Perhaps the single greatest challenge to transportation today is funding — funding to build, funding to operate, funding to maintain. Budgets are shrinking, but the driving population isn’t. One way to address these competing challenges is through innovation.
Research and economic projections tell us that our future transportation needs far exceed our current funding levels. Conventional wisdom is that we must tighten our belts while simultaneously accommodating more system users. In short, we must “do more with less.” This famous phrase — synonymous today with the idea of increasing production despite restricted resources — actually comes from The Way to Wealth by Benjamin Franklin. In his essay, the Founding Father proposes that if we focus our energies more directly on the task at hand rather than waste time, greater results will surely follow from increased efficiencies.
The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) has more than 60 years of experience in improving transportation operations through research. As Franklin suggested, finding a better way usually means creating a more efficient system. This issue of the Texas Transportation Researcher focuses on how TTI is meeting Franklin’s challenge by innovating operations research.
TTI is now home to two new transportation research centers: the Center for Strategic Transportation Solutions, created by the 81st Texas Legislature, and the Transportation Economics Center, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Both centers will help map a steady course to a future transportation system that best meets our country’s needs. Modeling traffic operations is key to understanding how future changes can affect tomorrow’s system, and TTI researchers are integrating methods to optimize modeling results.
Protecting those who build that system is a top priority, so the Institute is working with Texas and other states to improve work zone safety for both personnel and drivers. Our Teens in the Driver Seat Program, which focuses on improving teen driver safety, has grown beyond the Lone Star State and is now saving young lives nationwide.
The Institute is also learning to leverage existing technology, like Bluetooth® devices, to improve highway operations. We’re capturing lessons learned in databases to make future maintenance easier and less time consuming. And last, but certainly not least, TTI is helping the Texas Department of Transportation assess funding options to pay for our future transportation system.
Franklin said, “Let us then up and be doing, and doing to the purpose; so by diligence shall we do more with less perplexity.” More with less, yes. But at TTI, we’re also doing more with more. More safety…more efficiency…more innovation. These are TTI‘s guiding principles in conducting research in the field of transportation operations.