Interview with Transportation Research Board (TRB) Executive Director, Mr. Neil Pedersen and Executive Committee Chair, Prof. Susan Shaheen
The WCTRS Research Newsletter Editorial team took a brief interview of Mr. Neil Pedersen, Executive Director, and Prof. Susan Shaheen, Executive Committee Chair, of Transportation Research Board (TRB), which is a key partner organisation of WCTRS.
Below is the full interview with Mr. Neil and Prof. Susan.
1. What is TRB's vision on transport research and practice post COVID-19? How can it address the challenges faced post-COVID-19?
The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the movement of passengers and goods when much of the world went into lockdown in Spring 2020. At the peak of the pandemic, usage of modes such as public transit and airplanes dropped by as much as 70 to 90 percent, with other modes experiencing significant, but not as large reductions. At the same time, e-commerce activity doubled in many areas and telecommunications substituted for travel for many types of trips. Instead of commuting to an office five days a week, many white-collar workers worked from home (or teleworked), thus contributing to major travel reductions, especially to central business districts. There was a significant increase in use of active transportation modes, such as walking and bicycling, especially for shorter trips.
As the world has begun emerging from the pandemic in recent months, not all travel is returning to pre-pandemic levels. Use of public transit in particular has not recovered as much as use of private autos. It will be important that researchers both track shifts in trip patterns over time but also understand the underlying reasons for the shifts. Perhaps just as importantly it is key to understand the role of public policy in influencing these shifts. Many of the questions to be addressed include:
- How much dispersal of workplaces from central business districts or other changes in development patterns will take place post-COVID-19? What will be the changes in density and distribution of activities?
- Will commuters who shifted from public transit and other shared modes during the pandemic be willing to return to these modes? What will it take to convince them to do so?
- To what degree will work-from-home/telework replace commute trips to traditional workplaces?
- How much will telecommunications substitute for travel to other types of destinations, such as shopping, medical visits, education, and business meetings?
- What long-term changes are taking place in e-commerce? What is the future of brick and mortar stores and shopping malls?
- What will be long-term changes in auto ownership?
- How will public transit change to better meet the needs of its customers? Will it be able to better integrate with innovative mobility services and offer Mobility as a Service/Mobility on Demand?
- How will supply chains change in the future, so they are not as vulnerable to single sourcing of parts and other critical materials?
- How can the transportation-related social equity and justice issues exposed by the pandemic be addressed? How can accessibility be improved for underserved areas?
- How can public policy steer the shifts that are occurring to reduce undesirable impacts and help address broader policy goals such as economic vitality, climate change, and social equity?
- There are many questions that will require research, so that policy and decisions can be based on facts and an understanding of the underlying factors affecting change. TRB intends to help address many of these questions through the research that it conducts itself, as well as through sharing of research results of others.
2. Kindly brief us about TRB's, portfolio of activities being done, and how they can be beneficial to WCTRS members?
TRB offers a wide range of products and services that WCTRS members will find beneficial. TRB has approximately 8,500 members of its technical committees and research panels who provide expertise on almost any subject related to transportation. TRB’s premier event is the TRB Annual Meeting, which is held every January in Washington DC and attracts 14,000 transportation professionals, who attend several hundred sessions or workshops. TRB has 180 standing technical committees, which cover all modes and almost every discipline related to transportation. WCTRS members are encouraged to sign up to become a Friend of one or more committees at www.mytrb.org. TRB sponsors or co-sponsors approximately 50 conferences per year, puts on over 100 webinars per year, and publishes approximately 600 papers per year in its journal the Transportation Research Record. WCTRS members are encouraged to submit papers for peer review and consideration for publication. TRB also maintains the largest transportation research bibliographic database in the world, with over 1.25 million entries. It can be accessed at Transport Research International Documentation. TRB conducts four large research programs in highways, public transit, airports, and behavioral traffic safety, and it publishes over 100 research reports per year from these programs. TRB also conducts policy studies on behalf of the U.S. federal government, and these reports can be found on TRB’s website. TRB has partnership agreements with a number of international transportation organizations. Its international activities are coordinated through its International Coordination Council. TRB regularly updates the list of issues it is addressing through its Critical issues in Transportation document, which can be found at its publications webpage. TRB is also pleased to partner with WCTRS and several other organizations to sponsor the International Transport Forum (ITF) Pre-Summit Research Days each spring.
3. What do you think could be ways by which the transportation sector in future can contribute to Livability and Quality of Life (QoL), considering that this was the focal theme of TRB-2021 Annual Meeting?
Considerable attention has been paid in the United States to the issue of transportation’s role in livability and quality of life, especially in recent years. The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) issued a “Livability in Transportation Guidebook” that says: “Livability in transportation is about using the quality, location, and type of transportation facilities and services available to help achieve broader community goals such as access to good jobs, affordable housing, quality schools, and safe streets.” The key to how the transportation sector can contribute to quality of life and livability is to envision, plan, design, and operate the transportation system to serve these broader goals. It requires that that transportation professionals work in partnership with communities to increase transportation choices, provide access to opportunity, improve safety for all users of the system, support economic vibrancy, improve public health, and identify ways that transportation can help meet the needs of the community. It also requires that transportation professionals think about how transportation can meet broader societal goals of supporting economic competitiveness, improving air quality, addressing climate change, and creating a more equitable society. It requires rethinking who is involved in planning and decision making to include those who are directly affected by transportation decisions. It requires that decision makers consider all these livability-related factors in making decisions. TRB continues to support efforts through its programs, activities, and research to change the processes and ways of thinking in the transportation profession, so quality of life and livability are the major outcomes that we achieve.
