Within CTR, a group of researchers and students dedicate their efforts to developing innovative transportation network models and bringing them into practice. Created in 2011, the Network Modeling Center (NMC) focuses on dynamic traffic assignment (DTA) models, allowing researchers to examine transportation networks and how changes to those networks will impact travelers’ route choices.
NMC Director, Jen Duthie, has been an integral part of NMC’s creation and success. “Dynamic traffic modeling at the regional scale is an emerging area in the world of transportation planning, and it’s exciting to play a meaningful role. Our primary goal is to plan more efficient transportation systems, and we now have the the tools to do just that”, explains Duthie.
The NMC team.
Initial funding for the NMC came from the Texas Department of Transportation and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO). To enhance the collaboration between the NMC and CAMPO, both modeling teams are co-located at CTR.
Recent DTA research efforts have focused on enhanced visualization of results – a collaborative effort with the Texas Advanced Computing Center, integrating DTA into the traditional travel model framework, adding emissions output capabilities, and predicting queue lengths at work zones.
“TACC houses one of the largest supercomputers in the world, so running our models on their machines will allow for huge savings in terms of run time, and will allow us to add even more functionalities to our model”, said Duthie.
NMC prepared this model of the San Angelo road network, part of a feasibility study of running dynamic traffic assignment.
Recent model applications include examining the impact of proposed changes to Congress Avenue through downtown Austin that would remove one lane for “through” travel in each direction, add a left turn lane, and widen the outside lane, as well as modeling several proposed configurations for State Highway 45 Southwest.
Outside of Austin, the NMC has test beds in the Dallas-Fort Worth and San Angelo regions.
Tagged: CAMPO, dynamic traffic assignment, Jen Duthie, network modeling, network modeling center, NMC
Brauson and Meredith embracing Texas.
Name: Meredith Cebelak
Position: PhD student, President of the ITE Student Chapter
Hometown: Wales, Wisconsin
Hobbies: Running, big Florida Gator fan (it’s ok – we forgive her), traveling, swimming, her cocker spaniel, Braunson (just like Kate Middleton), watching the Green Bay Packers, and LOVES TRIVIA NIGHT! Oh, and she sails.
Favorite travel destinations: Really likes England. Hiked the Inca Trail. Often finds herself in Boston.
For a lot of folks, social media is for looking at pictures of babies, food, and reading incoherent rants from distant cousins. For others, it’s a gateway to useful data just waiting to be tapped. Meredith Cebelak, a CTR Ph.D. student, falls into the latter category.
Meredith and friends on the Inca Trail.
She recently submitted her Master’s Thesis, employing data from FourSquare and other smartphone check-in applications to help understand travel frequency behavior. Her innovative work was recently recognized at the ENO Conference in Washington DC, and she’s now looking to build on that momentum as she continues her research at CTR.
Meredith and friend,
While pursuing her BS in Civil Engineering at the University of Florida, she was introduced to the world of transportation engineering through a family member. “I was just fascinated by the problems they were trying to solve. By working to alleviate traffic congestion, they were really making things better for everyone. I just found that fascinating”, explains Meredith.
Meredith embracing her
Florida Gator pride.
After graduating, she worked in the transportation engineering world for 10 years in intelligent transportation systems for VANUS Inc. (Now Gannett Fleming) and Faller, Davis, & Associates, and also became a licensed PE. “During my ten years of experience in the private sector, I have seen first-hand some of the challenges faced by urban planning and transportation planning departments across our nation and have had the opportunity to implement around the country ITS solutions ranging from the Advanced Transportation Management Systems to Incident Detection Systems as well as serving as an in-house consultant to the Florida Department of Transportation to help address these challenges,” said Meredith.
But that wasn’t enough for Meredith. She decided to continue her education, and the program at CTR was recommended to her by a previous professor.
Since arriving at CTR, she is actively engaged as the President of the ITE Student Chapter, is a member of the CTR Employee Council representing all students, is involved in the Austin-area WTS Chapter, as well as ITS.
Cruising the coast of Florida from the sky.
Tagged: CTR, Meredith Cebelak, People profiles, Student Profile
August 30th, 2013 by Joey W. in News · No Comments
It is a new academic year, and with that we bring a wave of fresh new and exciting initiatives here at the Center for Transportation Research (CTR) at the University of Texas at Austin.
