a publication of the
Mineta Transportation Institute
College of Business
San Josť State University
San Jose, CA 95192-0219
Created by Congress in 1991
As part of Mineta Transportation Institute's ongoing efforts to promote dialogue addressing surface transportation issues, it is my pleasure to share this edited transcript of the Mineta Transportation Institute's third annual National Garrett Morgan Sustainable Transportation Videoconference Symposium. Conducted on May 2, 2003, the videoconference linked schools in Hampton Roads, VA; Silver Springs, MD; and San Jose, CA, with San Josť State University.
These symposia were conceived to encourage young students across the nation to focus on innovative solutions to surface transportation problems. They also were designed to plant seeds that could germinate in a choice to focus on a college education in math, science, or engineering, which could someday enable students to contribute to sustainable transportation solutions. A sustainable transportation curriculum was created and distributed to each of the teachers participating in the 2003 symposium. The Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Futures Program, established by the Honorable Rodney Slater, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, inspired the theme of the curriculum.
Experts from the transportation field, as well as teachers and their students, provided a unique and interesting perspectives on current issues and emerging solutions in the field of sustainable surface transportation. Each class discussed its region, its unique efforts to encourage the use of public transportation, and thoughts about the future of transportation in the United States.
This year's students were treated to a keynote address by the Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, Transportation Secretary, United States Department of Transportation. I would like to personally thank Secretary Mineta for taking the time to speak to tomorrow's transportation leaders and innovators.
The Mineta Transportation Institute has three primary functions: research, education, and information transfer. It is in this last role that MTI organized and presented this annual symposium. We are certain that this edited transcript, available on our website at http://transweb.sjsu.edu, will contribute to an understanding of the issues and possible solutions, not only for those in our community, but also for anyone interested in sustainable surface transportation.
The third National Garrett Morgan Videoconference Symposium presented by the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) was held on May 2, 2003, with hook-ups between the San Josť State University (SJSU) campus, Hampton Roads, VA, and Washington, D.C. This videoconference was part of the Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Futures Program, which was established by the Honorable Rodney Slater, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Teachers and students addressed the topic of sustainable transportation and proposed innovations for the surface transportation industry. The purpose of the symposium was to stimulate the minds of middle school-aged young people and to encourage them to excel in math and science in school, which could lead to careers in engineering and transportation planning and innovation.
There were three broadcast sites for the videoconference: Jones Middle School site, which was sponsored by Hampton Roads Transit of Virginia and hosted by Michael Townes; Argyle Middle School site, which was sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and hosted by Daniel Duff; and the Meadows Elementary School site, which was sponsored by SJSU and hosted by Rod Diridon.
Symposium participants were treated to a keynote address by the Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, Transportation Secretary, United States Department of Transportation. Secretary Mineta reminded students about the importance of innovation in transportation, and challenged youngsters to become the transportation designers and policy-makers of the future.
After all schools made their presentations, a comprehensive question and answer session followed. The symposium ended with closing remarks from MTI's Rod Diridon and Trixie Johnson, and SJSU's Dr. Dongsung Kong. Students were encouraged to continue seeking creative transportation solutions and to stay in touch with MTI through the website at www.transweb.sjsu.edu.
Following the videoconference, Dr. Kong, Mr. Diridon, and Ms. Johnson selected the winning project: Jones Middle School's solar-powered rail transit. Representatives of the students, faculty, school district, and parents attended the MTI banquet on June 14, 2003 at SJSU. Jones Middle School was presented with a $500 check and the project poster was displayed in the reception area.
Participating schools and speakers of the third National Garrett Morgan Videoconference Symposium were welcomed by Rod Diridon, Executive Director of the Mineta Transportation Institute. Diridon reminded the middle school-aged participants that the purpose of the symposium was not only to introduce young people to the opportunities available in the transportation industry, but to make students aware of the importance of science and math in the curriculum, even in junior high school.
The objective of this symposium is to introduce young people to the subject of transportation as a possible career field... and to prepare yourself by taking the technical classes in high school--that's math and science--so that you can take the courses in college that will allow you to become professionals in the transportation area.
