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Mineta National Transit Research Consortium
Fall 2014: Vol. 21, Issue 2

A fond farewell, and a fresh start

by Karen E. Philbrick, PhD, Executive Director
Dr. Karen Philbrick In a poignant moment at the Mineta Transportation Institute's Annual awards banquet and convocation in June, Rod Diridon symbolically handed over the reins of the agency whose success he has guided for the past 23 years. His planned retirement as executive director of MTI and the Mineta National Transit Research Consortium concludes an outstanding career in public service and dedication to the public good.
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In memoriam

With great sadness, the Mineta National Transit Research Consortium (MNTRC) mourns the loss of two of its talented leaders, Congressman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Julie Cunningham, CEO of the Council of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO). Both were influential in guiding MNTRC’s direction, and their passing is a loss not only for us, but for the entire nation.

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James Oberstar

James Oberstar,
Member of Congress

Congressman Oberstar devoted 36 years in the House, including service as chair of the Transportation Committee. The son of a miner, he advanced to become the longest-serving congressman in Minnesota’s history. He provided invaluable guidance to the Institute.

Jullie Cunningham

Julie Cunningham,

Julie Cunningham was a strong advocate for a level playing field for minorities, women, and economically disadvantaged people. President Barack Obama chose her to serve on his transition team, and she provided expert testimony before Congress.

Lithium-ion car battery

Repurposed li-ion batteries show economic promise

Research shows that it can be cost-effective to remanufacture lithium-ion batteries once they have outlived their usefulness in vehicles. But is it also cost-effective to repurpose them? Studies in progress at Grand Valley State University School of Engineering indicate that this is possible. But recycling alone may not be cost effective.

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Urban scene

Do social networks affect transportation choice?

Transportation and urban planning scholars have frequently perceived car ownership as a binary state – either a household owns a car or it does not. However, current research underway at Rutgers University finds that households, particularly those who are economically marginalized, frequently transition into and out of car ownership. 

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Artist rendering of high-speed rail

Preparing for high-speed rail

As California prepares to build its high-speed rail (HSR) system, much of the future success of that system depends on its ability to effect “modal shift – that is, to entice passengers away from other transportation modes, such as air, bus and auto. MTI research associate Dr. Peter Haas reviewed existing scholarly research on HSR and modal shift, with an emphasis on the most recent findings. His study, Modal Shift and High-Speed Rail: A Review of the Current Literature, points to the conclusion that, under many circumstances, HSR presents a significant competitive challenge to other modes and often provides noteworthy advantages.

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Crowded train platform

Developing seamless connections in the urban transit network

A key to HSR ridership is its ability to deliver passengers to and from other transportation modes. The research team at the University of Nevada Las Vegas conducted a study that quantified this impact on ridership in four countries: France, Spain, Japan, and China. That quantifying has set the basis for developing future rail interconnectivity. These findings have important implications for the proposed California and Nevada HSR stations.

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Gas chromatograph

Tests show possible use for biodiesel fuels in public transit buses

Biodiesel fuels are on the rise in public transportation. The Toledo Area Regional Transportation Agency (TARTA) has moved its entire bus fleet to biodiesel. Because of this growing interest, the University of Toledo has been involved in research on biodiesel emissions for the last nine years. Currently, the unversity is working on the “Combustion Chemistry of Biodiesel for the Use in Urban Transport Buses” and has made several presentations to share its discoveries.

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Voters favor using public funds to support transit

When the University of Detroit, Mercy conducted a public opinion poll of 799 likely voters, 87% of them said that transit in the region needs improvement. Further, 67% favor using public taxes and fees to support public transit. Those facts originated from an MNTRC project, Understanding and Building Change in Public Opinion Regarding Transit, presented at the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) Board meeting on Wednesday, June 18. 

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