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500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001 Phone 202.334.2934 Email firstname.lastname@example.org www.TRB.org March 14, 2023 Mary Leary Acting Associate Administrator for Research, Demonstration, and Innovation Federal Transit Administration U.S. Department of Transportation 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE Washington, DC 20590 Dear Dr. Leary, The Transportation Research Boardâs (TRBâs) Transit Research Analysis Committee (TRAC) convened on November 30 and December 1, 2022, for the first time since December 2018. TRAC is an interdisciplinary committee of 13 experts from public transportation agencies, private industry, and academia. Sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), TRAC is tasked with providing a strategic review of the agencyâs research, development, and innovation (RD&I) programs. Based on these reviews, TRAC may make recommendations to FTA to help ensure the RD&I program is relevant, timely, and effective in meeting the diverse and changing needs of the public transportation sector and the communities it serves. Large portions of the meeting involved joint sessions with TRBâs Research and Technology Committee (RTCC) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) (see attachment A for agendas and attachment B for a list of committee members and participants). In the same manner that TRAC advises FTA, RTCC advises FHWA on its research, development, and technology (RD&T) plans and programs. The two committees chose to meet jointly because the research interests of the public transportation and highway modes overlap, creating needs and opportunities for collaboration. Because TRAC had not met for 4 years, the joint meeting also provided TRAC members, many of whom are new appointees, with a needed overview of the FTA RD&I program, a helpful contrast with FHWAâs program, and insights on how both programs are furthering the U.S. Department of Transportationâs (USDOTâs) five strategic goals. The purpose of this letter report is not to advise FTA but rather to summarize the meetingâs key content. As TRAC members become more familiar with FTAâs RD&I program, future letter reports will make recommendations as appropriate. The summary that follows begins with an overview of USDOTâs strategic goals. Next is a summary of FTAâs five research goals aligned with these strategic goals and accompanied by more focused objectives intended to further each goal. FTAâs research funding level is noted and the agencyâs major research programs are described. A similar overview is provided for FHWAâs research goals and programs. The summaries reveal several areas of strong connections between the two programs and their goals, such as improving safety and equity, supporting new forms of mobility, and capitalizing on technological advances in automation and digitization. The letter report ends with highlights from the meeting discussions. TRAC members engaged with RTCC members and with FTA and FHWA staff across a range of topic areas illuminated by the 2 days of informative and thought-provoking presentations.
2 SUMMARY OF JOINT MEETING PRESENTATIONS USDOT Goals USDOTâs five strategic goals are safety, economic strength and global competitiveness, equity, climate and sustainability, and transformation. Each strategic goal includes a set of research priorities and âgrand challenges,â both of which are shown in the table below (see Table 1). These grand challenges are intended to spur innovation in the transportation industry and are part of USDOTâs vision for a better transportation future. TABLE 1 USDOT Strategic Goals, Research Priorities, and Grand Challenges Strategic Goals Research Priorities Grand Challenges Safety Human factors Data-driven system safety Cybersecurity Achieve zero transportation- related serious injuries or fatalities Economic Strength and Competitiveness Advanced asset management System performance Resilient supply chains Creating pathways to good quality jobs Create resilient supply chains through a robust multimodal freight system Equity Equity and accessibility assessment Mobility innovation Wealth creation Create equitable mobility for all through safe, affordable, accessible, and convenient mobility options Climate and Sustainability Decarbonization Sustainable and resilient infrastructure Develop a transportation system with net-zero emissions Transformation Integrated system-of-systems Data-driven insight New and novel technologies Develop connected intelligent infrastructure that provides people- centered mobility FTA Research Research Goals and Objectives As described to the committee, FTAâs mission is to create connecting, climate-friendly communities through accelerating innovation that enables equitable, accessible mobility; environmentally sustainable systems; and safe and secure transit. In coordination with this mission, FTA has five strategic goals with objectives as follows: 1. Enhancing safety: reduce collisions and derailments, as well as strengthen personal safety, promote safe behavior, and improve safe travel for workers and users. 2. Building resiliency: reduce the backlog on good repair, sustain existing transit, reduce environmental impacts to infrastructure, and support new or enhanced infrastructure technology that improves system safety and mobility. 3. Increasing sustainability: increase deployment of clean fuels, reduce environmental impacts of transit, and reduce air pollution and emissions, including the adoption of low or no emission vehicles. 4. Improving equity: remove barriers to transit access for underserved communities, promote equal access to jobs and contracts in the transit industry, improve quality of service for rural and underserved communities, and increase accessibility of transportation to all people.
