Center for Transportation Research: Highlights

Research Digest, December 2013: TxDOT

December 20th, 2013 by Kevyn in CTR Library · Publications · Research Digest · No Comments

The December 2013 issue of the Research Digest is now available for download from the CTR Library’s website.

The issue of the digest provides abstracts for 14 Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Research Program publications that were published from September through December. These publications are from ongoing or completed research projects sponsored through the TxDOT Research and Technology Implementation Office (RTI).

This digest includes reports and products on various topics researched by the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, and Texas Tech University’s Center for Multidisciplinary Research in Transportation.

Full-text links are provided for each publication and print copies are available in the library. Some items may be on CD-ROM.

To stay up-to-date on all the latest research published through different transportation programs, you can visit the library’s “New Materials” web page or follow us on Twitter. CTR Library’s online catalog provides links to online full-text of reports when publishers make that content available for free.

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Networking Modeling Center Year in Review

December 20th, 2013 by Joey W. in Transportation Research · No Comments

The Network Modeling Center (NMC) recently held an end-of-year event for researchers, staff, and students to celebrate 2013 accomplishments. Held at the Texas Advanced Computing Center’s (TACC) visualization lab, they showcased the two organizations’ recent collaboration, with focus given to the capabilities of a new visualization tool for the dynamic traffic assignment (DTA) model.

NMC students, Jake Gutekunst and Carlos Balderas, interact with reports
NMC students, Jake Gutekunst and Carlos Balderas, interact with reports.


2013 – Year in Review

NMC also has expanded collaborations with faculty in the Transportation Engineering area of the Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering department.

Dr. Stephen Boyles and his students have developed new network algorithms for NMC’s tools, while Dr. Randy Machemehl and his students have worked on improved intersection modeling and traffic operation applications.

Dr. Chandra Bhat and his students have helped integrate activity-based modeling with DTA, and a new collaboration by Dr. Kara Kockelman and her students promises to improve the treatment of land use changes within the modeling system.

Students joining NMC this year were also given special recognition at the event, including Ehsan Jafari, Tyler Beduhn, Jake Gutekunst, Ankita Chaudhary, and David Sun.

NMC said goodbye to recent graduate, Mallory Necessary, completed her M.S. this semester and will soon join Kimley-Horn and Associates in Atlanta, Georgia.

Akita Chaudhary with TACC interactive report tool
Akita Chaudhary with TACC interactive report tool.


Significant Work Done in 2013

NMC completed several key projects in 2013.

  • Modeling the proposed SH 45SW
  • Congress Avenue through downtown Austin
  • Developed guidance for TxDOT on work zone design

Significant progress was made on the Austin and Dallas regional DTA models as well as a dynamic transit model for Austin, and the first test was successfully conducted of running a DTA model on TACC’s Stampede super-computer, which showed encouraging potential for significant runtime reductions.

The group’s accomplishments were presented at numerous conferences (several Transportation Research Board conferences, INFORMS, ASCE Green Streets, etc.) and several papers were published (including one winning the Institute of Transportation Engineer’s award for Best Student Paper).

Ehsan Jafari and Alireza Khani discuss TACC visualization collaboration
Ehsan Jafari and Alireza Khani discuss TACC visualization collaboration.


New Projects Moving Forward

NMC was a partner in winning several new proposals.

  • USDOT Data-Supported Transportation Operations and Planning Center – Tier 1 UTC
  • Developing advanced models for Williamson County, in collaboration with HDR, Inc.
  • Evaluating right-turn slip lanes for TxDOT
  • Developing network models that account for electric vehicles through a National Science Foundation I/UCRC.

Welcome to NMC!

NMC Director, Dr. Jen Duthie, recognized the hiring of several new key staff members in 2013

  • Ken Perrine – traffic simulation and software engineering
  • Alireza Khani – dynamic transit assignment and bicycle modeling
  • Mason Gemar – DTA applications and project management
  • Heidi Ross – strategic planning and communications
  • Jackson Archer – traffic model applications
  • Katie Larsen – training material development and freight modeling

NMC Co-Director, Natalia Ruiz Juri, discussing TACC visualizations with software engineer, Dennis Bell
NMC Co-Director, Natalia Ruiz Juri, discussing TACC visualizations with software engineer, Dennis Bell.


Dr. Randy Machemehl analyzes data with students
Dr. Randy Machemehl analyzes data with students.


The TACC visualization lab
The TACC visualization lab.

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CTR in the News

December 20th, 2013 by Joey W. in Transportation Research · No Comments

During the past two months, CTR experts have been tapped by various media outlets to provide insight into topical transportation issues.

Ph.D. candidate, Dan Fagnant, was featured in a Washington Post article regarding his work on an ENO research publication on self-driving cars. The work as also widely cited in other national and international media outlets.

