Since beginning in 1988, the Southwest Region University Transportation Center (SWUTC) has grown into one of the most highly respected University Transportation Centers (UTC) in that U.S. DOT-sponsored program. Dock Burke, SWUTC director, is quick to identify the institutional sources of the center’s accomplishments.
“There are two main reasons why SWUTC has flourished since October of 1988,” Burke notes. “Our strong and continuous support from TTI [SWUTC is headquartered within the Institute] and the robust collegial relationship with our consortium partners: Texas A&M University; The University of Texas at Austin and its Center for Transportation Research; and Texas Southern University and its Center for Transportation Training and Research.”
Established “to advance U.S. technology and expertise in the many disciplines comprising transportation through the mechanisms of education, research and technology transfer,” SWUTC is one of ten regional UTCs around the country founded with federal grants that must be matched on the state level.
In 1992, the Texas Legislature approved TTI’s request for matching funds from the State of Texas. “That one act did more to stabilize our funding base than anything else,” Burke says. More recently, TxDOT has become an active partner in the research project evaluation and selection process.
Without SWUTC, Burke says, numerous precedent-setting transportation research and education projects conducted at the three universities might never have been conducted. These include multimodal corridor research for Texas; transportation services in colonias neighborhoods; urban neighborhood transit service and research; educational programs for pre-college (K-12) students; seed funding for research and education programs; and supplemental resources for the development of new faculty members.
As for fulfilling the educational goals of SWUTC, Burke points to the various stipends and scholarships awarded students over the years. “The quality of students that we have been able to attract has increased dramatically because of what we can offer them in terms of program content and financial support,” Burke says.
“With the 20-year anniversary of SWUTC upon us, it’s time to reflect and re-emphasize the unique qualities of the UTC program. Our consortium colleagues on the teaching and research faculties provide the core energy for our enterprise. The students’ educational experiences are greatly enhanced by their SWUTC activities.”
Now that TTI is also home to the University Transportation Center for Mobility (UTCM), SWUTC has another strong partner to continue innovative transportation education/research/tech transfer programs for the next 20 years.