Michael S. Townes, President, Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) in Virginia, with Jones Middle School in Hampton Roads, VA. With Mr. Townes were Sue Edwards, Principal of Jones Middle School; Hampton School Department Central Office representative Rose Martin; and teachers Diane Buchanan and Susan McBirney and their students.
Daniel Duff, Chief Counsel and Vice-President of the American Public Transit Association (APTA), and Joseph Niegoski, Director of Educational Services, APTA, with teacher Kimberly McLurkin-Harris and her class from Argyle Middle School of Silver Springs, MD.
Trixie Johnson, Research Director of the Mineta Transportation Institute, with teacher Randall Landrith and his class from Franklin-McKinley School District's Meadows Elementary School in San Jose, CA.
Transportation is an Everyday Necessity
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta challenged the students to think of the various transportation modes they utilize on a daily basis. Without buses, cars or even bicycles, how difficult would it be for everyone to get around?
"Think about how difficult it would have been for you to get to school or back home or to your favorite shopping mall, if we didnít have safe and reliable forms of transportation," asked the Secretary.
The National Garrett Morgan Videoconference Symposium was created in part to challenge young people to think of ways to maintain and innovate environmentally-friendly transportation systems for the future. Secretary Mineta offered the following transportation statistics:
In the year 2000, traffic congestion caused 3.6 billion hours of delays, and wasted 5.7 billion gallons of gasoline. That wasted gasoline would fill a half-million tanker trucks, and if those trucks were lined up end-to-end, would stretch from California to New York and back again. That wasted gasoline cost every driver an average of $1,000.
The Secretary reminded the students that the problem of being stuck in traffic gridlock would soon be their problem. "Many of you will be getting your learner's permits within the next several years. I am sure that the last thing you want is to be stuck in traffic on your way to a party or a ballgame," said Secretary Mineta.
There are many different facets in the transportation industry. A person could work designing airplanes or bridges, or they could have a job driving buses or piloting airplanes, or they could even find themselves the secretary of transportation someday! People who have graduated from college and are now working in the transportation industry usually have jobs with an entry-level salary of over $40,000 a year. Some transportation policy makers and engineers can earn over six figures a year. Secretary Mineta encouraged the participants to check out the Garrett Morgan website, which is located at www.education.dot.gov.
When you finally get to drive, please be sure to always buckle up and drive safely. Your family and your friends love you too much... I just saw the other day that the largest cause of death for young men between the ages of 18 and 34 is traffic accidents. We want you to be able to learn how to drive and to learn how to drive safely.
Rod Diridon offered his thanks to Secretary Mineta, and the Secretary returned the thanks by acknowledging the work that Diridon and the Mineta Transportation Institute have done in preparing tomorrow's transportation professionals via the Masters in Transportation Management and Certificate in Transportation Management programs at San Josť State University.
Johnson felt that she had the best job of the session-that of introducing the schools and their projects to each other. Each project was given seven minutes to make its presentation. First up was Jones Middle School in Virginia.
Diane Buchanan and Susan McBirney's students proposed several solar- powered transportation alternatives, including solar cell-powered ultra-light rail trains, solar buses, and a ferry, for use in their community of Hampton Roads, VA. Solar cells work by absorbing the sun's rays to heat electrons that are located on semiconductors. The semiconductors in turn run faster and create electricity, which is then wired as either a DC or AC current. The solar electricity can also be stored in batteries, and that stored electricity can be used to power the train, bus or boat. If there's no sun, all of the vehicles could be run via a back-up ethanol generator.
Solar electric rail is based upon existing solar racing car technology. One municipality currently considering the possibility of adding light rail to its transportation system is Santa Cruz County in California, and there is much public support for ultra-light rail.
Buses would be used to pick people up in their neighborhoods and take them to the ultra-light rail trains or other destinations. There will be numerous bus stops near homes within reasonable walking distances and the buses will make stops at museums, theaters and malls. The naval and other military bases would also have numerous stops. The Newport News Shipyard would have its own route.
