The Urban Transportation Center will continue its tradition of strong local research and achieve national and international prominence to advance solutions for emerging transportation challenges.
The mission will be realized by UTC staff and affiliated faculty through interdisciplinary research. The research will assist UTC in becoming a national and international leader in transportation. It will offer an immersive, transformative education based on real-world problems and practical student experience. The Center will be an incubator for successful solutions to urban challenges while facilitating the advancement of faculty and staff.
The Urban Transportation Center (UTC) was established as a campus unit in 1979. The UTC's goal is to catalyze interdisciplinary exploration and understanding of the human, economic and informational aspects of transportation systems and the complex social context in which it operates. We have a strong research, teaching and service history and a strategic plan for the future, which we believe will enable us to become the premier urban university center with a focus on transportation.
Dr. Ashish Sen, working with the encouragement of Milton Pikarsky, the chairman of Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) wrote the proposal to establish the center. The first director was Richard Michaels, who also directed the predecessor unit, the Urban Systems Laboratory in the College of Engineering. Dr. Michaels came to UIC from Northwestern University where he had developed an international reputation in human-factors transportation research. He was succeeded by Robert Paaswell in 1982. When Dr. Paaswell was called upon to become the Executive Director of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Dr. Michaels returned to the Center as Director. Dr. Robert Paaswell is currently Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering at City College of New York, Director of the University Transportation Research Center.
During the 1970s, much of UTC's research was supported by the US DOT's Office of University Research and involved faculty from numerous colleges. The faculty, mainly in the College of Urban Sciences, wrote a series of final reports on paratransit planning, carpooling and vanpooling that became national standards in the field. The Center also received considerable amount of funding from Joyce Foundation and the Woods Charitable Fund to study economic development and access to employment, leading to the SEED Model (Labor Shed Mapper). Studies were also conducted on privatization of handicapped transit for CTA, a valuation study of Milwaukee Road, access to employment by urban residents, training and modeling behavior of freight locomotive engineers, and development of a cooperative program with China.
In 1988, the UTC was able to recruit David Boyce, a leading figure in Regional Science and an internationally renowned transportation modeler, to become its director. Under Dr. Boyce's directorship, UTC became an international leader in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) research with a feasibility study of in-vehicle driver navigation system (the ADVANCE study). UTC moved to CUPPA and also become the central office for Illinois Universities Transportation Research Consortium (IUTRC). IUTRC is a 4-university consortium which was developed to coordinate faculty research interests among UIC, NU, IIT and UIUC. During this time, the Center focused on spatial interaction modeling, real-time travel forecasting and network assignment problems.
Dr. Sen became the director of UTC in 1996. During Dr. Sen's tenure, UTC conducted seminal work on urban sprawl that generated considerable international attention. The Center also established an advisory Board that includes the CEO's of effectively all of the major transportation and planning agencies in the region. The UTC also established a national presence in studying the transportation needs of individuals transitioning from welfare to work.
When Dr. Sen was asked to serve as the Director of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (serving directly under the U.S. Secretary of Transportation) in 1998, Dr. Siim Sööt assumed the directorship. Working with Joseph DiJohn, who had previously been executive director of PACE, the Center obtained the highly successful Metropolitan Transportation System Initiative (METSI) grant. During this period the Center also built on its welfare-to-work research and obtained a major Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) grant. Research work related to this grant continues today. Drs. Sen and Soot continue to be involved in UTC research today.
Dr. Soot was succeeded by Dr. Sue McNeil in 2000. Dr. McNeil is a national leader in the area of transportation asset management. Under her directorship, the Center grew substantially in terms of grants as well as graduate research assistants. When Dr. McNeil left UIC to become a faculty member in the University of Delaware, Dr. Vonu Thakuriah assumed the position of Interim Director of the Center in Fall, 2005. Dr. Thakuriah's primary areas of research are Intelligent Transportation Systems and planning for mobility and accessibility of disadvantaged individuals in our society.
In the fall of 2010, Steve Schlickman, a transportation professional with more than 30 years of experience, was named executive director. An adjunct faculty member in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, Mr. Schlickman held executive-level positions in the transportation industry and government. He served as Executive Director of the Regional Transportation Authority and led the Downtown Circulator Study in Chicago. And, he worked on funding for all modes of transportation as Mayor Richard M. Daley's Director of the Chicago office in Washington, D.C.
Throughout its history, the Center has funded a number of graduate research assistants. Many of our Ph.D. students now have faculty positions in universities across the country and internationally. Our master's students have technical or managerial positions in some of the best-known transportation agencies and international consulting firms. The Center also has a history of a strong relationship with federal, state and local transportation agencies. We have provided research and technical assistance support to many such agencies over time
Currently, the UTC specializes in these four clusters of transportation research:
Transit planning, operations and management
Transportation funding and financing
Freight planning operations and management
Data Development for transportation planning and analysis
The UTC also has the distinction to be the only major university research unit that participates in three US DOT national transportation research consortia:
The UTC has served as a campus-wide unit throughout its history by fostering an interdisciplinary approach to research and by welcoming collaboration among planners, engineers, economists, health professionals, public administrators, statisticians, geographers and regional scientists.