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Volume 3, Issue 4
April 2011

Transforming Transportation Research Corridor Consortium

MSU, University of Michigan, Wayne State University Focus on Knowledge, Systems, and Solutions to Transform the Future of Transportation and Revitalize Economies and Communities

Michigan State University has a lead role in providing research-based insights and innovative solutions for an industry that is both significant in Michigan's history and vital to its future.

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The University Research Corridor's (URC) partner institutions, including MSU, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University, established the Transforming Transportation Research Corridor Consortium in 2010 to accelerate the implementation of innovative transportation systems at the intersection of technology, livability, labor and supply chain, economic and environmental sustainability, social equity, and public policy.

"The Consortium has emerged to fill a major gap in systematic research on transforming the future of transportation," said Hiram E. Fitzgerald, MSU Associate Provost for University Outreach and Engagement. "We are a catalyst for collaborative partnerships, anchored in scholarship, that include researchers, industry practitioners, and policymakers."

Leadership is provided by Fitzgerald, along with Susan Zielinski, Managing Director of SMART at the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute, and Allen Batteau, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Wayne State University. MSU College of Social Science Dean Marietta Baba has also been closely involved.

Transportation industries have supported generations of workers and characterized the core identity of many communities and regions, particularly in Michigan. As these industries, technologies, and cultures change, leaders from all sectors are searching for insights and strategies to address the profound contemporary changes experienced in Michigan, and their impacts for Michigan's future.

"Michigan should have a pivotal role in that transformation," said Zielinski, "There is new opportunity on the horizon to grow an industry and an economy that will supply the next generation of connected and sustainable transportation systems for an urbanizing and increasingly complex world."

An Inaugural Summit on Transforming Transportation

The consortium recently held an inaugural summit entitled the Transforming Transportation: Economies and Communities on April 7-9, 2011 in Detroit. More than 200 attendees, including business and labor leaders, policymakers, entrepreneurs, and research scholars, gathered during plenary and working sessions to understand and advance transportation in Michigan, the surrounding region, and across the globe.

"As residents and workers in the city of Detroit, our faculty and students are on the front lines of the contemporary issues facing the transportation industry and facing our communities, and we have a shared interest in working together," said Batteau.

Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle addressed attendees on the second day of the Summit, sharing luncheon keynote duties with MSU Provost Kim A. Wilcox. Steudle acknowledged the challenges facing policymakers and welcomed the leadership and collaboration by Michigan's three research institutions and the Summit participants.

More than 50 academic scholars, industry leaders, entrepreneurs and public policy experts were speakers and panelists during three days of plenary sessions and interactive work sessions. Among them, William P. Anderson, the Ontario Research Chair in Cross-Border Transportation Policy and a professor at the University of Windsor, and Marge Byington, Executive Director of Corporate Affairs for The Continental Rail Gateway, shared a platform to talk about research and the future of transportation.

Topical strand sessions at the Summit provided interactions among research scholars, city and community leaders, business leaders, and entrepreneurs. MSU professors Jinhua Zhao and Tom Dietz led a strand session entitled Sustainability, Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, and the Future of Transportation. MSU professor David Closs and WSU professor John Taylor led the session on Logistics and Supply Chain Management into the Future.

Each strand team worked intensively to form an applied research and action agenda. This agenda outlines immediate and concrete next steps for transforming transportation to be carried out throughout the year. Progress will be evaluated at future meetings of the Consortium.

Other strands included rail and supply chain management; safety, national security, and resilience related to movement of people and goods; emerging new mobility enterprises and employment trends and opportunities; organized labor and the future of transport; and values, culture, and social science of our transportation choices and systems.

"We are folding research capabilities and transportation topics into an action agenda," Fitzgerald said. "The Summit was a unique event because of the diverse group of participants coming together to shape a concrete plan, including an agenda to move forward with actionable items."

  • Written by Carla Hills, University Outreach and Engagement