It is also hoped that by having many different types of bus destinations, tourism would increase in Hampton Roads. Specific tourist destinations include Norfolk, Langley Air Force Base, and Virginia Beach.
The young planners also stated they would employ ultra-light ferry boats to shuttle passengers from the peninsula to Norfolk and the eastern shore. They also prepared a model of a solar powered ultra-light train, showing its versatility and accessibility for handicapped transit riders.
At the conclusion of the presentation, Michael Townes joked that he was ready to go forward with the students' project and was waiting for Secretary Mineta to send funding. Secretary Mineta in turn joked that funding was on its way.
Pritha talked about the need to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide gas in the environment. Today's internal combustion engines have caused much damage to the earth already, specifically the ozone layer.
There is ongoing research about the harm that carbon dioxide is having on the environment. There are many different organizations doing the research, including the Albany Research Center (ARC), Arizona State University, Science Application International Corporation, and the Department of Energy National Technology Laboratory.
Research in Mauna Loa, Hawaii reveals that between 1955 and now, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased. Also, between the years of 1880 and 2000, the annual mean global temperature has been abnormal, showing increases at least since the beginning of the 20th century.
The ARC has been investigating mineral carbonation as a process to convert carbon dioxide into a geologically-stable solid form. The Argyle Middle School group proposed developing a carbonation system that would reduce carbon monoxide released into the environment.
Another option is hydroelectric power for use in a fuel cell. Megan presented the group's idea on how a hydroelectric-powered car could run, and David offered suggestions on how a hydroelectric car could help ease the need for fossil fuels.
The fuel cell relies on chemistry and not combustion to produce power. It is power that makes the vehicle run, not gasoline as most people believe. In these fuel cells, oxygen passes over an electrode and hydrogen, and then passes over the next electrode and hydrogen, generating electricity, water, and heat. This makes the vehicle mobile.
David pointed out that hydrogen is being heavily researched as a source of fuel. For example, in Iceland, researchers are working toward becoming a hydrogen energy society in 30 to 40 years. Right now there are plans to equip their city buses with fuel cells. By the year 2040, Iceland expects to be fossil-fuel-free.
First, Myra and Maya thought that every bus should have more seats and seat belts. They observed that on Saturdays, the buses are full and that all of the people deserve a place to sit. The girls believe that everyone on the bus should use a seat belt, not just the driver. They stated their belief that the reason buses did not have passenger seat belts was to save the bus company money.
Myra and Maya stated that there were 196 bus accidents in Sweden and that 225 people have died because of bus accidents. The girls also think that it would be a good idea to have an adult sit at the back of every school bus, or have a camera there so the driver can see what is happening. The bus driver should be responsible for checking the bus' tires and gas.
After Myra and Maya's presentation, Ms. Johnson told the students that over 40,000 people die each year in car accidents, and that some of the Argyle Middle School students' ideas might help to save lives.
Meadows Elementary School students Monica, Donna, Liz and William created an idea for a car of the future, built to meet the needs of today. The WHISPER would be a high-tech, high-luxury, and high-safety car, complete with tempered glass to prevent break-ins, luxurious leather seating, front doors that open up not out, and sliding doors in the back seats. The design of the doors would prevent dents and scratches. Options would include a card lock entry system rather than a traditional key, and a global positioning system (GPS).
What would make the WHISPER totally revolutionary is its use of sustainable energies: wind, human, solar, and electricity. Wind turbines would propel the car and recharge the battery. There are also solar panels that would run the car and create electricity for the battery. Finally, if all other energy sources fail, there would be pedals in the front seat for the driver and passenger to use to move the car.
The earth would be healthier, the ocean would be cleaner, and the air would truly smell better. The occurrence of illnesses like asthma would decrease. The passengers would get good exercise by using the pedals, lowering the obesity rates. This car would truly impact the world's economy.