Over the past year, we have recruited a communications coordinator and a grants/contracts staff person, reconfigured our staffing structure, and established several internal committees, all so we may better, and in a more timely and proactive fashion, respond to the needs of society. Our initiatives are dedicated toward new research directions, innovative education and workforce development programs, and additional technology transfer activities, including the promotion of cutting edge developments in transportation science and technology and efforts to shape policy development at local, regional, state, and national levels.
CTR Director, Chandra Bhat, with FHWA Administrator, Victor Mendez
In terms of future research efforts, we are reaching out to faculty and researchers in Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering as well as other disciplines at UT, including those in wireless communications, computer engineering and science, public health, energy, community and regional planning, and communications and visualization, among others, to harness the collective expertise that resides right here on our campus and to establish new strategic inter-disciplinary and multidisciplinary directions.
Our new Education and Workforce Development Initiatives include becoming more actively engaged with high schools in the area to promote STEM interest in general, and transportation careers in particular. In addition, CTR will develop a series of professional workshops aimed at providing transportation professionals with relevant and applicable knowledge. Further, our first-class library has received a new software upgrade that will help us continue to serve the needs of TxDOT, our students, and professionals around the country and the world.
And we are excited about our new Technology Transfer Initiatives. We are planning to host one international conference each year, starting in 2015, when CTR will play host to the Fourth International Conference on Choice Modeling. At the same time, at the national level, we are collaborating with ASCE to facilitate technology transfer as part of ASCE’s annual meeting that will be held this Fall in Dallas. At the regional and community levels, we are seeking opportunities to serve community and leadership organizations, and work with local and regional planning agencies. And, this past Spring, we launched the Texas Distinguished Lecture Series in Transportation. We feel privileged to have been able to attract the FHWA Administrator Mr. Mendez for the inaugural event in this lecture series.
Looking forward, there are tremendous and incredible opportunities to contribute to the transportation field, spurred by continued urbanization, changes in the demographic mix of our populations, and new technologies that open up completely new possibilities thought to be futuristic even just a few years back. Even as we respond to these opportunities, we also are working on priority initiatives this coming year, specifically focused toward reconnecting and rejuvenating our relationship with our alumni, reaching out to new industry partners, opening up a continuous channel of communication with our current industry supporters, constituting a business advisory council (BAC) for the Center, and establishing a long-term excellence fund to offer more opportunities to our graduate students.
At this point, it is perhaps appropriate for us to take just a few minutes to look back at the journey we have had thus far. As many of you may know, 2013 happens to be the 50th anniversary of CTR’s existence. This is a remarkable milestone, and we have much to be proud about. What started as a small center back in 1963 has now become a thriving transportation center. Through all this, it’s our students that truly make CTR special. Let’s make no mistake about it – our former students are today’s thought leaders in the transportation industry, and our current students will be tomorrow’s.
Thank you for your support and interest. Together, we will take CTR to new places. We also hope you enjoy this first newsletter from CTR, which reflects a snapshot of our activities and achievements.
Dr. Chandra Bhat
Director, Center for Transportation Research
University of Texas
Tagged: Chandra Bhat, letter from the director
The August 2013 issue of the Research Digest is now available for download from the CTR Library website. This month’s digest provides abstracts for 19 publications from other states’ department of transportation research programs. The research projects represented here are from Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington and cover a wide range of topics.
Full-text links are provided for each report.
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 provides links to online full-text of reports in our catalog when publishers make that content available for free.
Tagged: Research Digest, Transportation Research
For Immediate Release
August 27, 2013
AUSTIN, Texas – Chandra Bhat, Director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas, has been awarded the Pyke Johnson Award by the Transportation Research Board Executive Committee.
The award is given each year for the best paper in the area of transportation planning and the environment. Dr. Bhat previously won the same award in 2007.
The winning paper, “Modeling of Household Vehicle Type Choice Accommodating Spatial Dependence Effects”, was co-authored by Rajesh Paleti of the University of Texas, Ram Pendyala of Arizona State University, and Konstandinos Goulias of the University of California at Santa Barbara.
By examining factors such as the number and type of vehicles in each household, as well as the ways in which they are used, Dr. Bhat and his colleagues were able to develop a model that not only predicts travel behaviors but also provides important information on greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.
