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Using Technology to Improve Transportation

Stephen Mattingly

Rush-hour traffic has confounded commuters for decades. And realistic, affordable solutions have proved hard to find.

That’s why the U.S. Transportation Department has established a series of University Transportation Centers (UTCs) throughout the country. Among those receiving grants was the Research Center for Livable Communities, which includes UT Arlington and several other universities. It focuses on finding advanced technologies to improve public transportation and developing alternative transportation modes to create more “livable communities.”

Civil engineering Associate Professor Stephen Mattingly is one of several UTA researchers involved. He’s studying the public health effects of safe routes to schools and how social media can be used to create and maintain walking school buses for elementary schools.

“The aim of the research is to think differently about transportation solutions,” he says. “We can’t continue to build lanes of highways. There have to be more comprehensive, livable solutions out there.”

For instance, Dr. Mattingly says his group might establish performance measures for assessing the health impacts of transportation or demonstrate how social media users can encourage more sustainable commuting practices.

“We can use technology to enable different lifestyle choices that don’t require car ownership. By understanding people’s needs, we can start shifting the importance of transportation systems from public services to improving the community and public health.”

Through the UTC program, the Transportation Department will distribute about $63 million to 33 transportation research centers at colleges and universities nationwide.