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California research center leads multi-university effort to solve transportation issues

A California research center has been selected to lead a multi-state effort to study and solve a range of transportation concerns, from issues with mobility to challenges that affect public access, under a new US$12.5m grant awarded by the US Department of Transportation (USDOT).

The METRANS Transportation Center, which is a partnership between the University of Southern California (USC) and California State University Long Beach (CSULB), will lead the Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center that comprises several universities in the region spanning four states, Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada, and the US Pacific Island territories. METRANS is expected to match the grant, bringing the total award for the five-year project to US$25m. The regional center is a partnership that USC and CSULB has with six other research institutions in the southwest: University of California at Davis; University of California at Irvine; UCLA; University of Hawaii at Manoa; Northern Arizona University; and Pima Community College. The USA currently has 10 such regional transportation research centers across the country.

METRANS was established in 1998 as a collaborative research effort involving the USC Price School of Public Policy, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and CSULB. The federal designation and grant will build upon METRANS’s ongoing efforts in interdisciplinary research, education and outreach. The Transportation Center will use the federal grant to head a regional research effort that addresses challenges with transportation technology, and will help advance studies on the mobility of people and goods. METRANS is internationally recognized for its freight research, so using new methods of control and optimization, together with ever larger data resources, the research will develop innovative strategies to increase the efficiency of the entire transportation system.

“Our research priority area is improving mobility of people and goods,” explained Genevieve Giuliano, director of the METRANS Transportation Center and the principal investigator for the grant program. “We will focus on the following issues affecting states in the region: technology to address transportation problems, easing mobility for vulnerable populations, improving resilience while protecting the environment, and managing mobility in high-growth urban areas.

“There’s something close to a revolution going on in transportation due to technological changes. On the one hand, there are new types of services emerging like Uber, Lyft and peer-to-peer car sharing. At the same time, there is continuous movement toward automated vehicles. There is a need not only to move the basic research on automation forward, but also to address many policy issues to achieve automation.

“We identified and developed our research program around the needs of the four-state region. We want to work on how we can increase mobility for these populations. The region is vulnerable to climate change and environmental shifts. Researchers must find ways to strengthen the infrastructure so it is more resilient to extreme conditions and minimizes damage to both people and the economy. This is an integrative research effort. We address passenger and freight across all surface transportation modes.”

December 20, 2016

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