Tom Williams likes a challenge. It’s one of the reasons he went into his current field.
“I’ve been studying and working in transportation planning since graduate school, with a focus on travel demand modeling and travel forecasting. These areas are essential to making good transportation decisions. I wanted — and still want — to make forecasts better.”
Based out of Austin and the new head of TTI’s Travel Forecasting Program, Williams is looking forward to working on projects that directly impact the future quality of our transportation system. From data analysis to research techniques to applications of all aspects of travel forecasting — all are in his wheelhouse. And that complexity is where the challenge comes in.
“The questions are getting harder to answer, so it’s an exciting time to be doing travel forecasting,” he says. “Adding to the complexity is the need to communicate effectively about my research findings. Getting the word out in a way others can understand is key to making that information useful.”
Making research findings more accessible to planners, engineers, decision makers and the public is a primary goal for Williams. And spending half his childhood in Guadalajara, Mexico, and attending the American School there no doubt helped him appreciate the value of a well-planned transportation system.
“We could derive the best mathematical solution to a forecasting problem, but it’s only useful if it becomes part of the ‘people-ware,’” Williams observes.
No doubt contributing to his sensitivity toward audiences is his weekly gig as an amateur keyboard player in a local band. If you think about it, he recreates the same process of translating technical material—in this case, music—via artistic expression. “It’s a great feeling when all five guys in the band create and perform a song that moves people,” notes Williams.
If hearing “Tom Williams” and “transportation planning” in the same sentence sounds familiar to you, there’s a good reason for that. This isn’t his first stint with TTI.
“I was in the Transportation Planning Program under George Dresser from 1991 to 1998,” he says. “It’s great to be back!”