Former United States Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said it best, “Congestion kills time, wastes fuel, and costs money…We need a new approach and we need it now.” The Secretary notes that this country loses $200 billion per year just to freight bottlenecks and delayed deliveries. Secretary Mineta added further that Americans lose 3.7 billion hours and 2.3 billion gallons of fuel per year due to traffic jams.
A new center dedicated to addressing mobility issues was recently established at the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI). The University Transportation Center for Mobility (UTCM), paired with the broad capabilities of TTI, presents a unique opportunity to make a positive difference in mobility for Texas, the region and the country.
In combination with the long-standing Southwest University Transportation Center (SWUTC), which was recently renewed with additional funding following a national competition, the University Transportation Centers (UTC) Programs at TTI will strengthen interdisciplinary collaboration in transportation education and research across the A&M System. They will also provide opportunities to partner with other UTCs in this region of the nation. UTCM’s programs will strengthen TTI’s existing academic relationships, as the new center’s research and education programs will be conducted in partnership with such diverse colleges and programs as architecture, engineering, agriculture and the Bush School, among others.
The mission of the center focuses on the following four key research areas.
- Coast-to-coast, border-to-border mobility – This research focus area addresses all transport modes and the linkages between them from a regional and national viewpoint. “Because we are a center without regional boundaries, we have a chance to address the coast-to-coast, border-to-border mobility issue in a way that no other transportation center can,” says Melissa Tooley, UTCM director. “I believe that we have a tremendous opportunity to make a difference in national mobility in this research area.”
- Rural public transportation – Potential research topics address enhancing routing methods and advancing the use of technology by rural transit systems, and improving safety. The Colonias, a series of economically disadvantaged small communities along the Texas/Mexico Rio Grande border, have unique transit needs that will also be considered.
- Congestion management and mitigation – UTCM support will facilitate an expansion of TTI’s current efforts in congestion management and mitigation, provide support for expanding the estimates of benefits from mobility improvement programs and set the stage for a major, long-term research initiative in this area.
- Innovative financing – UTCM will coordinate with TTI’s Center for Tolling and other relevant groups to explore financing strategies for different transportation modes. UTCM will also work with industry partners, such as the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), which is already active in this area. Research conducted by TTI on managed lanes has helped advance this approach in Texas and throughout the country. This expertise will be invaluable in the public education efforts necessary for successful implementation of public-private partnerships in Texas and nationwide.
The center was established using designated funds from the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), enacted on August 10, 2005. SAFETEA-LU authorized the United States Department of Transportation to establish and operate up to 60 UTCs throughout the United States.
“The center has a great opportunity to make a lasting impact with research on some of the major challenges that currently exist in transportation,” says Herb Richardson, director emeritus of TTI.