A second team of Meadows Middle School students made their pitch for ultra-light rail in San Jose. The students outlined their design plan for the cars. Each car will be teardrop shaped for maximum aerodynamic efficiency, and materials used would be Kevlar and carbonfibers. The trains would be powered by a centrally-located, 2kw solar-powered battery. The cars would of course weigh less and require less power to propel the train.
Ultra-light rail would help the environment because it is not noisy, is non-polluting, and is sustainable. Because of the renewable energy sources, there is no need for purchasing additional electricity.
Light rail cars hold up to 250 passengers, including standees, and they can add more cars to suit the crowd. Light rail is practical for urban environments because of its abilities to operate in different traffic settings. When not in the above traffic conditions, it can travel up to 60 miles per hour. Light rail is ADA compliant. A ramp that folds down will allow disabled people to board.
Because it is time consuming to make multiple stops, the students propose utilizing buses to make frequent neighborhood stops. Those buses will be solar electric buses and have various sizes to meet the different demands on the transit system throughout the day.
Hydrogen fuel is sent into anodes, which is a negative gas distributor of the fuel cell. Oxygen exits the fuel cells through the cathode, the positive gas distributor. Encouraged by a catalyst, the hydrogen atoms split into a proton energy selection, which takes different paths, to the cathode. The proton passes through the electrode light. The electrodes create a separate current that can be utilized before they return to the cathode, to be reunited with the hydrogen and the oxygen in a molecule of water.
The bus system will be accessible to people with physical handicaps. There will be a lift at the back of the bus, and for sight-impaired people, a bell will announce when the bus is about to stop. For deaf people, a light will let them know the bus is about to make a stop.
After all of the presentations were done, Ms. Johnson congratulated all for their hard work and innovation, and said each and every group was a winner. She promised to have the contest judged within a week so the winners could be announced and make plans to attend MTI's 12th Annual Scholarship Banquet on June 14.
We all like the notion of solar power, and it is efficient; it doesn't pollute; it is the wave of the future. I think the problem right now is the technology and the cost of the technology. As with all new technologies, there are a lot of developmental costs involved. I think if you looked at a curve, the more research and money you spent on this new technology, it becomes cheaper and cheaper to produce the engines that can power cars all around the world. So I think in a short time, we may have access to that world technology.
The reason why I think that they started using those fuels first, was because that was the first thing that they found. Back then they didn't really have the technology to find a better source that they could use, so it was easier to use the gasoline and petroleum, and they didn't how to use the solar power, so that's probably why they used that.
That's a very interesting question. Does anyone have an answer to that question in any of the locations? Maybe I'll give it a try, then. The answer to that is that solar-powered cars aren't going to reduce congestion. We still will have the congestion but we won't have the pollution, because solar-powered cars use electricity that's generated directly from the sun, so they don't have to burn anything that would create pollution. So solar-powered cars don't reduce congestion, but they certainly do reduce pollution, which is one of the problems in transportation today. We have a question here. Yes, ma'am?
How to get those people to travel? Okay, the question here from Meadows School in San Jose is, "How do you take care of transportation for people who are deaf or blind?" Do we have an answer to that question?
The solution to that is when a person's deaf, there will be a light that says this stop is their stop, so they'll know, and if they're blind, a bell will ring telling them and a voice will come on, telling them this is their stop.
That would work with mass transportation like light rail that you presented, wouldn't it? Very good. In terms of operating in an automobile though, it's not possible with any technology we know of to allow a deaf or blind person to operate an automobile safely.
First of all, we're supposed to be doing something on mass transit. If you have simple cars that each person can drive around, it's not mass transit; so that would still bring out the congestion. So the light rail that we had done, it would be great to reduce congestion, because it is only one train that goes around the town. There will be other trains also, but there will be no congestion with that, because they will not be able to run into each other on their different tracks.
The point is that although you can design an automobile to reduce air pollution, if you have individual automobiles, you're still going to have traffic congestion. So if you try to develop something that relates to mass transportation, where more people use vehicles that either take up less space on the road or on rails, then you do reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. So mass transportation is an important opportunity for us all in the future. We have a lot of questions now from Virginia; let's go to the lady in the black outfit with her hand up.
