STUDENT NEWS: MSU ITE Student Chapter Honored at Annual Meeting

Group photo of members of MSU ITE Student Chapter
MSU ITE Student Chapter (Photo credit: Prof. Eric Shen, USC)

The Montana State University (MSU) Student Chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) has worked hard in recent years to grow its membership and its professional opportunities for engineering students, and the effort has paid off!  At the annual meeting of the Western and Mountain ITE Districts, the MSU Chapter was selected for the Momentum Award, which recognizes the student chapter that has most improved over the last year.  The MSU attendees also took second place in the Collegiate Traffic Bowl, a team competition that tests the knowledge of students on a variety of transportation planning and engineering topics.

ITE is a national association for transportation professionals, offering technical resources, training, and professional development.  To attract and prepare the next generation of professionals, ITE encourages student involvement through university ITE chapters, leadership summits, competitions, and awards. The student chapter at MSU currently has about 35 active members. WTI research engineer Dr. Ahmed Al-Kaisy serves as the chapter’s faculty advisor.  They have been very busy over the last academic year, with activities that included attending a student leadership conference in Los Angeles, CA, leading activities for K-12 students at the annual MSU Engineer-a-Thon, hosting professional speakers and networking events, and conducting hands on technical activities like traffic data collection.

Chapter President Bryce Grame and four other members attended the District Meeting held in early July.  Although virtual this year, the attendees found it very rewarding.  “With some virtual sessions having upwards of 200 attendees, the access to industry knowledge was expanded exponentially by moving the conference online,” said Bryce. “As a student, I had the privilege of learning about new industry findings and best practices through technical sessions, participating in student leadership workshops to better serve our ITE@MSU student chapter, receiving feedback from professionals on my resume, networking with my peers through online social events, and competing in the annual Student Traffic Bowl Competition.”

WTI is pleased to work with the MSU ITE student chapter each year, collaborating on research project activities, providing speakers, and sponsoring activities.  For more information about the chapter, contact ITE.montanastateuniversity@gmail.com or visit https://montanastateite.weebly.com/

Student News: Meet our summer intern

Portrait of Jonathan Fisher in outdoor setting

2020 will always be remembered as the year we all worked remotely – even our summer interns! WTI is pleased to welcome Jonathan Fisher, who is working from his home in Vermont.  While far from Montana, he is well situated to help Andrea Hamre with a Travel Behavior Analysis project, for which he is analyzing and modeling data from traveler surveys in Chittenden County, Vermont.

Jonathan is a recent graduate of Middlebury College, where he majored in Geography and minored in French.  With his skills in GIS and data analysis, combined with an interest in the environment, he sees the internship as an opportunity to learn more about transportation topics like mode choice, transportation behavior, and commuter benefits: “I have always loved working with numbers and I was eager to put my new statistical skillset to use on a professional research project.” Andrea added, “It’s been a true pleasure working with Jonathan this summer. We’ve worked through an ambitious research plan together, and I hope this introduction to transportation research with WTI supports his career development.”

A lifetime Vermont resident, Jonathan is considering a move to Boston in the near future to start his professional career.  When he’s not crunching numbers, learning how to write a journal article, or checking out the job market, he also manages to find time for running, basketball, baking and reading.

Catching Up with the Fellows

The placement year for the Class of 2019-2020 Public Land Transportation Fellows (PLTF) is drawing to a close.  Over the last three weeks, Naomi Fireman, Nate Begay, and Vince Ziols have been featured in “Takeover Tuesday” posts on LinkedIn, reflecting on their experiences working and learning in US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wildlife refuges.

Naomi Fireman at Potomac River Wildlife Refuge 2020
Naomi Fireman

Naomi Fireman has been stationed at Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Northern Virginia, where she has assisted with a variety of projects to enhance transportation facilities within and between the individual refuges that make up the large complex. Highlights included re-designing a refuge entrance, planning and installing new bike racks, and applying for a federal grant to complete a trail project.  Naomi noted, “Especially nowadays we can see how important it is for people to connect to and get out into nature. I am proud to be helping improve my refuge’s accessibility and connectivity to the local area and beyond.”

