Research Highlights

Sponsored Research Projects


Research Areas

The NTC organizes its research activities in three major research topic areas – Domestic and U.S.-related International Freight Efficiency and Reliability, Congestion Mitigation with Multi-Modal Strategies, and Smart and Strategic Investments in High Speed Rail – to directly support the U.S. DOT strategic goal of Economic Competitiveness with consideration for other related strategic goals such as Safety and Sustainable Environment. Our research activities are multimodal/intermodal and multidisciplinary in scope.

Domestic and U.S.-Related Freight Efficiency and Reliability

U.S. DOT’s national freight strategy has three key objectives: (1) Improving the system performance, reliability, safety, and environmental sustainability of our national freight network and the multi-modal freight corridors that connect major population centers with freight generators and international gateways; (2) Targeting public freight policies and investments on strengthening U.S. economic competitiveness by focusing on domestic industries and businesses to create high-value jobs; and (3) Promoting economic opportunities for reducing the negative effects of freight facilities and operations on surrounding communities. In addition, the U.S. DOT Strategic Plan has stated the following research priorities on advancing U.S. transportation-related economic interests in targeted international markets: (1) Determine how the expansion of the Panama Canal will impact U.S. and global trade as well as U.S. ports, waterways, and intermodal freight systems; (2) Focus Federal investments to improve the linkages between our ports and the rail and highways systems; and (3) develop and deploy interoperable technology architecture at our land ports of entry with Mexican and Canadian partners that is integrated with Intelligent Transportation Systems initiatives.

The NTC directs a large fraction of its research activities toward improving the effectiveness and reducing the negative impacts of the U.S. freight transportation system, in accordance with the objectives of the USDOT Strategic Plan. Our highly developed multi-modal transportation system is itself a major part of the U.S. economy and its performance greatly affects the efficiency and competitiveness of the entire U.S. economy. Furthermore this system accounts for much of the congestion, energy use, accidents and negative environmental impacts. The system could greatly benefit from major investments but severe public-sector financial constraints make it imperative to leverage public funds with public-private partnerships while exploiting advances in technologies and operating policies for improving the system.

Congestion Mitigation with Multi-Modal Strategies

Research activities on congestion mitigation directly support USDOT’s three major objectives in this topic area: (1) Promote operational strategies that reduce the impact of congestion-causing incidents and bottlenecks including the use of effective traffic incident management and geospatial technologies, traveler and traffic information systems, and arterial and corridor management systems; (2) Provide support for better and a wider variety of transit services and increased transit capacity; and (3) Advocate adoption of demand management strategies which improve the efficiency of existing capacity such as ridesharing, car- and van-pooling, flextime, parking demand management, road pricing, and car sharing.

Smart and Strategic Investments in High Speed Rail

USDOT Strategic Plan envisions the development of a multi-tiered passenger rail network that accounts for different markets and geographic contexts throughout the U.S. with Core Express Corridors, Regional Corridors, and Emerging Corridors. The investments in intercity rail will also spur economic growth, revitalize domestic rail manufacturing and supply industries, and establish an economic base of highly skilled, well-paying American jobs. TPID will conduct research to promote smart and strategic investments in high-speed, intercity passenger rail to support economic development, balance demand across modes, and relieve traffic on roads and on aviation.

The development of a high speed rail (HSR) system for the U.S. is highly important for our economic success and competitiveness, for mitigating congestion on highways, for reducing the negative environmental impacts of transportation and our dependence on imported oil, for reducing the wasteful use of valuable resources (including land) and for enhancing the quality of life in the U.S. Many of the international competitors of the U.S., including Western Europe, Japan and China have developed modern and extensive HSR networks, while the U.S. still lags considerably behind them.

The NTC takes advantage of its varied resources and excellent researchers to assist in the development of HSR systems in the U.S. It will rely on advice from the USDOT and other external experts as well as its internal expertise to identify the research areas and specific problems where it can make the most beneficial contributions to HSR development in the U.S.

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