As of September 1, 2012, the University Transportation Center for Mobility (UTCM) is no longer an active center of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The archived UTCM website remains available here.

Strategic Plan FY06 - FY09

Strategic Plan Contents

Strategic Plan Home

I. Program Overview

   A. Glossary

   B. Center Theme

      Table 1. Objectives in Strategic Planning Documents pertaining to UTCM Research Focus Areas

   C. Center Director's Summary


C. Center Director's Summary

The UTCM represents a unique opportunity to make a difference in mobility for Texas, the region, and the country.  The combination of the considerable capabilities of TTI, paired with the structure of the UTC Title III program, makes this possible.

TTI, as detailed in Section III.A., has expertise in virtually all areas of surface transportation.  TTI research is performed by both professional research staff and tenure track faculty.   The presence of SWUTC (the Region 6 UTC) within TTI provides opportunity for collaboration and synergy with UTCM.  Add to these advantages the resources and facilities of TAMU, TAMUS and TTI combined, and the result is unparalleled possibilities for education, research and technology transfer.  Because the UTCM is a Title III UTC, it does not have the practical consideration of making sure that its research and programs are "matchable" with non-federal funding, which can sometimes be somewhat limiting.  Neither does UTCM have geographic boundaries – meaning that the UTCM can conduct research and programs with far-reaching benefits without having to consider the boundaries of whatever agency or organization is providing match funds.  That said, opportunities to leverage additional funds, whether public or private, will be aggressively sought and utilized to maximize UTCM programs as much as possible.

So, what does a UTC do if it has the structure and expertise to do quite literally anything?  This was the question pondered during the Strategic Planning process.  Input was sought from professionals within TTI and TAMU, representatives of DOT modal agencies, and other transportation professionals, agencies, and organizations.  In this way it was determined where strategic expertise within TTI could be bolstered by the new center, and where these areas overlapped with the priorities of DOT and other agencies/organizations.  It soon became apparent that "Mobility" was the common theme, and the one that addresses all needs identified by the process.

As stated before, mobility is at the very core of the American way of life.  While there are other UTCs whose themes address various aspects of mobility, there are some unique opportunities for UTCM.  These are broken down in the following discussion into the three components of the UTC program: research, education and technology transfer.

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The facilities and expertise represented by TTI and TAMU together cover the full spectrum of mobility issues.  While any research topic that will improve the quality of life by enhancing mobility will fit the theme of the center and will therefore be considered, some Research Focus Areas emerged during the Strategic Planning process.  These are areas where it was determined that the structure of UTCM would be especially beneficial in making a positive difference in the topic. The Research Focus Areas identified are

Coast-to-coast, border-to-border mobility

This Research Focus Area is intended to address all modes and the linkages between them from a regional and national viewpoint.  TTI has expertise in border issues, port issues, freight issues, congestion, transportation planning, and virtually every other issue potentially affecting this topic.  Emphasis will be placed on the transportation of both people and freight. It is anticipated that this effort will aid in developing logistics expertise within TTI and/or partnerships with other entities with experience in the logistics field.  

It has been difficult up to this point for any one agency to get a handle on how a breakdown in the transportation system in one area of the country might affect the entire system and the country as a whole.  The ability to analyze and mitigate this type of situation, and identify "chokepoints" and how they affect the nationwide transportation system, would be greatly beneficial.  This topic has implications not just for transportation, but for commerce, national security, and quality of life in general.  The security implications alone of a catastrophic failure in transportation infrastructure (for example, the collapse of an interstate bridge over the Mississippi due to a barge collision, an earthquake on the New Madrid Fault Zone, or a terrorist act, or the loss of a major port due to a hurricane) are potentially devastating.  UTCM will seek to develop a national model to predict the impact of such a failure and to aid in analyzing proposed mitigation measures.

The Trans-Texas Corridor provides a unique opportunity to study how a multi-use corridor will function in a real-world setting.  Other unique opportunities exist within TAMU to address this topic, such as the presence of the Bush School of Government and Public Service’s Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy, which is a research institution integrated into the academic environment of TAMU.  A Strategic Partnership will be forged between TTI and the Bush School, facilitated by UTCM.  Additional funding to address this topic will be aggressively sought from other agencies impacted by coast-to-coast, border-to-border mobility issues.  Some of these may include other modal agencies of USDOT, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Defense.  It is envisioned at the end of the grant that the UTCM, through the expertise available within TTI and TAMU, will be the "go-to" UTC for issues involving nationwide mobility.

