CEE researchers to join National Center for Sustainable Transportation

The U.S. Department of Transportation this week approved an $11.2 million proposal that will allow Georgia Tech transportation engineering researchers to expand their work in sustainable transportation design and operations, travel behavior and transit interactions, fuel consumption modeling, and emissions impact assessment.

The new National Center for Sustainable Transportation (NCST) will pool the talents of researchers from five academic institutions to assist local, state and federal transportation agencies in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from passenger and freight travel. The center will also help prepare U.S. transportation infrastructure for the extreme weather that climate change is expected to produce.

Coordinated by the Institute for Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis (ITS-Davis), the NCST consortium also includes researchers from the University of California, Riverside, the University of Southern California, California State University, Long Beach, and the University of Vermont.

“The United States has sharply reduced many of the transportation sector’s most damaging environmental impacts on air, water, natural ecosystems and human health,” said UC Davis professor of environmental science and policy Susan Handy, who is director of the UC Davis Urban Land Use and Transportation Center, and will be the new NCST director.

“However, one major impact that hasn’t received enough attention is climate change, which is a game changer. Fortunately, almost all strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from transportation also improve economic efficiency, energy security, social equity, livability and health,” Handy said.

CEE’s Randall Guensler, one of the center's associate directors, is excited about the new collaborative effort.

“Our ongoing transportation and air quality research at Georgia Tech, and creation of applied tools to assist agencies in assessing the impacts of transportation strategies on emissions and air quality impacts, will be a significant component of the center’s activities,” he said.

The Georgia Tech research team recently developed a greenhouse gas calculator for the Federal Transit Administration to evaluate emissions from alternative fuel vehicles under different operating conditions. The Georgia Tech team also assessed the conversion of Atlanta’s I-85 carpool lane to a high-occupancy toll lane and is now focused on the application of video systems for monitoring changes in on-road operating conditions.

“Collaborative development of online modeling tools and calculators for policy evaluation will yield practical outputs from the center’s research,” Guensler added.

The National Center will receive $5.6 million from the U.S. DOT and $5.6 million in matching funds from state, regional and local agencies to support its research. Its main objectives are:

  • to mobilize a network of universities to generate knowledge and tools that address climate change and environmental sustainability in transportation;
  • to design and evaluate real-world strategies that contribute to mitigation of GHG emissions and other environmental impacts; and
  • to deliver planning tools and applications that can be used by state DOTs, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and local governments to support the implementation of these mitigation strategies.

“The goal of the National Center is to transform the transportation system to improve environmental sustainability nationwide. We aim to provide leadership that produces meaningful action by mobilizing innovative research teams and partnering with influential stakeholders,” said Dan Sperling, director of ITS-Davis, and the new national center’s executive director.

Georgia Tech is at the forefront of vehicle and personal activity monitoring, driver behavior analysis, traffic simulation, and environmental monitoring and modeling. The research team manages more than $2.5 million per year in applied research, much of which is performed for state and local agencies. Associate director Randall Guensler is a former chair of the TRB Transportation and Air Quality Committee and served on the U.S. EPA's Mobile Source Technical Advisory Subcommittee.

The other consortium institutions also have distinguished accomplishments:

  • The Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis (ITS-Davis) is the leading university center in the world on sustainable transportation. It is home to more than 60 affiliated faculty and researchers, 120 graduate students, and a budget of $12 million. We are partnering with government, industry and non-governmental organizations to inform policy making and business decisions, and advance public discourse on key transportation, energy and environmental issues.
  • UC Riverside’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology has been at the forefront of emissions measurements and analysis for various transportation modes, vehicle technologies, and fuels. It pioneered the development of transportation/emissions models. Its faculty play prominent roles on national and state committees related to emissions measurement systems, secondary air pollution, and port-related vehicle activity. CE-CERT Director Matthew Barth is co-chair of U.S. EPA’s Mobile Source Technical Advisory Subcommittee on Modeling and president-elect for the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Intelligent Transportation Systems Society.


  • The METRANS Transportation Center is a joint partnership of the University of Southern California and California State University Long Beach. Since its establishment in 1998, METRANS researchers have been developing and examining solutions to the transportation problems of major metropolitan areas. Drawing researchers from many disciplines, METRANS has become the national leader for urban freight research, and for addressing environmental impacts of goods movement. METRANS Director Genevieve Giuliano holds the Ferraro Chair in Effective Local Government, is a past chair of the TRB and a recipient of several academic awards.


  • UVM’s Transportation Research Center (founded in 2006) has quickly amassed a concentration of research data, models, and programs focused on environmental sustainability for both rural and micropolitan areas. UVM researchers serve on ten TRB committees. University of Vermont UTC Director Lisa Aultman-Hall chaired the 2010 TRB UTC Spotlight conference on Transportation Systems for Livable Communities and serves on the TRB Task Force on the Future of the National Household Transportation Survey (NHTS) and the TRB Committee on Travel Survey Methods.