UCCONNECT continues and builds upon the legacy strengths of the original Region 9 Center, UCTC, which has been housed at UC Berkeley since the inception of the UTC program, and which has an impressive track record of contributions garnered through collaborative activities conducted across multiple university campuses, and in partnership with the California State DOT (Caltrans). The new Center continues in that collaborative tradition, but with a sharpened focus.
The activities of our new Center are primarily directed at advancing the strategic goal of economic competitiveness. To a large degree, this theme reflects the need for reducing congestion, improving highway operations and enhancing freight productivity. The reasons for choosing this strategic goal for our Regional Center are twofold.
First, the theme speaks to what we believe are the greatest challenges now confronting the region’s transport systems. The challenges are especially pronounced in California. Our state is home to four of the nation’s 22 most congested urbanized areas, and as a gateway to the Pacific Rim, has some of the country’s busiest ports. California thus has a vested interest in curbing its congestion problems. In light of the above, UCCONNECT will be dedicated to the proposition that: economic competitiveness comes by mobilizing society in general, and the workforce in particular; and by delivering goods and services in the most efficient ways possible.
Our Center further recognizes that achieving these aims for Region 9 will require innovative ideas for combating transport congestion and its attendant costs. The costs of concern here include: those that occur when people are delayed in reaching their workplaces and other (e.g. non-work) destinations; and those that occur when congested freight terminals, ports and other points along a supply chain impede goods movement. These costs do not only entail monetary, out-of-pocket expenses. They include lost times, lost opportunities and environmental externalities such as excess energy consumption and added emissions. We are especially concerned when these costs of travel become so high (and so unpredictable from day to day) that businesses and human capital avoid our region and opt instead to set-up shop and reside in other locations.
Our Center's capabilities
This brings us to a second reason for choosing economic competitiveness as our Center’s strategic goal: the goal reflects the capabilities to be found across the consortium’s five core institutions and its one affiliate. We in this consortium have by-and-large devoted our professional lives to the study of transportation and its impacts on society. We thus recognize that congestion is severely undermining the economic competitiveness that transport networks once brought to our region in bygone years; and that this problem is especially detrimental in a global, 21st-century economy. We further understand that solutions do not lie in frenzied efforts to build our way out of the problem. Rather, solutions will require that we manage and re-design our present-day systems, and that we plan our new ones, in ways that significantly enhance the movements of persons and goods. And these mobility solutions must be sustainable over the long run.
We further realize that to meet the needs of modern transport, solutions must be multi-modal in their focus, meaning that they must address the problems that arise when cars, transit vehicles, freight vehicles and non-motorized modes compete for limited space on a road or in a city, or when they compete for limited resources across a region. And we appreciate that solutions, even green solutions, are often not politically viable when they pit one mode against another, e.g. when they offer benefits to some modes, like buses, to the detriment of other modes, like cars. Hence, we see the need for developing and promoting ideas that can work to the benefit of all modes. To borrow a term from economics, we will whenever possible look for solutions that are “Pareto improving,” meaning solutions that benefit all of the modes that share a common transport network.
Finally, we in the consortium appreciate that problems of multi-modal transport systems are often complicated. Thus, solutions in general and Pareto-improving ones in particular, need to be multi-faceted. Fixing the mobility problems now confronting our region will require that we pull multiple levers: the development and use of physically-realistic theories; the application of appropriate technologies; and the thoughtful formulation of innovative policies. This, in turn, demands that our Center’s activities be multi-disciplinary in nature and that they draw upon expertise from diverse fields.
With all of this in mind, UCCONNECT intends to foster varied activities aimed at finding new ways to enhance mobility by battling congestion and the attendant costs. We bring to the table the scholarship to be found in varied, top-ranked academic departments together with the breadth of knowledge and experience to be found in transport agencies in Region 9, and in Caltrans in particular, to solve the transportation issues that have become so relevant in the turn of the 21st century.