3 5. Connecting communities: increase and expand transit projects that provide competitive service, community development, and access to economic opportunities that encourage people to ride transit. Research Funding and Programs The Fixing Americaâs Surface Transportation Act of 2015 funded FTAâs research at approximately $28 million per year. Annual funding increased to $36.8 million through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) of 2021. The BIL also incrementally increased funding to the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP), from $6.5 million in 2022 to $7.2 million in 2026. FTAâs research focuses on using new technologies and innovations to achieve its five strategic goals, listed above. FTA has two major allocation categories: public transportation innovation, which awards funding for research and deployment, and its own transit research efforts. Within these two allocation categories, the research is broken down further into 15 major programs. During the meeting, FTA highlighted several of these programs and their objectives. The Mobility NeXt Program targets innovative solutions for advancing easy mobility for all, including smart travel, operations, tools, and partnerships. Since 2018, FTAâs research and demonstration projects have emphasized innovative mobility, with highlights including demonstrations of technologies for travel planning and navigation, transportation coordination, and trip payment. The many programs on innovation mobility solutions and initiatives were discussed in the meeting under this mobility umbrella, which focuses on creating a safe, reliable, equitable, and accessible mobility system. One such innovative mobility program, the Mobility On-Demand Sandbox Program, launched in 2016 and has provided 415 awards totaling $269 million for projects focused on innovative mobility technology. These projects address a variety of topics, including micromobility and microtransit, on- demand scheduling, reduced barriers for rural areas and people with disabilities, and accessible multimodal payment options. The goal is improving mobility options to facilitate smart travel, operations, tools, and partnerships. Together, these programs work to achieve the principle of a complete trip, in which all phases of transportation are addressed, from initial trip planning to arriving at the destination. The new Mobility, Access, and Transportation Insecurity program, also falling under the mobility umbrella, helps to achieve a complete trip by focusing on the development and implementation of demonstrations augmenting public transportation to reduce transportation insecurity. This new program will also evaluate and document strategies to address these insecurities. Another of the 15 major research programs is the Low and No Emission (LoNo) Component Testing Program. LoNo supports directed technology research and capital equipment investments related to LoNo components and advanced vehicle technologies for public transportation. Over the past 5 years, FTAâs investments in low and no emission vehicle deployment projects have increased significantly; funding increased from $55 million in 2016 to $182 million in 2021, totaling $590 million over the 6 years. Other research programs and their objectives described to the committee in varying depth: ï· Strategic Transit Automation Program: enhance safety, improve mobility experience for all travelers, promote innovation and transformation, build on the current results of advanced driving assistance and bus maintenance automation findings, and advance equitable, accessible, and sustainable urban mobility. ï· Advanced Digital Construction Management: promote, implement, deploy, demonstrate, showcase, support, and document the application of advanced digital construction management systems practices, performance, and benefits.
