MNTRC Newsletter Vol 19, Issue 3: Winter 2012

San Jose State University News

MTI researchers publish transportation security textbook, and other research news

Karen Philbrick, PhD, Director of Research
New textbook on Transportation Security – available at
New textbook by MTI security experts.

Dr. Frances Edwards, MTI’s Deputy Director of the National Transportation Security Center, and MTI Research Associate Dan Goodrich recently published the textbook Introduction to Transportation Security.

Their approach emphasizes the important connection and integration between “security” and “emergency management” and pays close attention to theory, practice, and application. This book stresses the importance of reducing the risk of disaster from the beginning concept and design through operation and maintenance of the nation’s transportation systems.

TRB annual meeting to feature MNTRC research

Twelve MTI/MNTRC research papers were selected for presentation at the 2013 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting. Among them:

MNTRC presence strong at other conferences

The MNTRC travel grant program enables many researchers to present work at a variety of professional conferences during the year. Though most of the currently funded research is still in progress, many of the project teams have preliminary results that have reached larger audiences.

For example, Dr. Robert Noland and his team presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning where they discussed The Impact of Transit-Oriented Development on Social Capital, Physical Activity, and Environmental Conditions (MNTRC Project 1145). Dr. Susan Shaheen and her team will present the findings of their study on Public Bikesharing in North America: Understanding Impacts, Business Models, and Equity Effects of Bikesharing Systems During Rapid Industry Expansion (MNTRC Project 1131) at the International Bike Share in the Spring of 2013.

Additional research results either have been or will be presented at the American Public Transportation Rail Conference; the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA); and the Rail-Volution 2012 Conference.

Students from 13 high schools attend Summer Transportation Institute

Peter Haas, PhD, Director, MTI Education Programs
Students out in the field
High school students gain field experience with transportation management issues.

MTI’s 2012 Summer Transportation Institute (STI) brought together a diverse group of students from 13 high schools in and around San Jose, Calif. Led by STI Program Director Rosaleen “Roz” Zisch, this year’s curriculum went “green,” eliminating or reducing paper. This meant the students final projects were given as PowerPoint presentations.

Academic standards upheld despite budget cuts

Despite necessary budget reductions, the Institute maintained its usual academic standards and hosted six professional guest speakers representing several types of transportation. The class also walked to San Jose’s Diridon Metro Station for a firsthand discussion of its future from the facility’s namesake, Rod Diridon, who is also executive director of the Mineta National Transit Research Consortium.

Students tour BART station under construction

BART tunnel under construction
Students could walk this transit tunnel under construction.

The class received free Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) passes that allowed the students to travel by light rail and bus to Lake Elizabeth in Fremont. There, several Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) engineers treated the group to a VIP tour. This included an underground walk along the tunnel that is key to constructing the new Warm Springs Station. The subway is about 1.25 miles long, or about 20% of the extension into Santa Clara County. Wearing special helmets and vests for safety, the students traveled down a narrow stairway to enjoy a unique view of the complex construction necessary for this project.

Garrett Morgan Competition underway

Donna Maurillo, MSTM, Director, Communications & Technology Transfer
Teachers and students with their presentation
The competition team from Monument Middle School in Rio Dell CA with teacher Sheryl Steiner (standing center).

Will tomorrow’s transportation use the power of wind or sun? Can algae produce a viable alternative to gasoline? Could a flying bus make commuting easier? And how can transit services be delivered more profitably?

Those are some of the questions addressed during the annual Garrett Morgan Sustainable Transportation Competition. MTI works in concert with California’s DOT (Caltrans) to plan and organize this curriculum that challenges middle-school students to think creatively about solving transportation problems. Each student receives a free workbook from MTI, which provides the entire curriculum, including quizzes and thought-provoking questions. Then the student teams create a project that they demonstrate during a live streaming video broadcast.

Students are excited to be introduced to transportation leaders during the broadcast, including Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, retired Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty, AASHTO CEO John Horsley, APTA CEO Michael Melaniphy, MTI executive director Rod Diridon, and others.

Norman Y. Mineta with students at Garrett Morgan competition.
Garrett Morgan award winners with Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and MTI Board Chair Steve Heminger.

Innovation, teamwork and presentation count

Each team is judged not only on its project, but also on its presentation skills, professional demeanor, teamwork, and other essential factors. The winning school receives a $500 cash award. Second- and third-place teams receive $300 and $200, respectively. All three receive a plaque, and participants from all teams receive certificates personally signed by the Secretaries.

A few recent winners have included a team demonstrating a solar car that recharges at night with stored energy from a solar-powered garage. Another winning team presented a plan for a more efficient and profitable urban bus system, and another created a video public service announcement that boosted the attractiveness of riding transit.

Transcripts from previous competitions available online

Teams already are working on their projects, with the broadcast set for early April 2013. Transcripts and streaming videos from previous Garrett Morgan competitions are available at no cost.

MOCs help build international cooperation

The Mineta Transportation Institute is playing a role in helping to create more cooperation among nations. Earlier this year, MTI hosted Dr. Wenjeng Jia, who came to San Jose State University to learn more about US transit systems. His home base is in Beijing at the China Academy of Transportation Studies (CATS).

MTI organized tours for him at several Silicon Valley transit agencies, such as Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Caltrain, the Bay Bridge Authority, and Valley Transportation Authority. He also traveled to Washington DC to meet with officials at the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the US Department of Transportation, and other entities.

Spain, Italy, Sweden, Japan take part

MTI will other visitors, as well. Current Memoranda of Cooperation (MOC) are with Spain’s University of Cordoba and Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Others are in negotiation, including with Italy’s University of Pisa and Japanese Railway East’s research laboratory.

“Spain is not a wealthy country,” said Rod Diridon, executive director for MTI and MNTRC, “but the government has shown how to build and operate one of the best high-speed rail systems in the world. And it makes money! We hope to learn from them.”

Sustainable transportation lags in US

MTI is especially enthusiastic about MOCs because so many other countries are ahead of the US in terms of integrating sustainable transportation.

Diridon said, “The US may have the best highways and freight rail, but the country must catch up with the world’s most sustainable passenger programs. They can show America how to modernize transportation systems and make them more efficient, especially in upgrading to electrical power to address climate change. The US can no longer think it is the best in everything. In some areas, it must learn from the others.”