TRB Leaders Unveil Critical Issues

TRB Leaders
Katie Turnbull (Eleanor Lamb/Transport Topics)

WASHINGTON — Transportation Research Board executives unveiled their list of critical issues at the group’s annual meeting Jan. 14.

The interrelated topic areas (not arranged by priority):

1. Transformational Technologies and Services

2. Serving a Growing and Shifting Population

3. Energy and Sustainability

4. Resilience and Security

5. Safety and Public Health

6. Equity

7. Governance

8. System Performance and Asset Management

9. Funding and Finance

10. Goods Movement

11. Institutional and Workforce Capacity

12. Research and Innovation

The list outlines 12 topic areas, which point to potential issues that could dominate transportation concerns over the next two decades. The goal of the list is to indicate topics that are pertinent to understanding transportation and suggest areas that could benefit from increased analysis.

“Certainly those critical issues drive what TRB is looking at,” said Katie Turnbull, chair of TRB’s executive committee. “It really helps facilitate the dialogue and policy discussions at federal, state and local levels.”

The seamlessness of intermodal coordination hinges on the resiliency of the entire transportation system, according to Turnbull, who also serves as executive associate director of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Texas was devastated by Hurricane Harvey in late summer 2017.


Sperling (Eleanor Lamb/Transport Topics)

Turnbull used the example of an airport whose runways are clear but surrounding roads are flooded, preventing trucks from accessing the airport. She stressed the need for all sectors of the transportation system, not just one, to be functional.

“If the airport is open because the runway can work, but the roads to get there are still under water, it affects the multimodal system,” Turnbull said.

Daniel Sperling, a member of TRB’s executive committee, identified automation and connectivity as two of the most disruptive issues facing transportation. Sperling, a professor within the University of California-Davis’ Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said automation could be a key to a sustainable transportation system.

“We do have a transportation system that is very ripe for change,” Sperling said.