4 ï· Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR): assist small businesses to conduct product development research in areas focused within transit. ï· TCRP: support applied research for near-term, practical solutions through industry-driven partnerships among TRB, FTA, and the American Public Transit Association. ï· Environmental Sustainability and Resiliency: focus on research related to real-time asset management, bus exportable power systems, transit electrification, and building a national network of vehicle development and safety laboratories. ï· Bus Testing Learning Lab: improve bus testing workflow and process, develop an online portal for bus testing, realign LoNo testing centers, and leverage other advanced vehicle research laboratories. ï· Safety NeXt: reduce transportation-related injuries and fatalities through new technologies and practices, including transit cybersecurity, transit worker and rider safety research, unmanned aerial systems for transit systems, and bus compartment redesign. In addition to noting the above programs cited above, FTA described its steps to bolster the transportation workforce. In September 2021, it established the Transit Workforce Center to provide technical assistance to the industry. This assistance is intended to improve services and delivery, develop standards and best practices for the transit industry, and address public transportation workforce needs through research, outreach, training, and a frontline workforce grant program. FHWA Research Research Goals and Objectives As explained to the committee, FHWA aligns its research and programs with USDOTâs strategic goals: 20% of funding focuses on safety, 20% on economic strength and global competitiveness, 10% on equity, 15% on climate and sustainability, and 33% on transformation, with an additional 2% on organizational excellence (see Figure 1). FIGURE 1 FHWA research funding allocations. In coordination with these USDOT strategic goals, FHWA has seven major programs and objectives: ï· Improving highway safety: improve long-term safety gains, reduce fatalities and serious injuries on public roads, improve research effectiveness, support the development of state strategic highway safety plans, and improve prediction analysis for decision making. Safety 20% EconomicÂ StrengthÂ andÂ GlobalÂ Competitiveness 20% Equity 10% ClimateÂ andÂ Sustainability 15% Transformation 33% OrganizationalÂ Excellence 2%
5 ï· Improving infrastructure integrity, sustainability, and practices: reduce fatalities related to infrastructure characteristics and work zones; improve safety and security of infrastructure; increase reliability of life-cycle performance predictions in infrastructure; reduce user delay due to infrastructure performance, maintenance, and construction; and improve the ability of transportation agencies to deliver projects that meet expectations of timeliness, quality, and cost. ï· Strengthening transportation planning, equity, and environmental decision making: minimize cost of highway infrastructure and operations, reduce potential environmental impacts of highway infrastructure and operations, advance improvements in environmental analysis and processes, improve construction techniques, accelerate construction to reduce congestion and related emissions, improve understanding and modeling of factors contributing to demand, and improve planning decision making and coordination. ï· Reducing congestion, improving operations, and enhancing freight productivity: reduce traffic congestion, improve freight movement, reduce freight-related congestion across the transportation network. ï· Accelerating the implementation and delivery of new innovations and technologies: accelerate the adoption of innovative technology, disseminate and evaluate information for accelerated market readiness efforts, construct longer-lasting highways through innovative technologies and practices, and provide leadership and incentives to demonstrate and promote state-of-the-art technology, elevated performance standards, and new business practices in highway construction. ï· Accelerating the discovery of transformation solutions: leverage the capabilities of the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center to develop important technologies and innovations, support research and development (R&D) on non-market ready technology in consultation with public and private entities, encourage small businesses to engage in federal R&D with the potential for commercialization, test the feasibility of road usage fees and other use-based revenue mechanisms to maintain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, and develop transformational solutions to improve durability, efficiency, environmental impact, productivity, and safety aspects of highway and intermodal transportation systems. ï· Cross-cutting: focus on research concepts that bridge disciplinary core program boundaries. Research Funding and Programs FHWA research funding exists in three main programs. The Highway Research and Development (HRD) Program provides $147 million in annual funding; it focuses on highway safety and infrastructure, transportation planning and environmental decision making, reduced congestion, improved highway operations and freight productivity, and other forms of advanced research. The Technology Innovation and Deployment Program (TIDP) and the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Program each provide $110 million in annual funding. Figure 2 shows a depiction of FHWAâs RD&T programs, as provided to the committee.
