MNTRC Newsletter Vol 20, Issue 2: Fall 2013

San Jose State University News

MTI awards 15 new research grants

Karen Philbrick, PhD, Director of Research
Bicycles parked at bus stop.

One funded study will focus on cyclers’ access to transit.

In response to the 2013 Request for Proposals (RFP), MTI received 40 high-quality transit-oriented submissions. These proposals were sent to MTI’s Research Associate Policy Oversight Committee (RAPOC), which is composed of the seven San Jose State University deans and department heads (or their designees) of the academic units with which MTI is associated, as well as to designated research liaisons from Caltrans and USDOT FTA.

After reviewing the proposals individually using a standardized rating form, RAPOC met in June and, with input from the research liaisons, identified the priority projects that can be funded within the research budget available to MTI. Priority of the research to Caltrans and FTA is paramount, though research project design, and quality of and prior performance of the RA team, also have a bearing on project selection.

Read the details of these 15 newly selected research projects.

MTI research makes positive impact

MTI has a rich history of conducting research with significant impact and is confident that the full slate of new research projects will yield similar results. Since 2010, MTI research results have yielded 263 academic and professional presentations and 138 publications, including MTI research monographs, peer-reviewed journal articles, and book chapters.

Selected examples of other research projects with impact include:

  • MTI funded research on the applied principles of social learning to develop a transit training video for residents of the Rossmoor senior adult community in California. This video won TRB’s “Communicating with John and Jane Q. Public” competition.
  • MTI researchers developed a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Guidebook that became the Caltrans Division of Mass Transportation’s BRT handbook.
  • MTI sponsored research that developed a Tribal Corridor Management Plan for Caltrans.
  • In 2011 the US Department of Homeland Security awarded MTI’s National Transportation Safety and Security Center the Science and Technology Directorate’s “Impact Award.” MTI transitioned research and analytical findings into training for TSA Explosive Operators deployed in mass transit, passenger rail, and freight rail environments.
  • MTI researchers delivered an after-action evaluation of Operation Iron Horse for the Silicon Valley regional commuter rail systems. Sponsored by the regional Urban Areas Security Initiative, the results are being integrated into first responders’ procedures.
  • MTI research associates received the “TRB Second Annual Outstanding Research Paper in Public Transportation Award” in 2011 for MTI’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Impacts of Carsharing in North America.

MTI looks forward to aggressively pursuing this new research agenda.


Transportation Safety & Security
Prepare for disaster as climates change

Frances Edwards, PhD, Deputy Director, MTI National Transportation Safety and Security Center
Dr. Frances Edwords, Gen. Russell Honore, and Dr. John Kiefer.

Dr. Frances Edwards met in New Orleans with Gen. Russell Honore and Dr. John Kiefer of the University of New Orleans.

As world populations are preparing for climate change, they also must prepare for the inevitable disasters that are predicted to go along with it. These include hurricanes, “super storms,” floods, fires, and even new diseases as tropical pathogens move northward with warming temperatures.

MTI has been very involved in the kinds of conferences addressing those issues. Here is a sample of the Institute’s activities so far this year.

Handbook forms the basis for presentation

At the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) conference in New Orleans a few months ago, Frances Edwards, PhD, was pleased to present a paper on “Transportation and Climate Change,” while MTI Research Associate Daniel Goodrich discussed “The Role of the Seismic Safety Commission in Disaster Mitigation.”

In addition, Dr. Edwards presented a report on the Hurricane Katrina Task Force. This was based on their research with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which MTI will publish as a handbook later this year.

Dr. Edwards also represented MTI in a panel discussion on that topic, along with General Russell Honoré of the Louisiana National Guard, which managed successful aspects of Hurricane Katrina response. Also on that panel were representatives of the City of New Orleans, St. Tammany Parish, and the Louisiana Office of Emergency Services.

Disaster planning must include transportation

HSR workshop attendees.

MTI Research Associate Dan Goodrich discusses emergency planning with student.

While they were in the city, Drs. Edwards and Goodrich also exhibited at the Disaster Resistant University conference, hosted by the University of New Orleans. As keynote speaker, Dr. Edwards discussed MTI’s 2009 research on The Role of Transportation in Campus Emergency Planning.

