MNTRC Newsletter Vol 19, Issue 1: Summer 2012

San Jose State University News

Research underway for 29 new transit-focused projects

Bike sharing is one of 29 topics MNTRC researchers are investigating this year.
by Karen Philbrick, PhD
Director, Research

MNTRC has approved 29 new research projects for funding under its newly-won two-year contract. This is a tremendous amount of work that our researchers will produce to help address transit issues for Americans.

This list is a small sample of the topics that MNTRC will be researching. Please note that the full list and more detailed project descriptions are available at MNTRC Research in Progress and TRB Research in Progress. The lengthier descriptions include the project abstract, a description of tasks, technology transfer, and the project timeframe.

All nine partner universities in the Consortium will participate in the research, each one applying its particular expertise to a given project. We are very enthusiastic about this new collaboration, and we expect it will add significantly to our country’s knowledge base.

MSTM student Sarah Swensson wins Eno Foundation fellowship

Sarah Swensson

Sarah Swensson, MSTM
MTI graduate and Eno Foundation Transportation Fellowship winner

by Peter Haas, PhD
Director, MTI education PROGRAMS

Master of Science in Transportation Management (MSTM) student Sarah Swensson, an employee at the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), was recently awarded an Eno Foundation Transportation fellowship. These fellowships are highly competitive, so we are justifiably proud that this is the second time in three years that an MSTM student has been nominated. When she was a broadcast journalism student at Chapman University, Sarah was chosen as a news desk intern at the NBC London News Bureau. She was shocked by the London Tube bombings and equally impressed by the transit system’s ability to bounce back.

But it wasn’t until her internship in the media relations department at OCTA in 2006 that she found her passion for transportation. Since then, she has been promoted to senior community relations specialist. She said that, “Pursuing my graduate degree at the San Jose State University’s Mineta Transportation Institute is equipping me with the necessary tools to further advance my career and expose me to the core of transportation planning, policy making, funding, management and implementation.” While she values her classroom education, Sarah says that nothing compares with meeting transportation leaders in person and hearing their stories of the front lines.

MTI leads passenger rail security panel for annual TRB meeting

by Donna Maurillo, mstm
director, communications & Technology transfer

The Mineta Transportation Institute was pleased to be invited to organize an expert panel on passenger rail security for the Transportation Research Board ’s annual meeting earlier this year. The half-day session, Rail Security: Critical Insights and Applications, covered a critical topic, given the revelations that Osama bin Laden and al Qaida may have been planning rail attacks in the United States. While these plans were not well developed, it did underscore that terrorists do plan to expand their attacks beyond Europe and Asia.

The keynote was given by Nuria Fernandez, COO of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, who discussed the agency’s requirement to safely transport 8 million people each day. Other leading transportation security experts offered their insights, including Brian Michael Jenkins, Director, MTI’s National Transportation Security Center of Excellence; Robert Pryor, Director, Intermodal Division, Transportation Security Administration, US Department of Homeland Security; Tom Farmer, CEO, Association of American Railroads; and Christopher Budd, Consultant, National Infrastructure Security, United Kingdom.

The panelists noted that security procedures similar to those for air travel have not been applied to surface transportation primarily due to operational and economic differences, such as higher visibility in an open network. However, they are no less important. This has been made clear, they said, by recent terrorist attacks on surface transit systems around the world, such as in Madrid, London and Mumbai, and discovery of several terrorist plots in the US and elsewhere. Findings in Osama bin Laden’s compound demonstrated that he had rudimentary plans to attack rail infrastructure.

National Transportation Workforce Summit broke new ground

by Donna Maurillo, mstm
director, communications & Technology transfer

Late in April, Consortium partners MTI and Penn State were among the sponsors for the first National Transportation Workforce Summit in Washington DC. Organized by members of the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC), the three-day summit’s purpose was to engage a variety of perspectives in developing a policy framework for educating and training future transportation workers.

US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood delivered the keynote. In his remarks, he pointed out that the last generation gave us the interstate highway system. Yet we have nothing to give the next generation. “High-speed rail should be it,” he said, noting that we must prepare for that with proper training and mentoring because the technologies are so new.

Three Assistant Secretaries also were featured, including Polly Trottenberg, Brenda Dann-Messier, and Jane Oates. And an expert panel of CEOs opened the discussions, including five MNTRC board representatives – Pamela Boswell of APTA (standing in for Michael Melaniphy), Julie Cunningham of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials, Ed Hamberger of the Association of American Railroads, John Horsley of AASHTO, and Ed Wytkind of the AFL-CIO.