Dr. Bhat speaking at CTR’s Distinguished Lecture Series in May 2013.
“This was a collaborative effort, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with my student and a couple of esteemed colleagues and close friends from other Universities. The Pyke Johnson Award is a prestigious award, and I am humbled to be a recipient again. There are many transportation-related challenges that can be addressed through a better understanding of why we travel the way we do, and the work that we received the award for represents that”, explains Bhat.
This award is the latest in a lengthy series of distinctions he has received. Dr. Bhat is a leading expert and professor in travel demand modeling and travel behavior analysis. His pioneering contributions in econometric choice modeling are now routinely used in the transportation field as well as several other fields.
For more information: Joey Williams – email@example.com – 512.484.1135
Tagged: Chandra Bhat, Press Release, Pyke Johnson Award, TRB
In May of 2013, the Center for Transportation Research Library embarked on digitizing the majority of its Council for Advanced Transportation Studies (CATS) collection.* In 1972, the then President of The University of Texas at Austin (UT) formed the Council as a “multidisciplinary transportation and education organization, focusing on national, state, and local transportation problems while providing an academic background for the development of professional careers in several fields of transportation.” (CTR Annual Report 1979-1980)
CATS members meet in 1973 (John F. Betak and
Dr. W.R. Hudson, center) –CATS 1973 Annual Report
The organization grew under the leadership of directors including W.R. Hudson, Thomas W. Kennedy, and John F. Betak. CATS secured millions of dollars from institutions like the Department of Transportation, the United States Forest Service, the United Nations, and the World Bank. This funding went to support the research of faculty, researcher, and graduate students from a variety of fields. The Council also twice organized and co-sponsored “The Southwest Conference on Coordinating Mobility Programs for the Transportation Disadvantaged.”
The Council’s information center, RTIS
–CATS 1978 Annual ReportWhile the Council’s primary function was to promote academics and research, the council additionally worked to provide transportation related information services. It developed a Regional Transportation Information System to collect and disseminate transportation resources in both analog and digital forms. After seven fruitful years conducting funded research, sponsoring conferences, hosting guest speakers, and conducting educational programs, CATS joined the Center for Highway Research to create what is now the Center for Transportation Research (CTR) in March of 1979.
“Dr. Randy B. Machemehl addresses Traffic Safety Coordinators at the
Problem Identification Short Course in January, 1978″ — CATS 1978 Annual Report
The CATS collection housed in the CTR Library includes over 70 research reports, research memos, conference proceedings, and annual reports. The library turned each digitized report into a full-text searchable PDF and uploaded them into both the CTR Library catalog and the UT Digital Repository. The decision to disseminate the information in both the catalog and digital repository provides the benefits of greater exposure online and the long-term preservation of these digital documents. The digitization team at CTR Library was able to work with librarians in the UT Libraries system. A special thanks is given to Amy Rushing, Head Librarian of Digital Access Services and Wendy K. Martin, Preservation and Digitization Services Manager for their help in the planning, digitization, and repository upload phases of the project.
Mr. Joe Ternus with Dr. C. Michael Walton
–CATS 1974 Annual Report A sample of the titles digitized include “Carpool and Bus Matching Program for the University of Texas at Austin”, “Personality Factors in Accident Causation”, “Drugs and Their Effect on Driving Performance”, and “Survey of Ground Transportation Patterns at the Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport.” Although only final reports will be accessible online, additional research memos and reports are also available for use at the library at 1616 Guadalupe, Suite 4.202.
CTR Library is currently accepting donations of additional CATS reports and other publications from CTR’s history.
CATS graduate students hard at work –CATS 1978 Annual Report
* The library thanks Marcia McIntosh for handling this project. Marcia is a Graduate Research Assistant at CTR Library and a Master of Information Studies candidate at the University of Texas at Austin School of Information.
Tagged: Council for Advanced Transportation Studies, CTR, history
At this point, most people have heard about Hyperloop, Elon Musk’s latest revolution-du-jour. This alternative to high-speed rail is undoubtedly an exciting concept, but it leads us to ask – what happens now?
Elon shared his design in an effort to spur dialogue, and open the door to critical analysis. We sat down with CTR faculty member (and former CTR Director), Dr. Randy Machemehl, to discuss Hyperloop and give us his thoughts on the project.