In May, the two presented "Emergency Management and the Role of Transportation" at Metropolitan College in New York City. Their student-driven topics included evacuation plans, the role of mass transit in preventing the spread of communicable diseases, and the use of social media for emergency notifications in a diverse community. Thirty students and three faculty members participated in the two-hour class.

Drs. Edwards and Goodrich represented MTI again at the 38th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop in Broomfield, CO, this summer. Their poster summarized MTI’s current research on the need for an exercise handbook for the transportation sector. They conducted a survey with response cards, as well as talking to expert practitioners and researchers, who uniformly supported a project management-based approach using checklists for guidance.


MSTM alumni gain career advancement

Peter Haas, PhD, Director, MTI Education Programs

What happens when transportation professionals take the Mineta Transportation Institute’s Master of Science in Transportation Management? They move ahead in their careers. The program offers a complete range of relevant courses, such as disaster management, legal and legislative issues, leadership, funding and finance, security management, and much more. In this issue, we highlight two recent milestones.

Matthew Jue is published

Alumnus Matthew Jue (MSTM, 2009), traffic engineer for the City of Campbell CA, co-authored an article, “Detection Range of Optical Emergency Vehicle Preemption System under Typical System Maintenance Conditions," in ITE (June 20, 2013). Optical Emergency Vehicle Preemption (EVP) systems are widely used to help first responders pass safely through signalized intersections.

The article examines the performance of an optical EVP installation under typical field conditions. In simpler terms, it examines the detection range of an optical EVP system vs. the detection range often quoted by EVP manufacturers. The researchers found that the field-measured detection range was only 18.4 percent of the 2,500-foot range most often quoted by manufacturers' sales representatives. That’s a significant difference!

Joe Rouse earns a promotion

Alumnus Joseph (Joe) Rouse has just been promoted to become Caltrans Managed Lanes Manager in the Division of Traffic Operations. In his new role, he will establish a Managed Lane Development Initiative by collaborating with headquarter divisions, the districts, and external transportation partners. This will significantly increase the pace of new managed lanes projects. 

Joe will ensure statewide consistency on implementing managed lane policies and guidelines, along with providing technical support to the districts. Lastly, he will be working on the feasibility of Caltrans developing managed lanes systems and tolling authority.

He has been with Caltrans since 1997, first as a student assistant at TransLab and the Division of Transportation System Information. Since 2007, he has been the statewide functional manager (senior transportation engineer) for HOV lane operations. For his MSTM, Joe’s capstone paper addressed possible legislative changes to expand the use of tolling in California. 

Nina Rohlich lands in Seattle

It was a new position with Seattle DOT that attracted alumna Nina Rohlich, who previously had been working with Caltrans. As the consultant contracting manager, she oversees consultant contracts for the agency, including managing consultant procurement processes (RFP/RFQs). She also is developing and implementing departmental policies and procedures relating to contracts, she is a liaison with other departments and agencies, consultants, and project managers so everyone can exchange information, coordinate work, and negotiate agreements or contracts. 

“It’s all about the contracts,” Nina says. “I oversee invoice reviews to ensure contract compliance and adherence to city policies. And I’m also training PMs and internal staff on the consultant contracting process and requirements, in addition to I supervising consultant contracting staff.” 


Information & Technology Transfer
MTI group goes into the bridge

Donna Maurillo, MSTM, Director, Communications & Technology Transfer
MTI tour group.

The MTI group was the only one to make the complete tour inside the understructure of the new Bay Bridge eastern span.

Millions of people will be driving over the new eastern span of the Oakland Bay Bridge, but how many will get to see the inside? On June 21, MTI hosted a group to visit the bridge during construction, and Caltrans tour guides had a surprise. The tour went into the tunnel-like structure beneath the roadway, and this was the only “outsider” group to do so.

Only the stairs themselves separated the group from the watery San Francisco Bay, as they descended to the underside of the bridge and into its dark interior. The visitors – including MNTRC Trustees such as Secretary Norman Mineta, Mort Downey, Ann Canby, Flora Castillo, and others – walked more than a mile through portholes, along catwalks, down ladders, and into cave-like areas.

Tour group inside the San Francisco Bay Bridge under construction.

