A new center could position UTA at the forefront of better transportation in North Texas and the nation.
UTA’s College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs will lead one of 32 University Transportation Centers, a program by the U.S. Department of Transportation, to develop research and education programs for transportation issues. As part of these consortiums, the College of Engineering is also participating in two centers that address specific topics in transportation.
CAPPA and the College of Engineering have received a $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Both are in partnership with three centers, including the Center for Transportation Equity, Decisions and Dollar, or C-TEDD, National Institute for Transportation and Communities and the Transportation Consortium of South-Central States.
For the National Institute for Transportation and Communities consortium at Portland State University, UTA will receive $3 million in federal transportation funding. In addition, UTA will receive $1.5 million for the Transportation Consortium of South-Central States led by Louisiana State University.
Housed in the CAPPA Building, C-TEDD will be funded by a $7.7 million grant. UTA is partnered with California Polytechnic State University – San Louis Obispo; Georgia Institute of Technology; University of South Florida and University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Shima Hamidi, assistant professor of urban planning, will lead the center and decide how the grant will be distributed with other partners. In the beginning, the center will focus on creating a vision before starting on transportation-related projects, Hamidi said.
Hamidi is also the director of the Institute of Urban Studies, a state-funded institute that aids small communities and cities struggling with resources by providing services and helping them with planning, design and architectural needs.
The institute will share a space with C-TEDD at UTA, Hamidi said.
In one year, the institute increased the amount of grants and contracts from $60,000 to $800,000 and the number of graduate research assistants from six to 22, she said.
The institute worked on a master plan for Fair Park; Dallas Executive Airport neighborhood re-development plan; a walkability study in downtown Dallas and a health study addressing the issue of “food deserts” in Fort Worth, which are low-income neighborhoods that don’t have access to healthy food.
Hamidi said her vision is to expand the scope of work and collaborate with bigger cities. She hopes to bring the network of people and conversations the institute has started to the center, she said.
“I think that it could help us to leverage our resources,” Hamidi said. “Overseeing the activities in both centers will help me to make sure we are working together.”
Although C-TEDD relates to UTA’s Strategic Plan 2020 in all key components, Hamidi said the center encompasses the overall theme of the university’s “Sustainable Urban Communities” initiative.
The center’s focus is on teaching, research and outreach that makes transportation options more efficient, affordable and accessible, she said.
“We really are looking for increasing transportation options, reducing car dependency and helping low-income, disadvantaged populations to get access to opportunities for outward mobility,” she said.
The center will provide opportunities for students who are interested in pursuing a career in transportation through new courses, educational activities, outreach and leadership activities, workshops, scholarships and internship opportunities, Hamidi said.
Stephen Mattingly, civil engineering associate professor, is part of the National Institute for Transportation and Communities consortium led by Portland State University. It focuses on using transportation to access opportunities including jobs, recreation and services.
The project will also focus on coming up with ideas on how to move people without cars by implementing effective bicycle facilities, improving pedestrians and connections to transit, Mattingly said.
“The topic areas of the center directly speak to a sustainable urban community, providing access to opportunities and trying to reduce the impacts of transportation on people’s lives,” he said.
In addition, project leaders will also try to come up with strategies or tools to collect data to share with other universities and researchers to improve the overall ability to conduct research in the field. This speaks to the Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, a competition for cities to develop a system that collects data and utilizes that data to help operate and maintain the transportation system more effectively.
Stefan Romanoschi, civil engineering professor, is part of Transportation Consortium of South-Central States under the leadership of Louisiana State University.
A consortium of 11 universities, the project will research transportation-related issues in the region focusing on transportation infrastructure. Training for personnel and developing new courses will also be part of the project, he said.
“This is obviously another way for us to serve our constituents and to help in the development of the North Texas region,” Romanoschi said.
In addition to improving collaboration with other universities, the college wants to improve its educational programs and other outreach activities through the project, he said.
Both CAPPA and the College of Engineering hope to collaborate with other colleges within the university, including the School of Social Work, College of Business and College of Nursing and Health Innovation.