TRB Committee Elects WTI Researcher as New Chair

Congratulations to WTI’s Natalie Villwock-Witte! She was selected as the new chair of a National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee — ADA 40, Transportation Needs of National Parks & Public Lands. She will serve a three-year term starting in April, succeeding outgoing chair and longtime friend of WTI, Steve Suder.

WTI has a long history with this committee and its research.  Retired WTI Executive Director Steve Albert was a founding member and held several leadership positions through the years.  A number of other WTI staff have served on the committee and been active in its activities, including two national conferences on the transportation needs of national parks and public lands.

Postcards from TRB

Group photo of ten WTI staff members at TRB Annual MeetingFourteen WTI researchers, affiliated faculty, fellows, and staff have returned from a busy and productive week at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The premier transportation research event of the year, the meeting is attended by more than 13,000 transportation leaders, practitioners, and researchers from around the world.  The U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, addressed attendees at the Chair’s luncheon, speaking on initiatives to deploy innovative technologies such as V2X, or “vehicle to everything” communication.

WTI staff played key roles across numerous topics and forums – presenting research at panels and in poster sessions, participating in committees, and leading workshops. One of the highlights was the well-attended workshop on “Rural Transportation for Everyone: Policy and Practice in 2020,” led by Jaime Sullivan.

 

Naomi Fireman at podium giving presentation on e-bikes
Fellow Naomi Fireman presents e-bike research at a panel on bicycle safety

New Year, New Staff!

headshot portrait of Andrea Hamre in 2020WTI is pleased to welcome Andrea Hamre, Ph.D. as a Research Associate in the Mobility and Public Transportation Program. With expertise in transportation demand management, sustainable transportation, and travel survey data analysis, she will conduct research for the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM) and for projects such as the Twin Falls Idaho Transit Study.

Prior to WTI, Andrea most recently served as a consultant and analyst for a nonprofit regional transportation management association in Vermont. She also has more than 14 years of experience in transportation policy and planning in the greater Washington, D.C. area, including extensive work on non-motorized travel issues.  For example, during that time she contributed to the 2014 edition of the Bicycling and Walking in the United States Benchmarking Report and produced the 2011 report Non-Motorized Travel in the City of Alexandria after coordinating the community’s first volunteer non-motorized counts using the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project methodology.

Andrea earned her M.S. and Ph.D. from Virginia Tech, and her B.A. from Middlebury College.  Originally from Minnesota, she and her husband are two of Bozeman’s newest residents.  They look forward to discovering the many biking and hiking trails of Montana, and as avid backyard astronomers, they take a special interest in exploring the new celestial vistas of “Big Sky Country”!

NEW STAFF: Matt Madsen joins WTI’s Mobility Research Program

outdoor portrait of Matt MadsenMeet our newest Matt.   The Western Transportation Institute welcomes Technical Research Associate,  Matt Madsen, bringing our Matt total to four (he joins Matt Blank, Mat Bell, and Matt Ulberg).  Madsen joins the Mobility and Public Transportation program area and will take on projects previously coordinated by Dani Hess, including the pop-up neighborhood traffic calming program and bike/pedestrian technical assistance projects.

Originally from Wisconsin, Matt first came to Bozeman in 2000 to work and play before starting college back in Wisconsin.  He knew he would someday return to Montana.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in social work at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and his masters from the Colorado School of Public Health, Matt managed a healthy families program in Colorado.  His community engagement activities ranged from adult and early childhood education to leadership programs. His active transportation experience includes implementation of Safe Routes to School and local Bike to Work programs, both of which will serve him well in his new role with WTI’s Mobility program.  In 2018, Matt returned again to Montana and became Bozeman’s first affordable housing manager.  His job helped define what affordable housing means in this growing city and what role Bozeman officials should play in achieving that goal.