Tour participants step lightly inside the Bay Bridge as they get a lesson in construction.

Caltrans employee Paul Jefferson, who led the tour, took it all in stride, having gone through the structure many times. “But I have to give you credit for making it all the way to the end,” he said. At one point, the tour moved into a cramped space to view the area where the suspension cables are tied down.

It was notable that, even in the area out of public view, work crews were careful to sweep up and carry out even the smallest amounts of construction debris.

After emerging onto the roadway and into the sunlight again, there were a lot of comparisons to “feeling like gophers.” Topside, the group observed as the new roadway surface was coated before returning to the visitor center.

The new eastern span opened Labor Day weekend. It will take three years to demolish the old bridge—including the section rebuilt after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

MTI co-sponsors industry workshops

As a way to help promote the importance of public transportation, MTI has sponsored or co-sponsored a growing number of conferences and industry meetings. All of them have featured nationally or internationally prominent speakers, thanks to MTI’s deep roots within the transportation professions.

Co-sponsorships also give MTI a chance to maximize the value of its grants while collaborating with leading transportation partners.

HSR workshop attendees.

FRA Administrator Peter Rogoff addresses MTI’s APTA Rail workshop audience. Panelists included Steve Heminger, Dr. Asha Agrawal, Michael Melaniphy, Bud Wright, and Julie Cunningham.

MTI hosts panel at APTA rail Philadelphia

In June, the Mineta Transportation Institute sponsored “Catching Up with the Rest of the World,” a half-day Mineta National Policy Summit on Transportation Finance at APTA Rail in Philadelphia. This workshop featured a keynote by Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff. Panel moderator was San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission Director Steve Heminger, with a panel composed of COMTO CEO Julie Cunningham; APTA CEO Michael Melaniphy; Administrator Rogoff; and AASHTO CEO Bud Wright. MTI’s National Transportation Finance Center Director Dr. Asha Weinstein Agrawal presented the results of a national transportation funding survey, along with four years of trends.

Also at APTA Rail, MTI co-sponsored a workshop on “Seamless Intermodal Transfers.” It addressed how agencies create seamless transfers and connections among modes, and how cities partner with the private sector to deliver passengers to their final destinations. The panel explored whether existing systems will simply pick up passengers at the station, or whether the routes and schedules will require adaptations. The workshop also previewed the MTI study on how locating high-speed rail stations can best work with other public transportation systems.

MTI maintains direct role in CUTC

Memphis was MTI’s destination from June 10-13 for the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) Summer Meeting. As a leading member of CUTC, MTI participated in strategy sessions, workshops, committee discussions, and other business relevant to the members’ transportation research activities. MNTRC/MTI Deputy Director Karen Philbrick was elected to the prestigious CUTC Executive Committee, while Communications Director Donna Maurillo will lead a team to create a college-level work experience guidebook for CUTC’s Workforce Development Committee.

Summit panelists.

Panelists at the Mineta Policy Summit on Finance include, from left, Mort Downey, Dr. Asha Agrawal, Flora Castillo, Malcolm Dougherty, and Jeff Morales. The program was re-broadcast on NPR.

Leaders gather to discuss public sector innovation

Closer to home, Norman Y. Mineta Transportation Policy Summit on Transportation Finance was held in San Francisco at the Commonwealth Club of California. A keynote was given by US DOT General Counsel Kathryn Thomson, who was introduced by Secretary Norman Mineta. A panel discussion included Dr. Asha Agrawal, Director of MT’s National Transportation Finance Center; former Deputy Transportation Secretary Mortimer Downey; California Department of Transportation Director Malcolm Dougherty; California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales; and APTA Chair and New Jersey Transit Board Member Flora Castillo. Dr. Agrawal presented the latest research results from a national survey polling Americans about transportation taxes and fees.

Finally, at the end of June, MTI co-sponsored the Public Sector Innovation Workshop, along with the City of San Jose, the Aerospace Corporation, the National Academy of Public Administration. This was a select gathering of industry, government agency, academic, and community leaders. Discussions centered on how to accelerate public-sector technological innovation in transportation, energy, the environment, and many other important community needs while minimizing the financial risk. Automated Transit Networks (ATNs), personal transit systems, were used as a model.