The Cooperative Mobility for Competitive Megaregions (CM2) consortium held its annual Summer Forum earlier this month at the Texas Southern University (TSU) campus in Houston, TX. The Summer Forum provides a unique opportunity for UTC researchers from different institutions to share ongoing research efforts and program updates with CM2 partners and industry stakeholders, as well as discuss the future of the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) funded Tier 1 University Transportation Center (UTC).
Researchers from all of CM2’s partner institutions – the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), TSU, and Louisiana State University (LSU) – attended as did members of both the Executive Committee and the Advisory Committee, CM2 Support Partner representatives, and guest speakers from the transportation industry.
The first day of the Forum was divided into two events, the first and main event being an engaging program of keynote speakers and discussions around this year’s theme, Megaregions: Rethinking our Ideas About Communities. This event offers a critical opportunity for academic researchers and industry professionals to gather together around a common issue in the transportation field. Dr. Rasoul Saneifard, P.E. of TSU’s Office of the Provost gave the opening speech at the Forum, followed by opening remarks from CM2 Director Dr. Ming Zhang.
Keynote presentations included:
- “Agglomeration Economies and Evolving Urban Form” by Dr. Genevieve Giuliano (Director of METRANS and Professor at the University of Southern California)
- “Think Globally, Act Regionally, and Coordinate Locally: Megaregions and the Future” by James Garland (Team Leader for Transportation Planning Capacity Building in the FHWA Office of Planning, Environment & Realty).
- “Megaregions Shape Communities” by Dr. Catherine Ross (Director of Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development and Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology)
Additional speakers included Brenda Bustillos (TxDOT) and Thomas Gray (H-GAC). As UTSOA researcher Dr. Sandi Rosenbloom said, “All of the guest speakers were amazing and they presented a wonderful array of information on the complexity of the growth and development issues in a megaregion.”
The second half of the day was the Academic Forum, during which each partner institution provided project updates and research findings. During this event, project Principle Investigators (PIs) provided brief overviews of their current CM2-related research projects, workshops, and teaching efforts. In addition, professor and student researchers held a poster session spotlighting notable developments in their research. The complexity of scale that all of the forum speakers discussed was once again brought to the forefront. As UTSOA researcher, Dr. Gian-Glaudia Sciara, commented, “I appreciated learning and discussing how each of the research teams is grappling with the issue of scale in transportation planning, analysis, and policy. This concern with scale is powerful thread engaging all of us.”
The quality of research conducted across the consortium was widely lauded by the forum guests, with L. Ashley McLain, AICP, Principal at Cox|McLain Environmental Consulting, Inc. (a CM2 Support Partner) commenting, “As a CM2 supporter, I loved hearing updates from leading researchers from across the county – Los Angeles, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania – as well as reports from overseas partnerships. The research opportunities with students were very exciting, as I know they are the pipeline of future professionals for megaregion planning and policy development.”
Following the project presentations, attendees participated in table discussions about potential research collaborations and strategies to publicize research findings. Some notable outcomes from the discussion included the potential for more inter-institutional collaboration, potentially funding student work-study or internship programs, and new ways to promote research findings (such as a weekly megaregional focused email digest, a video series, and more).
The Academic Forum ended with an award ceremony in which attendees voted on projects for three categories: Best Equity Project, Best Inter-Disciplinary Project, and Best Tech Transfer Project. Congratulations to our project award winners, who are listed below:
- Best Equity Project – Dr. Lewis and Dr. Goodwin: “Determining Purpose and Need for Vulnerable Communities in the Megaregions”
- Best Inter-Disciplinary Project: Dr. Sciara, Dr. Walton, and Dr. Megan Ryerson: “How Does Regional Transportation Governance and Capacity Influence Investment Outcomes?”
- Best Tech Transfer Project – Dr. Pan and Dr. Chun: “Develop a GIS-based Megaregion Transportation Planning Model”
If you would like to learn more about these or other projects, please see our Research Projects page.
Following the first day of events, attendees were treated to an Evening Reception followed by ride in the University District Automated Vehicle (AV) Shuttle. For many attendees, this was their very first time riding in an AV and was the highlight of their day. As Dr. Erick Guerra summed up, “Thank you to our hosts. I had a terrific time at TSU. Great space, great food, and a really terrific ride on an AV shuttle!”
The second day of the Summer Forum consisted of an invitation-only Business Meeting to discuss the future of the UTC as well as review project proposals for Year-4 funding. There was a strong consensus that the center should increase its efforts to share research findings with a wider audience through tangible outputs, such as workshops, books, and conference presentations.
While project selections and budgets are still being finalized, they will be added to our Research Projects page as soon as selections are official. In the meantime, to get the latest updates about the projects and research of the CM2 consortium, please subscribe to the CM2 newsletter, follow us on Twitter (@CM2_UTC), or connect with us on LinkedIn.
Commenting on the event overall, Director Dr. Ming Zhang said,
“Once again CM2 had a great summer forum this year! We had inspirational guest speakers coming from the west and the east coast, from central and southern states, and from local communities in the Houston region. The CM2 PI talk-and-show session presented excellent work, completed or ongoing, by our partners and collaborators. Our first CM2 Advisory Committee meeting was well attended by members representing the federal and state agencies, the academia, and the private sector as well. CM2’s new budgeting strategy, which focuses on output accountability, attracted a great set of quality proposals. Many thanks to the local host, Texas Southern University, Dr. Qisheng Pan and Dr. Carol Lewis and their team, for their outstanding efforts!”