Berkeley-led consortium gets $3.4 million for transit research

Researchers at the University of California Transportation Center (UCTC), a research consortium led by UC Berkeley that includes the UC and California State University systems, have received a $3.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The funding will support new multidisciplinary research in three key areas of interest surrounding transit development: environmental sustainability, economic competitiveness and livability.

“This grant promotes innovation and is crucial to transportation research both for California and the country as a whole,” said U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland). “This grant money will allow UCTC affiliates to continue to deliver exceptional research and will help us create a more sustainable, 21st-century transportation system.”

Robert Cervero, the center’s director, said 23 new faculty research grants were awarded this past year, spanning such diverse topics as peer-to-peer car-sharing, reconfiguring left-turn designs to improve intersection throughputs and tour-based modeling of freight movements.

In awarding the grant, the Department of Transportation “reflects the breadth, depth and wealth of knowledge and research capacities found across the members our consortium,” Cervero said. “There is no better intellectual environment for conducting cutting-edge research and advancing basic and applied knowledge in these areas than across the campuses of the University of California.”

As one of the preeminent loci for advanced research and education on environmental sustainability, UC campuses have provided critical knowledge and modeling tools that underpin an array of transport-related greenhouse policies and laws to reduce greenhouse gases. The transport of people and goods consumes nearly three-quarters of the nation’s petroleum, emits around a third of greenhouse gases and is responsible for around half of urban air pollution.

A team of Berkeley and UC Davis researchers have conducted original scientific research and designed a draft low-carbon fuel standard to meet a host of economic, social equity, legal and administrative objectives. Gov. Jerry Brown has requested UC’s help in formally developing a policy to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels.

The UCTC has established itself as an intellectual leader in such areas as traffic operations, intelligent transportation systems and transportation/land use integration, which are critical to economic growth and prosperity. Major advances in the field of traffic-flow theory originated at Berkeley, which has spawned the world’s leading systems for traffic measurement through loop detectors and video surveillance, as well as freeway traffic control through ramp metering.

Scholars from several UC campuses have also developed state-of-the-art transportation land-use models and other planning tools that gauge impacts of livability-sustainability scenarios on accessibility, community well-being and social equity.  For example, urban design work by scholars on the Berkeley and UCLA campuses has led to streetscape designs and multi-dimensional evaluation tools that enhance pedestrian and bicyclist comfort, safety and connectivity. In addition, seminal work on multi-way boulevards, complete and livable street designs and freeway-to- boulevard/freeway-to-greenway conversions has come from UCTC funded research.

“Northern California is blessed to be home to a number of incredible research universities, including UC Davis and my alma mater, UC Berkeley,” said U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Davis). “With the federal and state governments providing critical funding for this transportation research, we have the potential to create more efficient, greener, more livable communities in California and across America. This funding also provides some of our best and brightest graduate students with real-world lessons they’ll carry throughout their careers.”