6 FIGURE 2 A breakdown of FHWAâs RD&T funding. HRD sets aside $15 million for Strategic Innovation for Revenue Collection, $10 million for the National Vehicle Miles Traveled Pilot, $20 million for Advanced Transportation Technologies and Innovative Mobility Deployment (ATTIMD), and $3.3 million for SBIR. TIDP includes $12 million for Accelerated Implementation and Deployment of Pavement Technologies, $20 million for Accelerated Implementation and Deployment of Advanced Digital Construction Management Systems, and $19 million for ATTIMD. These activities focus on research deployment, demonstration programs, technical assistance and training to researchers and developers, and tools and methods for the adoption of updated practices. Finally, ITS sets aside another $21 million for ATTIMD. Also, as part of BIL, Congress created a new program to deploy Advanced Digital Construction Management Systems (ADCMS), which will receive $20 million every fiscal year from 2022 to 2026. Dissimilarities in FTA and FHWA Research Funding Comparisons of FTA and FHWA Funding Annual funding for FHWAâs major research programs totals $367 million, while FTAâs totals $48.8 million (see Figure 3).
7 FIGURE 3 Comparative funding levels for major FHWA and FTA research programs. Shared Priorities of FTA and FHWA RD&T Programs Equity and Safety RD&T To address equity issues, FHWA staff told the committee they are finding ways to address the higher number of traffic safety incidents in underserved communities, including in populations adversely affected by poverty or other types of inequality. For example, FHWA created an Equity in Safety working group to understand which communities are most impacted by traffic incidents, rectify any disparities identified, and work toward the goal of zero crash fatalities. Through these efforts, FHWA coordinates with communities to assist in street design, research systematic causes contributing to traffic incidents, and find solutions for identified inequities and challenges. In addition to socioeconomic factors, the research also considers displacement, homelessness, land use, and climate change impacts. Similarly, FTA works with communities to develop solutions to transportation insecurity, which occurs when a person cannot safely and efficiently move from place to place. To measure its programsâ effectiveness, FTA is developing equity indicators that will help assess its mobility programs and transportation infrastructure at the local, regional, and national levels. FTA is also interested in implementing street design that supports multimodal transportation and transit integration into different communities. Mobility RD&T The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 calls on FHWA to create a Center of Excellence to conduct research on new mobility, such as bicycle- and electric scooterâshare programs and highly automated vehicles. The Center will consider how these technologies impact land use, urban design, transportation, real estate, equity, and municipal budgets. FHWA is also investigating land use and how to build a safe, connected, and comfortable network that helps integrate new mobility into infrastructure. It is also interested in resilient multimodal networks if a service shuts down, curb management to ensure sidewalks remain accessible for people with disabilities, and ways to subsidize micro and new mobility options to make the services more equitable and more widely available. 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 MajorÂ FHWAÂ ResearchÂ Programs MajorÂ FTAÂ ResearchÂ Programs An nu al Â F un di ng Â (i nÂ m ill io ns Â o fÂ d ol la rs ) HighwayÂ ResearchÂ andÂ Development PublicÂ TransportationÂ Innovation TechnologyÂ InnovationÂ andÂ Deployment TransitÂ Research IntelligentÂ TransportationÂ Systems
8 FTA is exploring alternative metrics for micromobility, as measuring ridership for these services can be difficult and traditional metrics are not working. FTA staff told the committee that developing new standards or metrics is necessary to successfully provide reliable transportation to an individual or community. These metrics must consider equity, sustainability, and accessibility. The transit and mobility industry would benefit from greater data sharing and data pooling resources to better understand demand and allow for further industry development. Automated and Digital Systems RD&T Recent FHWA and FTA research focuses on automated and assisted driving system integration, including individual vehicles, trucks, and transit buses. FHWA runs the research program CARMA in collaboration with FTA. CARMA develops transportation systems, management, and operations for safe and efficient âcooperative driving automation.â In addition to automated driving systems that can recognize and respond to their environment, FTA and FHWA are exploring digital infrastructure, such as communication between a vehicleâs automated driving system and other vehicles or traffic infrastructure. Automated vehicles and communication require integration into the existing transportation system, which in turn requires engagement and partnership across infrastructure owners, operators, and industry. Both agencies are also working to make automated systems safe. For example, automated vehicles must be able to operate with rumble strips or roundabouts. Vehicles must also obey traffic regulations, so manufacturers need to consider how a vehicle will know traffic laws in each location. Finally, FHWAâs ADCMS program focuses on digitizing information-sharing systems and construction management systems through all stages of