US Department of Transportation awards $14 million grant to National Center for Sustainable Transportation

GENESIA TING / AGGIE
GENESIA TING / AGGIE

UC Davis-led institute one of five national transportation centers awarded under the University Transportation Centers program

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced in early December that it had selected the National Center for Sustainable Transportation (NCST), led by the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies, to receive a five-year $14 million federal grant to work on a more sustainable transportation system.

The NCST is one of five national transportation centers awarded under the University Transportation Centers’ program that was reauthorized by the federal Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. It is the only national transportation center focused on environmental preservation and the only one in California.

The NCST is part of UC Davis’ Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS-Davis). Other institutions partnered with the NCST are California State University, Long Beach; UC Riverside; University of Southern California; Georgia Tech and the University of Vermont.  

The institution works on improving the environmental sustainability of transportation  nationwide. The institution helps federal, state, regional and local agencies reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from passenger and freight travel that contribute to climate change. Its goal is to enhance the environmental sustainability of the United States’ transportation system through reducing fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our research is organized around three themes, each essential to the goal of sustainability: environmentally responsible infrastructure and operations, multimodal travel and sustainable land use and zero-emission vehicle and fuel technology,” said Susan Handy, the NCST director and an environmental science and policy professor.

Handy believes that finding more eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives to modern transportation are highly important.  

“Preserving the environment is called out in federal policy as a priority research area, for good reason,” Handy said. “The transportation system is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. It degrades water quality, increases noise levels, fragments natural habitat [and] creates barriers within our communities. All of these impacts have consequences for human health, social equity, economic vitality and our overall quality of life […] now and into the future.”

Since its creation in 2012, the NCST has funded 68 research projects on topics related to sustainable transportation. The NCST also published 25 white papers written to help policymakers address critical sustainability issues. It has worked with influential leaders and stakeholder groups, making it a leader in advancement of environmentally sustainable transportation and making UC Davis as a whole the nation’s leading university on sustainable transportation.

With the federal grant, the NCST plans to launch new research initiatives that will focus on the electrification, sharing and automation of passenger vehicles, as well as the development of more educational programs, not just for graduate students but also for undergraduates and high school students.

Dahlia Garas, the NCST program manager, believes that, with this federal grant, the institute will be able to efficiently find alternatives that are affordable and a positive resource for everyone.

“Finding win-win solutions that reduce environmental impacts while enhancing the economy and making travel easier, affordable and more convenient will provide a better future for everyone,” Garas said.

Carina Tejada, a fourth-year community and regional development major, believes it is important that a school known for its emphasis on agriculture work to continue to make a positive environmental impact.

“As an agriculture school focused on being green, it is important we also do our part in helping the environment and coming up with ways that will make transportation be more sustainable,” Tejada said. “UC Davis is the perfect school really to work on a sustainable project like this.”
Written by: Demi Caceres — campus@theaggie.org