Bicycle/Pedestrian Planning Highlighted at Society of Women Engineers Conference

Sara Dunlap (MnDOT), Dorian Grilley (BikeMN), and Natalie Villwock-Witte at the Society of Women Engineers Conference
Sara Dunlap (MnDOT), Dorian Grilley (BikeMN), and Natalie Villwock-Witte

At the annual meeting of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in Minneapolis in October, WTI Researcher Natalie Villwock-Witte and her research partners at Minnesota Department of Transportation and Bike Minnesota were invited to lead a presentation entitled “Bicycles and Pedestrians: Advocacy, Planning, and Research.” Known as the “The World’s Largest Conference for Women Engineers,” SWE is attended by more than 10,000 engineers, students, and industry leaders.

Student Success: Two WTI students join Professional Staff

When WTI hires and mentors great students, it is a win-win for the organization and for aspiring young professionals. WTI’s two most recent hires both started as part-time student employees while pursuing their undergraduate degrees at Montana State University.

New staff members Dani Hess (Left) and Kelley Hall (Right) ride bikes outside WTI offices in Bozeman, MT
New staff members Dani Hess (Left) and Kelley Hall (Right) ride bikes outside WTI offices in Bozeman, MT

Kelley Hall has been part of the WTI family since 2014. She started as a Student Administrative Assistant, staffing the front desk and helping out in the Business Office.  She progressively added more responsibilities, including assistance on various projects.  After graduating from MSU with a B.A. in Political Science, she joined WTI as a Research Assistant. She currently serves as a Project Assistant in the Road Ecology program, focusing on the Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Data Coordination project for the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  In addition, she serves as a Research Associate for the Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC), managing technology transfer activities and providing support to several projects on traffic safety culture, seat belt use, and underage drinking.

A native of Sheridan, Wyoming, Kelley moved to Bozeman in 2012 as an MSU freshman.  In addition to juggling her many responsibilities at WTI, she loves outdoor sports (both summer and winter) and photography.  Somehow, she has even found time to begin classes toward a Master’s in Public Administration!

Danielle (Dani) Hess was recently named a Project Assistant for mobility projects with the Small Urban and Rural Livability Center and the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility.  Dani first joined WTI in February 2016 as a student assistant in the Mobility program, helping with community outreach for the Bozeman Commuter project and other local initiatives.  In early May, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Community Health (with Highest Honors!) from MSU and was promoted to a full-time WTI employee. She will now be able to continue her work on the Transportation Demand Management project with the City of Bozeman and the “pop-up” traffic calming projects on local roads.

Dani grew up in Helena, Montana, and has lived in Bozeman for the last five years.  When she is not encouraging people to walk, bike, or take the bus to work, you will probably find her enjoying the outdoors, most likely on her mountain bike.  This summer, she is looking forward to coaching kids with Bozeman Youth Cycling’s summer mountain biking program.

Montana selected for CUTC 2020 Meeting

Congratulations to the Small Urban, Rural, and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM), which was selected to host the 2020 meeting of the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC). SURTCOM, a University Transportation Center housed at WTI, will hold the 3-day meeting in Big Sky, Montana in the summer of 2020. These events provide an opportunity for UTC Directors from across the country to share ideas and best practices on improving UTC programs and maximizing available resources. Officials from USDOT, which sponsors the UTC program, also attend to provide the directors with program training and updates. “While each UTC might specialize in a particular region or research area, we all share the same goal of trying to maximize the impact of our research,” said SURTCOM Director David Kack; “we’re looking forward to showcasing some of the successes at our UTC and learning a lot from everyone else at the 2020 meeting.”

CUTC celebrated its 40th anniversary at the 2018 meeting earlier this month, when Montana’s selection as the host for 2020 was announced.  WTI Director Steve Albert is a long-time member and former President of the organization. WTI last hosted the meeting in 2006.

Travel Voucher Project Kicks Off in Texas

Laura Fay, David Kack and Natalie Villwock-Witte (PI) recently traveled to the Jasper, Texas area for six meetings related to the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) transportation voucher program. This pilot project will show how transportation vouchers can be used to provide basic mobility to those who have limited options. Meetings were held in Jasper, as well as Ivanhoe, Newton, Pineland and San Augustine. Similar to many rural areas in Montana, people in the DETCOG area often travel 45 miles or so (one way) for groceries, medical care, and other essential services. Currently, this pilot project is focused on those who are 60 years old or older. The long-term vision is to secure additional funding so that those with low incomes or a disability will also be able to use the voucher program.

Ivanhoe, TX announces pilot program meeting on city marquee

The pilot program should start in May and will include approximately 25 participants. Demand for the vouchers already exceeds existing funding, so data from the pilot project will be used to reach out to potential funding sources. The WTI staff is supporting the DETCOG staff to ensure that this program can grow and meet the needs in this rural part of Texas. The new program was big news in the City of Ivanhoe – the photo shows the City marquee informing community members about the meeting to discuss the voucher program.

University Transportation Centers Focus on Mobility at D.C. Summit

Image of conference poster describing the work and purpose of WTI's SURLC and SURTCOM centersDavid Kack, WTI’s Mobility and Public Transportation Manager, traveled to Washington D.C. last week to participate in the First Annual National Mobility Summit. This event, sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, was designed to enable a discussion among all of the University Transportation Centers (UTCs) that focused on the topic of mobility. Nine UTCs representing 48 colleges and universities attended, along with representatives from USDOT, the Department of Energy, and several other mobility related entities (for a total attendance of about 60 people).

David gave a ten-minute presentation on both the Small Urban and Rural Livability Center (SURLC), as well as the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM). During a reception, David displayed a Poster and discussed the challenges of providing mobility in rural and tribal areas. Carnegie Mellon University expects this to be an annual event for the next four years.

New Center Attracts Local Media Attention

Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM), led by WTI was selected by USDOT as Tier 1 University Transportation Center, and will receive approximately $1.5 million a year for up to five years to lead research that improves the mobility of people and goods. Montana State University published a feature article about the selection on its website, and the story was also picked up by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.