Rural public transportation

This Research Focus Area has perhaps the most potential for directly affecting quality of life. Former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey once said that "The moral test of a government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life - the children; those who are in the twilight of life - the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life - the sick, the needy, and the handicapped."  The categories he described could also be used to summarize transportation dependent populations – those who most benefit from public transportation.  This research area is traditionally difficult to fund from any source, and it is even more challenging to find a non-federal source of match for this type of activity in a typical UTC environment. This is a huge opportunity for UTCM to make a difference in the quality of life for rural people.

TTI has significant expertise in the transit area.  Research topics could include better routing methods, the use of technology in rural transit systems, safety issues, and more. The Colonias, a series of economically disadvantaged small communities along the Texas/Mexico Rio Grande border, provide a natural laboratory for such studies. A Strategic Partnership with the Center for Housing and Urban Development ( ), housed in the College of Architecture, could facilitate work with the Colonias and provide opportunities for collaboration.  The TAMU Health Science Center’s School of Rural Public Health, the first in the nation of this type (, could also prove to be a valuable partner in this effort.  UTCM’s programs in this area would be directly applicable to other economically disadvantaged rural areas, such as the Mississippi delta, the Appalachian regions, and the Four Corners area of the American Southwest.

Congestion management and mitigation

Former USDOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said it best, "Congestion kills time, wastes fuel, and costs money…We need a new approach and we need it now," noting that this country loses $200 billion per year just to freight bottlenecks and delayed deliveries. Secretary Mineta added further that Americans lose 3.7 billion hours and 2.3 billion gallons of fuel per year due to traffic jams.

TTI is well-known for its work in the areas of congestion management and mitigation.  Many successful programs in lane management, such as HOV and reversible lanes, and toll facilities in Texas were developed and implemented through TTI research and innovations. The Annual Urban Mobility Report issued regularly by TTI (see more information at includes studies of mobility and traffic congestion on freeways and major streets in 85 cities, and also strategies to address mobility problems and "chokepoints" identified.  Interest for this Report has grown but support for this vital activity has been variable in recent years.  UTCM can give the Mobility Report a "home," and facilitate partnerships with interested partners who may be able to support this effort until more permanent sources of funding can be identified.  UTCM support will facilitate an expansion of the current efforts in congestion management and mitigation, provide support for expanding the estimates of benefits from mobility improvement programs and projects, and set the stage for a major, long-term research initiative in this area.

Innovative financing

The transportation infrastructure system continues to be adversely impacted from the double-edged sword of ever-increasing vehicle miles traveled combined with decreasing resources available for both new construction and the improvement of existing facilities.  Simply put, more and more work on the transportation system is needed with less and less funds available.  Clearly, alternative sources of funding for transportation improvements and new construction should be considered.  In addition, Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) have the potential to generate revenue that can be used to support other infrastructure needs, such as transit systems. Texas is already a leader in the area of innovative financing, having enacted landmark legislation in the past five years to enable these types of partnerships.

In discussions with transportation organizations and agencies, several issues have emerged that provide opportunities for UTCM.  There is not an established financial model for P3 in this country, and there are many ways to utilize Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) for infrastructure improvements.  For state departments of transportation to take advantage of P3 arrangements they need more information on how to assess and implement P3 contracts and operations.  What contract structure would be most advantageous to state DOTs?  What political and/or public relations strategy would be most effective in overcoming resistance to the concept?  In some states it is illegal according to state and local laws to enter into P3 arrangements for infrastructure improvements.

UTCM, because of the impartiality and credibility of the academic environment, would be the ideal entity to seek answers to these types of questions.  Within TTI, UTCM will work together with the TTI Center for Tolling, along with other interested parties.  Industry partners will include ARTBA, which is already active in this area.  TTI has demonstrated success in promoting managed lane facilities and developing associated public information campaigns (see , and this expertise could prove invaluable in the public education efforts necessary for successful implementation of P3s in Texas and nationwide.

Other research topics  While it is envisioned that UTCM will make an impact on the state of practice in these four Research Focus Areas, it should be stressed that other research topics that pertain to the UTCM theme of "Improving the quality of life by enhancing mobility" are eligible for sponsorship by this center and will be considered.  This will enable UTCM to respond to emerging issues in mobility in a timely way.

