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Planning and Managing Regional Transportation Systems in a Changing World

UTRC’s primary focus is the stewardship, management, and future evolution of its already mature transportation systems, in the face of emerging policy challenges. The region’s transportation agencies must continually adjust to the nature of the economy and its evolving transportation requirements; their emerging understanding of what is required to protect public safety and security; and new challenges, such as global climate change. As advances in technology continually redraw the boundaries of what is possible, transportation agencies also face the daunting challenge of revisiting how they define their missions, serve the public and conduct their routine business. Because this region has historically faced so many transportation challenges, it has a tradition of innovation in transportation. Yet as the early solutions it adopts become institutionalized, it tends to be slow to absorb and implement lessons from innovators elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad, and thus often falls behind the curve. To become a region that can plan and manage its systems effectively in the face of change, it must become more dynamic in its approaches to the management of information and technology.

“Planning and Managing Regional Transportation Systems in a Changing World” encompasses three broad thematic areas:

Planning today, in Region 2, requires knowledge of multi-modal and intermodal systems serving both freight and passenger movements. Planning in the region involves not only MPOs, but all of the many agencies taxed with the need to move people and goods 24/7. Planning is constrained by institutional mandate and history, the need to catch up with a backlog of capital needs, and a chronic shortage of adequate funds for both maintaining and building the infrastructure. UTRC’s role is to provide through academic programs, a solid base on which planning decisions can be made; yet UTRC has the capability to provide “instantaneous programs” in response to critical needs (such as the conference organized for New York State on public-private partnerships).

Management today, in Region 2, means knowledge of interaction among complex multi modal systems, budgeting, system operations and performance targets, customer needs, the need to address security, and – when fighting fires stops – a sense of vision of system performance and regional change. Management takes place at every level: from Board Chairpersons to line operators. UTRC has initiated and will develop programs ranging from Authority Board Member Training, to training in high technology for Transit workers. UTRC will develop a major training program for the New York City MPO addressing technical issues and management. UTRC is also part of the national group of UTCs that will develop online leadership courses for the profession as a whole.

Responses to change: As the world changes, the demands on the transportation system change as well. Tomorrow’s transportation systems will need to be more secure, more resilient to natural hazards, less damaging to the environment, and better able to use available capacity efficiently. Emerging transportation systems rely on real time technology and rapid transfer of operational information. UTRC will partner with leaders in innovation and deployment, including research labs and private firms. UTRC, through its continuing national leadership on new paradigms in transportation management, will continue to integrate technology into transportation systems. This is also an era of meeting financial needs through new – and proven – fiscal approaches, many of which include Public-Private Partnerships. UTRC’s strong economic capability has made national (and international) impacts and will be used to assist regional agencies to address investment impacts. The institutions that have traditionally operated the regional assets must, themselves, begin to change. They must think multimodally, with integrated operating systems. UTRC, with its strategic capability, can assist the regional agencies (and be a model for national success) in organizational change responsive to new missions.