In addition to his work at WTI, Matt serves as a consultant providing community health education and leadership trainings throughout the region.  Matt is an avid backcountry skier, biker and trail runner.  When not at work, he is pursuing these hobbies that first lured him to Montana’s playgrounds.

Rural Transit Project Kicks Off in Arkansas

Rebecca Gleason and Danae Giannetti (far left) introduce new research project to Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization in Fort Smith, Arkansas.WTI Mobility researchers Rebecca Gleason and Danae Giannetti traveled to Fort Smith, Arkansas last week to help launch a rural transit hub feasibility study. They gave an overview presentation to the Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is partnering with WTI on the project along with Western Arkansas Planning and Development District.  The goal of the project, which is sponsored by a grant from the National Association of Development Organizations, is to investigate whether it is feasible to create a “smart” transit hub to connect rural communities in western Arkansas with larger metropolitan areas.  The meeting was covered by local news outlets, including the Arkansas Democrat Gazette: “Frontier MPO in Fort Smith talks rural transit.”

WTI Welcomes New Researchers

This summer, WTI welcomed two new researchers who will provide multi-disciplinary expertise and support across several program areas.

Matthew Bell presents at a wildlife crossings workshopMatthew Bell is a new Research Associate, but his connection to WTI dates back to 2012 when he worked on a Road Ecology project with one of Marcel Huijser’s grad students in Missoula, Montana.  In 2017, while pursuing grad studies at MSU, he began research with Rob Ament to design wildlife crossing structures from fiber-reinforced polymers.  He also conducted his thesis research on modeling the risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions on Montana roads, under the guidance of Dr. Yiyi Wang.  Now at WTI full-time, Matt will continue with research on designing crossing structures from fiber-reinforced polymers.  He will also assist with projects to test the use of wool products for erosion control and to evaluate friction performance measurement as a winter maintenance strategy.

Raised in Florida and California, Matt has lived in Montana for nine years.  He earned his B.S. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana in Missoula and his M.S. in Civil Engineering at Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman.  Outside of WTI, he loves backpacking and trail running, with his energetic dog Pi usually leading the way.

headshot of Danae Giannetti in 2019Danae Giannetti has joined WTI as a Research Engineer, focusing on projects for the Small Urban, Rural, and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM).  Initially, she will assist with a new transit feasibility study in rural Arkansas, the pop-up neighborhood traffic calming program in Bozeman, and bike/pedestrian technical assistance projects.  For the last three years, she served as a Civil Engineering Specialist at the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) MSU Design Unit where she designed roadway projects and mentored MSU undergraduate students on the road design process.  (If she looks familiar, the MDT/MSU Design Unit office is in the WTI building!)

Danae came to Montana nine years ago from northeast Florida to study at MSU Bozeman.  She earned her B.S. in Civil Engineering and is a licensed Professional Engineer.  When not at work, she loves to travel, garden and hang out with her husband and two dogs.  An avid biker, she is active in the Pedal Project for local mountain biking and serves on the Bozeman Area Bicycle Advisory Board.

New Vistas and Opportunities Ahead

Group photo of David Kack, Danae Giannetti, Dani Hess and Rebecca Gleason with award plaque in 2019Mobility Project Assistant Dani Hess has announced that she will be leaving WTI at the beginning of October.  Dani first joined WTI in 2016 as a student assistant and was promoted to the professional staff in 2018, working primarily on commuter and bike/ped projects for the Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility.  She has been a tireless champion of the Bozeman Commuter Project and made tremendous progress on implementing and expanding the “pop-up” traffic calming projects on local roads.  This summer, Rebecca Gleason and Taylor Lonsdale acknowledged her hard work and accomplishments by nominating her for the Young Professional of the Year Award from the Association for Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, which she received a few weeks ago at the association’s annual conference!

In October, Dani will embark on a monthlong bikepacking adventure, traveling by mountain bike from Utah to Mexico. Long-term, she plans to return to Bozeman to pursue new work opportunities. After October 2, Dani Hess can be reached at hessds@gmail.com