UTA partners with the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to support transportation research projects. UTRAC is an annual research prioritization workshop which allocates state funds for research.

Workshop participants include professionals from UDOT, Federal Highway Administration, local governments, metropolitan planning organizations, transit agencies, universities, and the private sector. The annual prioritization process matches up today’s toughest transportation challenges with the best problem solvers available to develop implementation-ready solutions.

Whether you have an intractable transportation-related challenge, or are part of a talented problem-solving team, UTRAC is here to help fuel tomorrow’s innovative transportation solutions today!

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Impact of Streetcar Operation on Land Use Changes, Traffic, and Other Outcomes
The University of Utah is conducting research on the impacts of the S-Line on land development and traffic along the streetcar corridor. They examined changes in the S-Line corridor among land use, property values, trip generation, parking demand, vehicle and pedestrian traffic volumes, traffic safety, energy consumption, and gas emission. Overall, a significant amount of economic development has occurred in the S-Line corridor and has created a safer and more pedestrian-friendly environment. This research will help UTA and other organizations understand the effects of transit improvement on the surrounding land use and environment which will help with planning and policy decisions.

University of Utah Transit Ridership Decline Research
High-quality transit reduces auto trips and supports walk and bike trips. However, transit ridership across many regions in the country has been leveling-off and, in many cases, declining over the past years (even before COVID-19 pandemic) despite additional capital investment in public transit systems. Metropolitan Research Center (MRC) was funded by UDOT and UTA to provide guidelines and policy recommendations to overcome ridership decline and boost ridership. To do this, Reid Ewing, director of MRC, and his colleagues have developed a mixed-method study to use both quantitative and qualitative analysis. For the qualitative portion, multiple performance measures have developed to identify 15 transit agencies in the US with highest ridership growth between 2010 and 2019 in three different size classes: large, medium, and small. Interviews with the selected agencies are currently taking place to better understand reasons behind the agencies’ ridership growth. In addition, quantitative analysis will be used to identify variables that contribute to ridership growth.

Increasing Affordability, Energy Efficiency, and Ridership of Transit Bus Systems through Large-Scale Electrification
Utah State University is leading a first-class project team of strategic partners and experts to break down key technical barriers for large-scale transit electrification. Team members include the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Purdue University, Utah Transit Authority (UTA), Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet), and PacifiCorp. The proposed project will develop a set of innovative planning and operation tools and identify improvement strategies to help transit agencies gradually and effectively deploy and operate electric buses to improve the mobility, efficiency, and affordability of transit bus systems. The project will accomplish this goal through the coordinated, strategic execution of a range of collaborative tasks focusing on electric bus infrastructure planning, smart operations, energy-efficient route optimization, grid impact analysis, travel behavior study, and new mobility integration. The project is funded by the Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Polarized Infrared and Optical Imaging System for Transit Infrastructure Condition Assessment
Safety is a principal concern of the transit industry. Track- and tie-related structural deficiency can pose risks to the safe operation of trains. According to American Public Transportation Association (APTA), one-third of transit assets are in a marginal or poor state of repair, and track and structures are classified as the asset type with the largest total value of marginal to poor assets. Track failures and deteriorated concrete and wooden ties can lead to accidents and catastrophic derailments, and transit employees could get seriously injured due to inadequate safeguards when practicing routine walking inspection.

This project has two overarching objectives. To enable early detection and long-term monitoring of hazardous asset condition, the team will:

  • Develop polarized infrared measurement system for internal structural deficiency inspection; and
  • Develop polarized optical measurement system for external structural deficiency inspection.

To enhance the system robustness and improve right-of-way safety for transit workers, the team will:

  • Develop in-motion track structural deficiency inspection prototype; and
  • Demonstrate and evaluate prototype performance on revenue-service lines.

The mission of this project is to serve the transit industry by increasing safety, improving infrastructure reliability, and minimizing the risks of accidents induced by rail defects and tie degradation. Funding for this project is being provided through the Federal Transit Administration’s Research Innovation Program.

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