ATPIO member and former president, Ram Pendyala, is leading a new USDOT-sponsored University Transportation Center (UTC) that aims to improve the mobility of people and goods through innovation in the planning and modeling of future enhancements to the nation’s transportation systems. Pendyala is a professor of transportation systems in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at Arizona State University (ASU), which has been named the lead institution for the new UTC that will focus on improving regional travel demand forecasting models and methods. The center’s work will be part of a larger DOT program to develop new systems and technologies that provide better surface transportation mobility and accessibility across the country.
The new center, called the Center for Teaching Old Models New Tricks — or TOMNET for short — puts Ram Pendyala in charge of a consortium that includes researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Washington, and the University of South Florida. It’s one of 20 Tier 1 centers recently awarded to universities around the country — selected from more than 200 proposals — and the first and only one to be led by an Arizona university since the inception of the University Transportation Centers program two decades ago. The new awards provide each of the Tier 1 centers $7 million over five years.
TOMNET’s mission is to significantly improve data models and analytical tools that are used to plan transportation infrastructure, operate multimodal systems and optimize travelers’ movements in complex networks. The inspiration for the TOMNET center is drawn from the decades of complementary research and experience of Pendyala and Georgia Tech Professor Patricia Mokhtarian, the center’s research director. While Pendyala brings deep expertise in the refinement of regional travel demand forecasting models, Mokhtarian has similar proficiency in the design and analysis of attitudinal surveys. They have long felt the need to combine the strengths of their individual expertise for the improvement of regional planning, forecasting and policymaking.