Cal Poly Pomona Receives $2.5M Grant

Cal Poly Pomona Receives $2.5M Grant
Students on the Cal Poly Pomona campus.

Cal Poly Pomona is receiving a five-year, $2.5 million grant to study ground travel-patterns transportation behavior, the university announced recently.

The grant is part of a larger $40 million federal Department of Transportation grant announced last month for a multi-university research center to study current ground-transportation behavior and project future trends. 

The goal is to take this data and formulate policy recommendations on transportation infrastructure priorities for elected officials and transportation planners, including on how to make roads and highways safer and mass transit systems more equitable.

The center will be based at the University of Texas, Austin, but will bring together research from Cal Poly Pomona and six other universities: Arizona State University, City College of New York, Diné College (a public tribal land-grant college in Tsaile, Arizona), the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, the University of Michigan and the University of Washington.

At Cal Poly Pomona, the research will have two components. The first involves collecting data on existing sources of travel to gather insights on current travel patterns. This information will be placed into a travel behavior data hub that will serve as a one-stop shop for insights on current ground-travel patterns.

The second component will be a longitudinal survey that will follow a diverse group of individuals and households across the United States to get a first-hand understanding of how their travel decisions change as they move.

Leading the research team at Cal Poly Pomona will be Wen Cheng, a civil engineering professor.

“Individually, human driving behavior is random,” Cheng said. “So many factors can influence how an individual person drives, like their emotional state, for example. However, if you put together thousands and millions of individual driving behavior information, you can start to see an overall pattern of common driving behavior.”

Additionally, researchers will survey service providers and employers to track trends in business-provided transportation benefits, employee work-from-home patterns, and use of e-commerce and delivery platforms to reach customers. Many of these trends picked up steam during the pandemic; the research will try to tease out the extent to which these trends result in permanent alterations of ground-travel patterns.

The research is also expected to cover the movement of goods to create a holistic picture of travel behavior across sectors and groups. Traditionally, freight and passenger travel analyses have been siloed, and the team is looking to break down those walls to create more reliable travel projections.

Another area the research is expected to explore is how the increased use of autonomous vehicles influences travel patterns.

Besides the pure research component, Cal Poly Pomona officials hope the grant will stimulate collaborations and forge new connections with major public agencies like the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the city Los Angeles Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro. 

The grant will also be used to offer greater research opportunities for students and fund opportunities to attend transportation research conferences.

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Howard Fine
Howard Fine is a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Business Journal. He covers stories pertaining to healthcare, biomedicine, energy, engineering, construction, and infrastructure. He has won several awards, including Best Body of Work for a single reporter from the Alliance of Area Business Publishers and Distinguished Journalist of the Year from the Society of Professional Journalists.

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