the data collected during the first half of the SBT project to present preliminary findings. In phase two of the study, researchers will continue the process of collecting and analyzing the data, refine the metrics and conduct a final assessment and report.
For more information contact Roberto Macias at (972) 994-2202 or [email protected].