MIT has been selected to lead the US Department of Transportation Research & Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) University Transportation Center for the New England Region. The University Transportation Centers Program strives to advance research and education programs that address critical transportation challenges facing our nation. The UTCs, which are located throughout the United States, conduct research that directly supports the priorities of the US Department of Transportation, and the participating universities are a critical part of the nation’s transportation strategy.
Announced yesterday by US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the two-year $3.5 million grant funds transportation and education programs at MIT and its regional partners that include the University of Connecticut, Harvard University, and the Universities of Maine and Massachusetts. AgeLab director Joseph Coughlin led the proposal and is principal investigator of the grant establishing the New England University Transportation Center. According to Coughlin, “the award is the result of a competitive selection process and our consortium’s success is a testament to MIT and its regional partners’ decades of achievement in transportation”.
The grant will support surface transportation research and education projects in the area of safety and livable communities with special attention given to the role of new technologies and disadvantaged populations such as the elderly. MIT will work with each of the consortium’s partner universities to develop regional expertise while providing national leadership in transportation safety and community mobility. Each of the universities will collaborate to create a network of regional living laboratories that will serve as platforms for research and education.
The AgeLab will work with other MIT researchers to develop the foundations for a living laboratory around Massachusetts Avenue to better understand individual travel behaviors, multimodal traffic management, creative approaches to the built environment and the potential of intelligent systems to improve safety and accessibility. Focused attention will be paid to accessibility and safety for older pedestrians, transit users and drivers. The unique confluence of residential and retail development along with pedestrian, bicycle, passenger car, commercial, rail and bus public transportation as well as freight rail operations make the Massachusetts Avenue Living Laboratory or MALL a rich platform to understand how to manage the intensity and density of a vibrant community while ensuring the adequate safety and accessibility of a truly livable community.
Coughlin noted that the development of these living mobility laboratories and the overall success of the New England Center will require strong partnerships between the consortium’s researchers, government, industry partners, as well as non-profits, and added that he looks forward to the new Center becoming a catalyst for innovation and national leadership.