UMN’s Center for Transportation Studies Is a Hub for Collaborative Research

 “Transportation and transportation infrastructure issues are often secondary considerations,” said Kyle Shelton, director of The University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies (CTS). “They get attention when they’re not working.” CTS, on the other hand, makes transportation a primary consideration and helps translate important University research into real-world solutions by encouraging and facilitating collaboration with members of industry and the public sector.

To highlight some of this research and the researchers behind it, CTS launched The Future of Mobility, a series of articles that highlights 17 critical transportation topics, including the relationship between rural transportation and health; the future of self-driving cars; and using transportation to unite rather than divide communities. Each topic is paired with a leading researcher who summarizes the issue, discusses the ramifications, and, maybe most importantly, outlines three action steps to address the problem.

“We’re trying to highlight just a slice of the expertise here at the University and give these experts an opportunity to talk about their research, point out the challenges, and turn their research into real-world solutions,” said Shelton. “We want stakeholders to know the University is thinking about transportation and share our perspectives. We want them to use this research to inform bigger picture policy questions.”

A collaborative unit, CTS plays an important role as a two-way conduit between researchers and external partners, connecting stakeholders with important research and providing external feedback and new considerations to researchers. Not exclusively an internal partner, CTS serves external partners, too, by hosting and encouraging conversations beyond the University and creating a container for these discussions.

“We inhabit a unique space where we are able to convene and inform conversations without having a particular focus, unlike other external partners such as government agencies,” said Shelton. “We provide an opportunity for other agencies, such as MnDOT, to engage in a different, less official capacity.” While the legislature and other agencies are often acting more immediately, CTS can be a key player in using University research to guide discussions about processes and decisions being made years from now.  

“Without CTS and units like it, we can end up with a lot of silos at the University,” said Shelton. “If you’re doing something impactful, CTS can help broaden the scope, translate it into practice, and see real-world results.”

The Future of Mobility series is the latest effort to do just that. Shelton hopes to draw a lot of attention to these experts and their work, using the 17 topics and suggested action steps as a launchpad for deeper conversations. Throughout 2023, CTS will host events, such as the upcoming film screening on February 23 and webinars, to promote these researchers and their findings.

CTS maintains an updated knowledge base of University faculty and scholars doing research that involves transportation in order to amplify their work. Shelton wants researchers to know that CTS is interested in supporting any researchers on any topic that touches even tangentially on mobility and transportation, such as research considering social determinants of health care quality. CTS can support researchers in many ways, including connecting them with funding opportunities.

“As a support unit, CTS is not a competitor,” Shelton explained. “Any benefit that comes to the University surrounding transportation helps us fulfill our mission. We’d love to know more about your research and bring more to the table.”

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