As I said, the long-term expenses will make your costs low, because gas will not be needed, which will save you money; plus maintenance will not be needed also, because the car can take care of itself; and the security also, like with the tempered glass, the thieves won't break anything and nothing will be stolen.
The question is, "Is the Department of Transportation looking for better material for pavement, because pavement tends to wear out with weather and it creates potholes?" Do any of the students at any of the centers have an answer to that? Maybe I can help a little bit there, because I'm also on the Transportation Resource Board.
Let me try to give you an answer to that. The answer is yes, the Department of Transportation spends millions of dollars every year researching pavement to try to figure out a way to make it more durable, less polluting--because indeed pavement does have petroleum in it, and water runoff does create a little bit of pollution--and to make it more resilient, so that it's easier to drive on. One of the ways they're using now to do that is to use ground-up rubber, from worn-out rubber tires, in the pavement, to have the pavement stick together better and to be more resilient and to last longer. [It] costs a little bit more, but by grinding up rubber from rubber tires and using what's called crumb rubber, putting that underneath the pavement and putting the pavement down on the road, they are able to last longer and it is more resilient and easier to drive on for your tires. It's a good question.
The question from Washington is, "When will solar-powered buses come into the cities and be used?" Anyone have an answer to that question around the nation? Any estimates? We had a project proposing solar-powered buses--when do you think your project might be out on the street?
To answer the question, we already have buses, so I was thinking that we could add on to the buses, to take the buses that aren't as efficient, and add on the other motors that are less polluting, the other equipment like the solar-powered panels and the hydroelectric-powered fuel cells.
I've got a question for Virginia. You said that you're going to make a bus equipped with solar power, and I'm questioning that. If the solar bus can hold a large quantity of people, how can the bus move faster and will that make more congestion?
Yes, there will be enough power. The sun will always be there for it to be able to use except on cloudy days. When it's not there, our back-up power is the hydroelectric fuel cells, which provide a lot of movement.
I have a question for the Argyle Middle School in Maryland. If carbon dioxide is poisonous, is harmful to the air, how come plants breathe carbon dioxide and it's a proven fact that carbon dioxide makes plants healthier, the more carbon dioxide in the room?
That's a very interesting question, Plants do indeed thrive on carbon dioxide. Human beings and mammals exhale carbon dioxide, as do petroleum fuel-powered vehicles. So how is this? Does anyone have an answer to that from any of the classes?
The emissions from the cars are too much for the plants to take in all at once; therefore, the oxygen is not being changed over and most of the carbon dioxide is being admitted into the atmosphere and ruining it.
Actually, Argyle Middle School is accurate in that automobiles and petroleum combustion emit both carbon monoxide, which is a deadly poison, as well as carbon dioxide, which plants consume. Her point is very good, in that plants in the world are disappearing. We're cutting down the rain forests in Brazil and the other countries, we've cut down most of the forest in the United States, and as a consequence, there aren't enough plants left to consume all the carbon dioxide that we're emitting now. We have more carbon dioxide than the plants can consume, so the cycle that has been in existence from the beginning of time--where mammals exude carbon dioxide and plants consume the carbon dioxide, and the plants then create oxygen--that cycle is interrupted because we're creating more and more mammals, and more and more petroleum engines, and we're cutting down the rain forest, so there are fewer and fewer plants. We're becoming out of balance, so we have to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that we're creating in order to get back into balance.
Let's go now to a question from someone who hasn't had a chance to ask a question. There's a young lady in Virginia, way in the back on the right hand side, with the red outfit on. Please come forward.
That's a good point. Do we have any answers now from the students around the country? How do we provide mobility for people that can't afford a car? There are a lot of people in the United States who can't afford a car. We have an answer from San Jose.