construction projects. These efforts include e- ticketing and e-construction techniques, including the development of digital engineering models for construction. If successful, these projects would streamline construction projects, increase technology adoption by states and local government, reduce the environmental footprint of construction, and improve safety on job sites. HIGHLIGHTS OF MEETING DISCUSSIONS During the 2 days of meetings, TRAC members engaged in stimulating discussions with RTCC members and with FTA and FHWA staff. The following are highlights of those discussions, which generated a free flow of observations and ideas. TRAC members did not have the time to connect specific research needs to these ideas and observations, but future meetings focused on a smaller number of topics may provide such opportunities. Equity and Accessibility Equity covers issues such as labor, mental health, mobility, and accessibility in relation to many demographics. TRAC members noted that equity is an important consideration in providing transit services but is sometimes inconsistently factored into decision making. Members discussed whether equity could be defined better at the agency level so that it could be systematically embedded into project development, prioritization, and selection; this may occur with the support of metrics developed through research and then used in funding requests. A more systematic accounting of equity could create greater consistency during leadership changes. Relatedly, TRAC members highlighted the importance of paratransit in promoting equity and accessibility. Paratransit is usually considered a separate service from fixed route and it can be expensive and inconsistently managed. Typically, paratransit services require riders to book appointments well ahead of time, which can result in long delays between a request and service and a
9 reduced desire for passengers to use them, even for access to basic needs. To expand and improve these services, committee members observed that agencies could create more on-demand mobility services that are accessible to the entire community. Paratransit that is focused on the transportation needs of workers, seniors, and access to health care and other basic needs could also be considered. More integration of paratransit into other widely used services, such as food delivery and rideshare programs, might also be warranted. Technology and Workforce Development The committee members discussed how advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning can help transportation agencies predict travel needs and improve on-demand services. Integrating automation into vehicles and transit was identified as a fruitful area for research. Research and testing will be important to more cooperative automation between vehicles and infrastructure, including rail transit, which may have a shorter time to adoption than on-road automation. Committee members discussed the importance of ensuring that transportation employees have the necessary support and training to capitalize on advances in technology and to maintain and expand transportation systems. Training in new technologies is especially important for agency frontline workers, but also for headquarters personnel. It was observed, for instance, that transit agencies can struggle to integrate new technology into their existing systems. Some agencies could benefit, therefore, from additional information about how to accomplish this integration. Data Sharing and Privacy TRAC members noted how states and municipalities can lack effective ways to share data and research results. Some pointed out that incorporating existing open data standards into new federal grant programs could facilitate more data sharing. Committee members also discussed the importance of addressing privacy issues arising from some forms of data collection, such as smartphone data collected from transit riders. These data, while sensitive, can help transit agencies determine rider demographics for purposes such as service equity assessments. Other Topics Considered During their rich discussions, TRAC members raised other varied ideas. For example, they discussed the need for better understanding the ways vehicle and facility design improvements can help improve the transit ride experience; that public transportation could play a more significant role in intercity transportation connections; and how FTA could use technology readiness levels to help clarify FTAâs research goals and set research benchmarks. Some of these topics could be candidates for presentations and deeper discussions during future meetings. FINAL COMMENTS On behalf of TRAC members, I would like to thank you and the RD&I leadership team for providing an engaging and well-organized set of briefings. The briefings spurred 2 days of productive discussions that generated many ideas and observations. The committee members left the meeting impressed by the varied content of FTAâs research portfolio and its important and ambitious goals. As noted earlier, TRACâs membership has changed since it last convened in 2018. Its new members bring new perspectives and enthusiasm to the committeeâs work. As members become increasingly familiar with FTAâs RD&I portfolio, the dialogue during meetings should become even more insightful and enable more focused discussions and advice. In the meantime, I hope you find the
10 summaries of the meeting discussions helpful, and I look forward to consulting with you about the timing and content of the next TRAC meeting in 2023. Sincerely, Leslie S. Richards, Chair Attachments