4. A few words on TRB/WCTRS partnership
The Transportation Research Board (TRB) has forged a close working relationship with WCTRS through the International Coordinating Council. Professor Tae Oum now serves as a member of the Council, along with Professor Susan Shaheen. TRB’s International Coordinating Council concentrates on the evolution of an international perspective, practices, and research in all facets and services of all modes of transportation. The Council brings together experts from the TRB technical committees and external organizations to promote within the Technical Activities committee structure important issues affecting the safe and secure movements of goods and people in the United States and around the globe. The Council hosts sessions at the TRB annual meeting in January and joint workshops and sessions throughout the year.
Mr. Neil Pedersen, Executive Director, Transportation Research Board (TRB)
Prof. Susan Shaheen, Executive Committee Chair, Transportation Research Board (TRB)
Introduction to Topic Area G – Transport Planning and Policy
In this newsletter Topic Area G introduces the SIGs and reports on selected activities of the Special Interest Groups over recent months. Topic Area G comprises the following SIGs:
SIG G1: Governance and Decision-making Processes
SIG G4: Cultural and Social Issues in Transport
Recent SIG Activity:
SIG G1: Governance and Decision-making Processes has run a series of Webinars over the last 3 months, namely:
- Governance and Decision-Making Webinar Wednesday 19th May
‘Multi-scalar Deliberative Transport Planning: “Empowerment without Autonomy” and Shifting Transport Institutions in London’, presentation by Rosalie Ray (Columbia University)
- Governance and Decision-Making Webinar Wednesday 14 April
‘Roads, Runways and Resistance’ by Dr Steve Melia (UWE Bristol)
- Governance and Decision-Making Webinar Wednesday 26 March
‘Cab aggregators in India – a regulatory dilemma’ by Dr Shalini Sinha (CEPT Ahmedebad)
An autumn webinar series on thematic topics is currently being planned.
SIG G2: National and Regional Transport Planning and Policy, has:
- Made a ‘Call for Abstracts’ to Mid-term Workshop, 27-29 September, 2021. Online: “Ensuring sustainable mobility in urban periphery and rural areas and remote regions”
- Undertaken Joint Research in the framework of WCTR COVID-19 TF
SIG G3: Published a Special Issue ‘Urban Transport Planning and Policy in a Changing World’ based on TIS ROMA Conference (WCTR Sessions), in Research on Transportation Business and Management Volume 39, June 2021.
Prof. Stephen Ison and Prof. Maria Attard, Topic Area Managers G, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK and University of Malta (on behalf of all SIGs under TA G)
Updates – Activities done by SIG A4
ADBI-JARTS-IIT Learning Series on High-Speed Rail Session 1: Megaproject Governance and Innovation (3rd June 2021, 17:00 – 18:30 JST)
This ADBI-Japan Railway Technical Service (JARTS)-Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), Kanpur and Madras session was the first in a learning series to examine key aspects of high-speed rail construction, operations and management.
The session explored megaproject governance and innovation, with a focus on megaproject experiences in India and the United Kingdom. The information on the session can be accessed at HERE.
ADBI Featured Speaker Webinar: Greg Marsden on COVID-19 Era Travel Behavior and its Policy Implications in the United Kingdom (7th June 2021, 16:00 – 17:00 JST)
This webinar will feature Greg Marsden of the University of Leeds Institute of Transport Studies who will present findings from a longitudinal study of COVID-19 era travel behavior and policy in the United Kingdom. He will describe pandemic-driven macro-travel trends and behaviors in ten areas of England and Scotland. He will also discuss the implications of shifting work patterns for the economics of public transport and public policy. The information on the session can be accessed at HERE.
Bugalia, N., S. Misra, A. Mahalingam, and K. E. Seetha Ram. 2021. Lessons from Global Experiences on High-Speed Rail Implementation. ADBI Policy Note. Tokyo: Asian Development Bank Institute.
Dr. Nikhil Bugalia, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India
WCTRS – Southeast Asia CAR Council
EASTS (Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies) is the largest academic society of transport research in Asia and Pacific, and have the 19-member domestic societies: Australia, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Most countries in Southeast Asia have their own academic society, in particular, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand have very active societies, respectively.
In Indonesia, FSTPT (Forum Studi Transportasi Antar Perguruan Tinggi; Inter-University Transportation Studies Forum in English) organizes the annual conference from 1998. Transportation Science Society of the Philippines (TSSP) also organizes the annual conference from 1994 and publishes the Philippine Transportation Journal. In Thailand, Asian Transportation Research Society (ATRANS) holds the annual conference since 2008. EASTS provides the opportunity for join research among different societies as the International Research Group (IRG) and many IRG projects include the members from Southeast Asian countries. We expect to have more collaboration activities between WCTRS and EASTS including Southeast Asian countries.
Prof. Shinya Hanaoka, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan
WCTRS Announcement- Postponement of WCTR Montreal until 17th-24th July 2023
We would like to inform you about the very difficult decision we have come to which is to postpone our Montreal World Conference originally scheduled in July 2022 to 17th-24th (M-F) July 2023. Our decision was first and foremost taken with our focus on global academic exchange and the need to ensure, as far as we can, that all of our global scholars will have an equal opportunity to attend.