Logo: University of Southern California

Viterbi Will Share in METRANS Grant Renewal

$6 Million will fund research, education and outreach to solve urban transportation problems
Darren Schenck
October 11, 2006 — The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a three-year, $3 million grant to renew the METRANS Transportation Center, a joint venture of USC and California State University Long Beach, under the University Transportation Centers program. At USC, the center is a collaboration between the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development and the Viterbi School.  The DOT grant requires a 100 percent match, which is being provided by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), making the full grant $6 million for the three-year period.

The grant will continue support for a program of research, education and outreach aimed at solving metropolitan transportation problems, according to USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development Professor Genevieve Giuliano, director of METRANS.

“The DOT grant will enable us to build on our work of the past eight years and expand our activities in a research area that is critical both to the economy and our quality of life,” said Giuliano.

USC was one of 36 universities vying for 10 Tier 1 University Transportation Center grants. Although METRANS was established with a federal grant in 1998, previous DOT funding was not a factor in the department's decision, according to Giuliano.

“The competition was completely open and included many universities with longstanding transportation research programs,” said Giuliano. “This is a great accomplishment for USC. It demonstrates that we have created a nationally recognized and highly regarded interdisciplinary research program.”

Professor James Moore, chair of the Viterbi School's Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, attributed USC's successful grant application to a number of factors, including Giuliano's leadership, the research reputation of participating faculty, its continuing willingness to collaborate with other institutions and agencies, and the significant volume of successful transportation research that METRANS has made possible at USC since 1998. Giuliano also credits the collaborative partnership that has been developed with CSULB, with its unique professional training and industry outreach programs.

“The work that METRANS has funded is innovative and creative,” said Moore. “Our work is not merely urban, but metropolitan-that is, relevant to an urbanized region. We focus on systems and populations-fleets, networks, freight, people and the rules that tie them all together.”

The center's interdisciplinary research, education and outreach activities have grown rapidly since METRANS was launched eight years ago, according to Giuliano.

“Between USC and CSU Long Beach, the number of faculty members involved in METRANS research has grown from nine in 1998 to 60 in 2006. Nearly $5 million in research grants has been awarded,” she said. “In 1998, USC awarded just one Ph.D. with a specialization in transportation; last year, 14 students earned Ph.D.s with a transportation specialization. These graduates have been placed in faculty and research positions in the U.S. and abroad.”

Giuliano added that SPPD and the Viterbi School today share a common set of electives that allow graduate students to choose a transportation concentration within planning, public administration, public policy, civil engineering, industrial and systems engineering, electrical engineering, and aerospace and mechanical engineering.

In addition to Giuliano and Moore, METRANS founding faculty include USC Vice Provost for Research Advancement Randolph Hall; Electrical Engineering-Systems Professor Petros Ioannou, director of the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology; and former Viterbi School Associate Dean for Research Advancement Eliot Axelband.

A METRANS Executive Committee comprising USC and CSULB faculty members sets policy and guides the research program. USC members include Giuliano, Moore, Ioannou and Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor Maged Dessouky. CSULB members include electrical engineering professor Anastasios Chassiakos, economics chair and Professor Joe Magaddino, College of Engineering Dean Michael Mahoney, and Marianne Venieris, executive director of the Center for International Trade and Transportation.  The METRANS Advisory Board, comprising public agency and industry leaders, provides overall guidance and advice.

For more information on METRANS, visit www.metrans.org.