Professor Kara Kockelman sat down with Aljazeera’s Consider This program to talk about challenges that need to be addressed regarding the potential wide-spread adoption of self-driving vehicles.

Discussing a recent study on emerging transportation technologies in Texas, Professor Mike Walton talks with the Texas Tribune on how this research could guide Texas’ strategy on integrating the next wave of transportation tech.

And finally, traffic and congestion in Austin was the topic with CTR Director, Professor Chandra Bhat, and his recent discussion with KXAN.

Texas Tribune post

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Pavement Performance Prediction System is Valuable Tool for TxDOT

December 20th, 2013 by Joey W. in Transportation Research · No Comments

Transportation agencies across the US, including the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), have long been moving towards the development of pavement management systems that allow performance monitoring of their roadways. Driven by advanced information technologies such as GIS and sophisticated modeling techniques, such systems would help transportation officials develop more accurate budget and policy planning information to support decision making at technical, administrative, and legislative levels.Photo of highway Pavement
This tool will help efficiently maintain Texas highways.

Predicting the future performance of a roadway with historical data is critical to the success of strategically preserving our transportation infrastructure. The life-cycle behavior and performance of transportation infrastructure, such as pavements, are affected by a variety of factors, such as material properties, traffic loading, construction quality, and environmental conditions. Past attempts focused on using the available performance data and various modeling techniques to develop such management systems.

Challenges for Texas

However, Texas’ unique characteristics, especially the vast size of the managed pavement network, made some of the decision support models and/or algorithms a challenge to implement. By employing historical data, mechanistic and time-series models, and probabilistic approaches, Dr. Zhanmin Zhang, Associate Professor and Fellow of the Clyde E. Lee Endowed Professorship in Transportation Engineering at the Center for Transportation Research (CTR), developed a web-based system for predicting the future performance of large-scale infrastructure networks such as pavements.

These models, along with other supporting algorithms, have been implemented with a state-of-the-art web-based platform that functions as a sophisticated performance prediction system. This allows the future performance of a large highway network to be analyzed up to 30 years into the future.

Through collaboration with TxDOT districts and the Maintenance Division, the web-based system has been successfully used to support the development and pavement condition prediction of TxDOT’s 4-Year Pavement Management Plans, providing functional capabilities and reliable information that allow TxDOT administrators and engineers to make more informed decisions regarding their budget planning and budget allocation for pavement management, especially under budget constraints.

The Research Saves Texas Big Money

According to Dr. Mike Murphy, a CTR research engineer who has 25 years of experience working at TxDOT on pavement management, collaboratively implementing this system “has yielded an estimated benefit of over $12,000,000 annually to TxDOT”.
Furthermore, considering that this system help produce a statewide plan which manages over $1.5 Billion annually that must be approved by the state Legislature Budget Board (LBB) and Governor’s office on the basis of the pavement condition predicted with this system, the benefits might in fact be even higher.

As result of this collaborative implementation effort, the International Road Federation (IRF) awarded TxDOT the 2011 Global Road Achievement Award in the category of maintenance management.

The significance of this work was also recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Dr. Zhanmin Zhang was selected to receive the 2012 ASCE James Laurie Prize, with the award citation:

For his contribution to the advancement of knowledge and understanding of the management of highway infrastructure systems and in particular his development of a state-of-the-art pavement condition performance prediction process and pavement needs estimates for different pavement condition goals.”

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Emerging Transportation Technology in Texas

December 19th, 2013 by Joey W. in News · TxDOT · No Comments

Study Finds Technology is Future of Transportation in Texas

News Release
For Immediate Release
December 18, 2013

AUSTIN, Texas – A report encouraging investment in new transportation technologies in Texas – like self-driving cars – has been released by the Center for Transportation Research (CTR) at The University of Texas at Austin.

Commissioned by the Texas legislature early in 2013, the Texas Department of Transportation tapped CTR to examine innovative transportation technologies to help relieve congestion, increase safety, save money, and enhance the state’s economic efficiency.

Last year, 3,399 people died on Texas roads, costing the state over $26 billion. In 2009, Texans used over 15.6 billion gallons of fuel. The report concludes that through the adoption of emerging technologies, crash frequency and severity can be significantly reduced, and less fuel would be wasted by motorists stuck in traffic.

Guided by an external advisory panel of experts from public and private sectors, the study emphasizes the vital role of public-private partnerships in promoting Texas as a leader in the next phase of transportation innovation.

Researchers focused on several key areas of emerging transportation technology.

  • Autonomous vehicles, which are examined for increased safety they could provide, as well as legal and logistical hurdles.
  • Electric vehicles and issues related to the charging infrastructure are reviewed.
  • Connected vehicles that communicate with each other and the network are studied, as well as cloud computing and crowdsourcing technologies.

