Center for Urban Transportation Research
by John Davis
What do you wish for on your daily commute? How about a smooth traffic flow with no accidents? These days a commute without stop and goes is like a miracle. But that kind of miracle doesn’t happen without a lot of brain power and planning. In fact traffic congestion is only one of the areas that concerns a Florida based transportation research group. So we sent our FYI reporter Yolanda Vazquez south to see what problems they’re unscrambling now.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: John, we’re here in Tampa to see what the folks at the Center for Urban Transportation Research are doing in regards to solving a number of transportation issues. Everything from transit training, to bus system safety, or how about the best workplaces for commuter? So let’s take a look and see what they’re up to inside.
On the campus of the University of South Florida, inside this two-story building –sits a fraternity of researchers and students…all working together to solve transportation issues-big and small.
And one of those areas of interest includes motorcycle safety. CUTR uses this Honda smart trainer…
DEBBIE SCHULTZ: …and you’re going to go straight…right hand turn…just slow down
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: …to demonstrate to the most seasoned riders all the risk factors on the road.
DEBBIE SCHULTZ: …almost 50% fail because it really is difficult…
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: The center also helped produce this “ride smart” video which focuses on rider training and the use of personal protective gear.
DR. CHANYOUNG LEE: Florida is one of the best states to ride a motorcycle. You can ride 24/7, 365 days. However, we want them to be safe.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Dr. Chanyoung Lee says motorcycle registration in the U.S. is less than 5%, but nearly 20% of all traffic fatalities involve motorcycles.
DR. CHANYOUNG LEE: We’re trying to help them come up with better solutions, so they can actually ride more and ride longer.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: The center cuts across a wide range of disciplines--from urban planning to industrial engineering--so they can have maximum impact. I visited their advanced geospatial informatics lab…better known as “agil”. Here researchers use maps and infographics to break down data into a more digestible format.
MARTIN CATALA: It’s a format that allows policymakers and researchers to get a better understanding of a circumstance of information that would not be easily assessed by looking at rows and rows of data.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Program Director, Martin Catala shows me their latest project on transit travel sheds.
MARTIN CATALA: …and what you see here this blue dot is a point of origin…
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Using special software, he’s trying to calculate the distance of several route paths at various times of the day.
MARTIN CATALA: …so that we can get a better say about how well a community is being served by the transit agency in the area.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: But that same kind of data mining can also be used to identify safe routes for kids to travel to school
MARTIN CATALA: …these are 3 paths…
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: This map lists a few routes designated by the community, but it’s agil’s job to find new ones. And like with everything else, Catala and his crew are up for the challenge.
MARTIN CATALA: I really do believe we are pushing the technology and data envelope in the sense that, I really think we’re doing cutting edge research-which is of course what we’re supposed to be doing.
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: Always looking to be at the forefront of any transportation trend-CUTR recently launched the Automated Vehicles Institute. They held their first meeting last fall and have been contracted to study the implementation of AV technology in Hillsborough County, Florida.
NARRATOR: Other current technologies already in use include Traffic Assist, which senses objects around the car, or if the vehicle is approaching too fast, sensors will automatically slow the car down…
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ: With research dollars that total close to 15 million and span across nearly 200 projects…CUTR had a lot to celebrate during their recent 25th anniversary…
NARRATOR: Our vision, to be the preeminent internationally recognized catalyst for transportation innovation…
YOLANDA VAZQUEZ:...as they continue to be the “go-to-guys” in solving some of the most pressing issues in the transportation industry.