CTR faculty member Dr. Randy
Machemehl shares his thoughts on
the challenges facing Hyperloop.
1. Exciting, but unproven technology
There’s no question that the technology is interesting, but he is proposing a lot of unproven technology. It’s definitely going to require a substantial investment in R&D (research and development). I think his implementation cost estimates are probably very, very low. Not only does the plan not account for the necessary R&D, but it is impossible to confidently predict implementation costs without first proving the technology first. There are always going to be unforeseen issues and challenges – no question. That’s what makes projects like this inherently risky, and you just aren’t going to fully understand the entire scope until you do your R&D.
A good example is the Apollo space program. This was a tremendously bold project done in a relatively short period of time, but it required HUGE amounts of resources. And those vehicles were designed to be used one time. With Hyperloop, the parts need to be built for longevity to be used repeatedly over a period of time.
2. No risk, no reward
I think the Hyperloop conversation is very appropriate. We need more money in transportation research programs. In the past 30 years, we have started looking for more short-term solutions than we used to. We’ve lost that long-term focus, and the only way we’re going to start doing that is by taking more risks. If we don’t we’re never going to make that quantum leap forward.
A fraction of research needs to be dedicated to taking risks. When we are taking these kinds of big risks, we usually end up making unintended discoveries and creating spinoffs. Look at Apple. When Steve Jobs left Apple in the 1980′s, they started developing the Newton (an early personal digital assistant capable of handwriting recognition). After he came back, it was one of the first programs he shut down. But some of the technology that came out of that R&D process led to the iPhone, so that was obviously a valuable investment. Just because you don’t succeed in developing the technology you initially set out to find, it doesn’t mean you aren’t going to come away with something extremely valuable.
3. Who picks up the tab?
The big question is always going to be about funding. Who is going to pay for this? I think public money is going to have to get things started. That’s not to say there couldn’t be some kind of public/private partnerships, but the leadership is going to have to come from the public sector.
Tagged: advanced technology, faculty interviews, Hyperloop, rail, Randy B. Machemehl, SpaceX
CTR alumna Kelsey Ahearn
Name: Kelsey Ahern
Occupation: Transportation Planning Associate at Cambridge Systematics
Hometown: Littleton, CO
Current City: Austin, TX
Graduated: December 2004
Hobbies: Loves road biking, and being active with her husband and daughter. Travel also is a big part of Kelsey’s life. One of her favorite stops was the Galapagos Islands with fellow CTR alums Jen Duthie (currently runs the Network Modeling Center at CTR), and Elizabeth Sall (currently serving as Deputy Director of Technology Services at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority).
The daughter of a water resources engineer, her love of math and engineering challenges steered her to the University of Colorado at Boulder where she earned her BS in Civil Engineering. “I wasn’t necessarily interested in transportation in the beginning. It was more of a process of eliminating the other fields that weren’t a good fit for me”, explains Kelsey.
From Boulder, she moved to Austin to begin her graduate work in the fall of 2003, and quickly completed her MS in Civil Engineering in 18 months. While at CTR, Kelsey worked for Dr. Michael Bomba on a project to integrate Texas airport systems into the Trans Texas Corridor.
Kelsey in the Galapagos Islands with fellow CTR alums Elizabeth Sall and Jen Duthie.
Bomba, now serving as Associate Director of the Center for Economic Development and Research at the University of North Texas described Kelsey this way. “She was highly-motivated and quickly took responsibility for completing significant tasks during our research project. Frankly, without her help, I’m not sure how I would have finished all the research projects that I was working on during that year.”
Kelsey and husband, Mike, in New Mexico
next to the Rail Runner.Kelsey now works for Cambridge Systematics in their Austin office. Since joining in 2008, she specializes in performance-based planning as it relates to transportation planning and policy, freight, and long-range plans at the state and regional levels.
We asked Kelsey what advice she has for students considering a career in transportation. “I like what I do because transportation touches everyone’s lives on a daily basis. Transportation planning is always going to be important especially as cities continue to grow, so there’s good job security.”
Kelsey currently lives in Austin with her husband, Mike, and their 13-month-old daughter, Hadley.
Tagged: Alumni, People profiles