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When Robert Bertini was a graduate student at Berkeley, he received a fellowship from a University Transportation Center, or UTC.
Today, he’s the director of the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research, which recently received $7.5 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to open its own UTC.
USF beat out 50 other schools to secure one of two grants awarded by the USDOT in June. Washington State University received the other one.
The center will provide funding for students, research opportunities, and outreach to the community. It will also partner with local agencies and private companies to come up with the best transportation solutions.
There are currently 37 University Transportation Centers in the United States, each with a different focus. USF’s center will focus on reducing traffic congestion.
Bertini emphasized that one of the most important aspects of reducing congestion is giving people choices – the more options they have, the smoother the transportation flow of a city will be.
“If people can choose, sometimes they might be in their car, sometimes they might be on a bike or walking or using public transportation,” he said.
Bertini said that each city has to come up with its own transportation solutions, but that he does admire the transportation system in Portland, a city he lived in for many years.
He said one of the best ways to learn about public transportation is to use it when you travel to other places.
“I think you really learn about a city when you’re either walking or biking or using public transportation. It helps me learn about the fabric of the city, the fabric of the community.”
One of things Bertini pointed to that he thinks other cities are doing right is called a “congestion charge.”
He says London and New York City both put increased charges on cars heading into the heart of the cities to encourage people to take public transportation.
The University Transportation Center will allow CUTR to do more community outreach. Bertini wants to work with community college students, the general public, and children to educate them about the transportation system.
“I always notice how little kids love planes, and trains, and cars,” he said. “We want to keep young people excited and encourage them to get involved in transportation.”
And if Bertini could make one change in Tampa Bay transportation, he said he would want everyone to come together to be part of the conversation.
“I would want all neighborhoods and citizens to feel like they’re at the table, and that they’re being listened to,” Bertini said.
“Hopefully we’ll be a catalyst for that with the education and outreach we’ll be doing with this UTC.”