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TAMU offers degrees in 150 courses of study in 10 colleges and schools.  Mobility is a key issue in many of these programs, although traditionally transportation is thought of as an engineering discipline.  The interdisciplinary education programs of UTCM could enhance awareness of mobility issues in other disciplines, resulting in graduates better prepared to address the transportation aspects of their professions, and who have a greater understanding of the importance of mobility to overall quality of life.  The opportunity to make a difference at TAMU is significant.  For example, with more than 60 faculty, 1000 undergraduate students, and 350 graduate students, the department of civil engineering at TAMU is the largest in the country. TAMU also has a top ten architecture program.  Both have a transportation track within their programs, providing students and faculty interested and actively working in mobility issues.  There are also programs consistently rated as among the best in the country in agriculture, business, and the Bush School that may provide opportunities for collaboration in transportation education.

All research projects funded by UTCM would require significant student involvement.  In this way, synergy is created between the research and education components of projects and UTCM programs.  In addition, some of the programs that will be implemented as part of the education component of UTCM include student support and course and program development.

Student Support

Direct support to students (support not issued as part of a research project) will be a part of the education program of UTCM.  Students in transportation-related programs may be supported by means including fellowships, scholarships, stand-alone assistantships, and tuition and/or fee awards.  It is anticipated that UTCM will work with SWUTC to develop a coordinated interdisciplinary support program.

Course Development 

Grants will be made to develop new transportation courses at TAMU. These would be proposed by faculty and professional staff and are intended to enrich courses available for students, as well as for professional development.  It is anticipated that these may be replicated in transportation programs at other universities.

Program Development 

UTCM will also consider grant applications for the development of new transportation programs at TAMU. These could be within a department or interdisciplinary in nature. The grant would support the activities necessary for the development and approval of a new degree or  program, including curriculum development and support for those shepherding the proposal through the process. The development of other types of education activities, such as short courses, outreach programs, or curriculum analysis and enhancement may also be supported.

It is envisioned that these activities will have substantially increased the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of graduates prepared to enter the professional transportation workforce.  It should be noted as well that some T2 activities planned by UTCM will have the effect of professional-level education for those who utilize research results.

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Technology Transfer (T2)

All projects funded by UTCM will require a T2 component. Depending on the nature of the project, this could be a published paper in a refereed journal and/or conference presentation, course materials, or professional training program. Innovative T2 mechanisms will be encouraged. T2 activities will be established in the proposal phase of a project and projects will not be considered complete until T2 activities are concluded.  It is envisioned that at the end of the grant that all UTCM research will be successfully transferred to those who can benefit from it.

The Center for Professional Development (CPD), located within the Transportation and Operations Group in TTI, has as its mission "to foster and enhance the development of knowledge, skills, and abilities of existing and future transportation professionals to ensure the success of the transportation industry both now and in the future, by providing quality leadership, education, technology transfer, and research implementation."  A Strategic Partnership will be sought with CPD to utilize their expertise to enhance the technology transfer activities of UTCM, and to seek ways to utilize UTCM to enhance the successful programs CPD already has in place.

As UTCM matures, local, state, and/or national conferences may be sponsored or co-sponsored by UTCM.  These will be facilitated by enhanced linkages with other UTCs and universities in Region VI and nationally. The culmination of the grant will be a National Mobility Conference to showcase the state of the art in transportation mobility and provide an opportunity for interaction in the transportation community. 

As previously discussed, there is a large amount of diverse transportation expertise at TAMU.  However, as is not uncommon in large organizations, there is limited opportunity to exchange ideas between departments, colleges, and programs within the university.  One of the planned UTCM T2 activities is the development of an on-campus colloquium, held regularly, that would provide an informal opportunity for TTI and TAMU personnel to hear a presentation by a TAMU expert in their field.  It is envisioned that the Transportation Mobility Colloquium will be held during the workday, perhaps as a brown bag lunch, with a 15-20 minute presentation on a select topic.  These topics may range from a TTI center director discussing their center activities, to an agriculture professor discussing how transportation affects his/her research, or someone from the Bush School discussing transportation issues and national security.  This relaxed opportunity for interaction will hopefully result in a better understanding of what people across campus are doing in transportation and provide an opportunity for research professionals to interact and develop ideas for collaboration.  A similar program has been developed for researchers within the TAMU College of Architecture and is considered to be very successful in bringing people together.

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