March 15, 2010
Job opportunities in this issue's classifieds include a public transit agency president/CEO and executive director of a national program!
RITA’s Appel Stresses Importance of Transportation Research
“Transit is at the heart of so much of what makes communities great,” Peter Appel, administrator of DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), told the audience at the March 2 Transportation Tuesday program at the APTA offices in Washington, DC. “There is no better path to livability.”
Appel explained that RITA is “helping to shape the future of public transportation through research and analysis” by such agencies as the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS); Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS); Research, Development and Technology (RD&T); University Transportation Centers (UTCs); and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. A major responsibility of his agency is to break down the information “silos” that may exist in the various modal administrations and share the research each one conducts.
For example, he noted, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration both conducted early studies on distracted driving, but work on the issue—a priority of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood—could only move forward once the modes began learning from each other.
LaHood’s Distracted Driving Summit in 2009 recognized that the situation does not only affect individual drivers, according to Appel: it brought those drivers together with law enforcement officials, legislators, safety advocates, and teens, who may be avid users of text messaging. He noted: “We can’t solve the problem with one tool. We need all the tools in the toolkit … The tools are there; we just have to bring them together through common standards.”
He also described how the transportation workforce will have to adapt to ongoing changes in the industry. DOT is just one of the players in this process, he said, calling for partnerships involving universities and state governments.
Other research efforts Appel cited included the ITS Integrated Corridor Management Initiative, which examines how to make the most effective use of each mode of transportation; the national fuel cell bus program conducted by RD&T; and UTC projects that consider the installation of seatbelts on board school buses or the coordination of transit signal priority.
He also emphasized the importance of workforce development in a changing transportation landscape. “It’s going to be different in the future, so we’ll need to prepare,” Appel said. “DOT is just one of many players; we’re going to need partnerships with universities, state governments, and industry.”
Above all, Appel pointed to the “unprecedented levels of safety” offered by public transit, and noted that transit agencies understand that safety is everyone’s job.