Transportation center celebrates 20 years

The center was originally part of the Institute of Technology.

by Anna Ewart

The University’s Center for Transportation Studies celebrated its 20th anniversary Tuesday.

About 60 transportation buffs gathered to see researchers from multiple disciplines address what they have already accomplished through CTS and what they hope to accomplish in the next 20 years.

The center was originally part of the Institute of Technology, but in 1987 CTS began teaching and researching transportation systems.

Robert Johns, director of CTS, said many of the people at the event played a key role in the history of CTS.

“We’re celebrating our success due to researchers and support from various sponsors,” Johns said.

The center receives more than $22 million annually for research, education and other programs.

At the meeting, researchers discussed the center’s past and present engineering and technology research.

Max Donath, director of the Intelligent Transportation Systems institute, which is part of CTS and receives federal funding, said he is working with sensory technology that could create communication between roads and vehicles.

Donath said the center is trying to approach transportation safety in a different way.

“We have to get inside the heads of the drivers,” he said.

The center has also studied land use and development in the Twin Cities.

The Transportation and Regional Growth Study was one of the first major interdisciplinary studies done by CTS.

Civil engineering professor Catherine French said CTS has had great success forming partnerships between disciplines and with other organizations.

Another group of CTS researchers discussed transportation policy and planning.

The researchers said new transportation technology often goes unused.

Genevieve Giuliano, senior associate dean of research and technology at the University of Southern California, said researchers have solutions to transportation and infrastructure problems, but can’t implement them.

“The policy environment is increasingly less amiable to solutions that require trade-offs and difficult choices,” she said.

Giuliano said University organizations, like CTS, could address these policy issues by communicating transportation issues to the average person.

Mihai Marasteanu, associate professor of civil engineering at the University, said CTS researchers educate students who will go on to work in transportation.

“When we perform research at the University, we are also educating students,” Marasteanu said. “I think it’s a win-win situation.”