That's a very good point. The gentleman from the middle school in California noted that bikes are inexpensive and most people can afford bicycles. Remember that as much as we kind of laugh about that in the United States, throughout the world, many people have only a bicycle. In China, and in other of the emerging countries that are not industrialized as heavily, a significant portion of the population only rides bicycles. Of course, that's nonpolluting, because you don't use any energy except your muscles. So that's a good answer, but in the United where many people use automobiles and some people, many people, can't afford them, what alternative do we have to using an automobile? Is there another alternative? Would someone like to try to answer that question?
[This student] says that the alternative for those people who can't afford a car is to use some kind of mass transportation, like a bus or a train. Of course, that assumes that your community has built a mass transportation system for those people who don't have access to automobiles. That's a good answer, very good answer. We have time for only one more question. Let's see if we can go to someone who has not yet asked a question. Anyone in Washington?
The oil industry and the gas companies produce and sell mostly gas and diesel, so if the industry is very powerful, how can we get them to support the production and sell the hydrogen fuel for use in the future cars?
That is a very good question you're asking, good job. You're asking the question that many of us ask every day, and that is, "Since the petroleum industry, the gasoline industry, and the automobile industry are so powerful, in terms of lobbying and advertising, how do we get them to be interested in and willing to provide less polluting kinds of cars, and provide nonpolluting fuels like hydrogen, and work with solar technology?" Does anyone have an answer to that question?
That sure is a good reason for doing it, but how do we persuade the oil companies that make money off of selling petroleum to go to that technology and to support that technology with hydrogen fueling stations and so on? We have only a few minutes left, so let's see if we can go to the young man in the back in the blue shirt. He hasn't had a chance to say something yet, so let's have him come forward and introduce himself. What's your answer to that?
As of now, several petroleum and car companies are researching hydrogen fuel cells for use, because they are more economical for the general public, and the public would more likely consume these types of products; and they're running out of oil in general.
That's a very hopeful and logical response. I hope that the oil companies agree with that. Can we go to Daniel Duff? Because he works with this subject continuously, he may have a more insightful, politically involved answer. Dan, do you care to share a thought?
Thank you, Rod; I think those were good answers. As with anything, I think one of the key issues is cost. Right now, some of this new technology is more costly. But the young man had it right, if the automobile manufacturers are beginning to look at these new types of engines, they're doing that because they can be more efficient and more effective.
Maybe the government could provide some incentive by way of national legislation that would encourage the automobile manufacturers to move there a little quicker, but I think they're beginning to move there and think it's just a question of time before we get there.
Rod Diridon offered his thanks to all of the students for their presentations, and promised that the presentations would be judged and the winner announced within the week. The winning presenter will earn $500 for their school, and a team member will be invited to attend the Mineta Transportation Institute's 12th Annual Scholarship Banquet on June 14, 2003.
He then sent his thanks to Daniel Duff from the American Public Transit Association for his work with Argyle Middle School, and Michael Townes from Hampton Roads Transit in Virginia and his work with Jones Middle School. Thanks were also offered to San Josť State University for their assistance with Meadows Elementary School.
Trixie Johnson stated that much of the material and ideas presented are potentially great college projects, and that much of the students' research was very encouraging. She offered the suggestion that the students consider taking the classes they need so they can attend college and pursue careers in the transportation industry.
She observed that the high school students who participate in MTI's Summer Transportation Institute learned that people who work in the transportation industry enjoy their work, and hoped that because of symposium participation, this year's participants will think of transportation as a good place to work someday.
Dr. Dongsung Kong, organizer of the Garrett Morgan Videoconference and Political Science professor at San Josť State University, echoed Rod and Trixie's sentiments and remarked that he was "happy and proud to envision that America's transportation will be more sustainable."
Abbreviations, Acronyms and Terms
A program established by former Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater in honor of Garrett Morgan, an African-American inventor and transportation innovator. The program is designed to: 1) Build a bridge between America's youth and the transportation community; 2) To support the development of improved educational technology that provides better ways for people to acquire new skills; and 3) To ensure that America's transportation workforce for the 21st century is technologically literate and internationally competitive.