“This report is designed to provide a framework for public and private agencies to come together and address transportation challenges here in Texas. We’ve got some tremendously challenging issues, and some of these new innovative technologies have the potential to increase safety, be more efficient with our funding, and increase the quality of life for Texans,” said UT Austin engineering professor Mike Walton, who supervised the report.

“It’s extremely important that we continue to explore new transportation technologies, and understand how they can improve the performance of our infrastructure. Some of these technologies could also make our roads much safer and help save lives – like self-driving cars – and this report provides a starting point for that conversation,” Walton said.

The next phase will include projects and demonstrations to showcase the technology.


For more information: Joey Williams – – 512.484.1135

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CTR Students and Faculty Win Big at CUTC Awards

December 11th, 2013 by Joey W. in Awards · Researchers · Students · No Comments

News Release
For Immediate Release
December 10, 2013

AUSTIN, Texas – Three recent graduates from the Center for Transportation Research at UT-Austin have been given awards by the Council for University Transportation Centers.

Christina Bernardo received the C.V. Wootan Award for Best MS Thesis in Planning and Policy, while Sriram Narayanamoorthy and Rajesh Paleti both were awarded the Milton Pikarsky Award for Best MS Thesis and Best PhD Dissertation, respectively, for Science and Technology.

The awards will be presented during the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting in Washington, DC on January 12, 2014.

“Only four of these student awards are given each year, so for our students to win three of these prestigious awards makes me incredibly proud and happy. They truly are thought leaders among their peers, and are shining examples of the caliber of students we have here”, said CTR Director, Dr. Chandra Bhat.

Dr. Bhat was the supervisor for the three students, and provided guidance on their research.

Christina’s award-winning thesis examined how work policies in the United States impact the daily routines of dual-earner families. Sriram’s thesis created a model to analyze bicycle and pedestrian injuries. Rajesh’s dissertation looks at household vehicle ownership, and created a model to determine how vehicle fleets evolve over time.

Also receiving national recognition, CTR faculty member Amit Bhasin has been awarded the New Faculty Award from CUTC. This award recognizes significant achievements of young faculty members.

“We are so fortunate to have Amit. He’s a research leader in his field, and an incredible mentor for our students. His research is absolutely cutting-edge, and he truly deserves this credit. It’s another great example of our faculty and researchers being at the forefront of intellectual innovation”, continued Bhat.

The CUTC Annual Winter Meeting & Banquet will take place in conjunction with the TRB Annual Meeting on January 11-12, 2014. The Annual Awards Banquet will start at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception followed by the awards program on January 11, 2014.


For more information: Joey Williams – – 512.484.1135

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Research Digest November 2013: TRB

November 28th, 2013 by Kevyn in CTR Library · Research Digest · No Comments

The November 2013 issue of the Research Digest is now available for download from the CTR Library’s website. This month’s digest provides abstracts for 27 recent publications received at the library from the Transportation Research Board (TRB). The selected publications included syntheses of information and best practice guidelines on a variety of topics from TRB’s cooperative research programs (ACRP, HMCRP, NCFRP, NCHRP, and TCRP).

Abstracts and full-text links are provided for each report and print copies are available at the library; in some cases we may have spare copies to give away.

To stay up-to-date on all the latest research published through different transportation programs, visit the library’s “New Materials” web page or follow @ctrlib on Twitter. When publishers make their reports available online for free, CTR Library provides links to the online full-text in our catalog.

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CTR Library catalog upgrade on the horizon

November 6th, 2013 by Kevyn in CTR Library · News · No Comments

The Center for Transportation Research Library is upgrading the online catalog, and will soon offer the new Inmagic Presto catalog as an alternative to the WebPublisher Pro online catalog. Presto will provide researchers with several new features to make literature searches more efficient.
Some of the new features include:
Presto screenshot, federated search
Example of federated search results showing
a search of state Department of Transportation

  • Federated search: When performing a Quick Search, your result options include the library catalog as well as the option to view results from the CTR website, state department of transportation websites, and TRB’s TRID—the TRIS and ITRD Databases.
  • Abstract snippets: Similar to Google’s search results, a snippet of the abstract where your search terms appear will be included in the search results, highlighting your search terms.
  • Faceted search: After performing your initial search in the library catalog, you will have several options to refine your search.
  • Cart: Select and add specific publications to your virtual cart then continue searching until you’ve compiled all of the publications you need. You can easily email, download, or print selections from your cart.
  • RSS Feeds and Alerts: Turn any of your searches into an RSS feed or email alert so you’ll know when new items are available that meet your research interests.

Beta testing of the new catalog is due to begin in November with the final rollout to be implemented in the spring of 2014.


January 2014 update: The BETA version of the library’s Presto catalog is available for use at Please try it out and let use know what you think, including if you notice any bugs or have suggestions.

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