Nate Begay outside with flag that reads Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge
Nate Begay

On the other side of the country, Nate Begay has been working with staff and partners at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge (VdO) in Albuquerque, NM to improve transportation access, as well as expand educational programs.  Some of his favorite projects have included bringing a bike share station to the visitor center, helping staff design the refuge trail network, and designing an outdoor classroom for field trips. Nate appreciated the chance to collaborate with the many local stakeholders who support the Refuge: “Working with Valle de Oro has allowed me to not only give back to my community, but also follow my passion of working in public lands.”

Nature trail near shoreline in Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge

Vince Ziols has had the unique opportunity to spend nearly two years at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge (DRIWR) in Michigan. In his first year, he completed a number of transportation planning projects to facilitate access to the Refuge by residents of Detroit and other surrounding communities.  DRIWR then extended his fellowship for a second year, which has allowed him to put many of the projects into action, including extending a regional bus route to the Refuge Gateway and Visitor Center, helping a nonprofit organization secure a $1.9 million grant for trail development, and implementing a trail signage and safety plan. According to Vince, the fellowship has had several valuable benefits: “I have found another home here in Detroit and know that my experience as a PLTF has prepared me for the next step of my career.”

Vince conducted a wrap-up presentation webinar last week, which is available to view on the Fellows project page of the WTI website.  Naomi will present her wrap-up webinar on Wednesday, June 3, at 11 a.m. (EST), and Nate’s will be scheduled for later this summer. To read the Fellows’ entire “Takeover Tuesday” posts, visit the Federal-Public Lands Transportation Institute page on LinkedIn.  For more information on the Fellows program, go to the PLTF page on the WTI website.

Do You Know a Good Candidate for the Public Lands Transportation Fellows Program?

ogo: Transportation icons including, shuttle bus, hiker, cyclist, tour boat and car. Text: Public Lands Transportation Fellows Program

The application process for the 2020 Public Lands Transportation Fellows (PLTF) Class is now open!! The PLTF program provides fellowships to recent graduates (sometimes current graduate students) in a transportation-related engineering, planning, or resource management program. They receive a unique opportunity for learning, career development, and public service within a federal land unit or agency headquarters.  This year, the program is seeking applications for five positions: one at the Southeast National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Louisiana, one at the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Complex in Massachusetts, and three within the National Park Service.  Learn more at the PLTF Application webpage, then help us get the word out!

Transportation Fellows Benefit from Networking and Learning Opportunities at TRB Forums

Transportation Fellows Vince Ziols, Naomi Fireman, and Nathan Begay in field with mountain view near Kalispell, Montana.Recently, WTI co-hosted the Transportation Research Board (TRB) International Conference on Low Volume Roads, held in Kalispell, Montana earlier this fall.  Attendees who stayed a few extra days could opt to take part in another Transportation Research Board (TRB) event – the mid-year meeting of the TRB Committee on Transportation Needs of National Parks and Public Lands (ADA40), which has synergistic interests in topics related to providing access and safe travel in rural, remote, or unique locations.

Happy scheduling coincidence?  On the contrary, the two planning committees coordinated the dates of their forums to encourage attendance and allow participants to add value to their trips.  After learning about state-of-the practice management tools for low volume roads at the international conference, members of the National Parks committee held their own business meeting where they addressed emerging issues, such as the impacts and implications of visitors using E-bikes on public lands. Attendees also visited Glacier National Park where they learned about the management challenges of increasing visitation from Park Superintendent Jeff Mow and about transportation impacts on wildlife from Senior Wildlife Biologist John Waller.

The Public Lands Transportation Fellows attended both events and maximized the professional development opportunities.  Current fellows Vince Ziols, Naomi Fireman, and Nathan Begay are each assigned to a federal land unit where they work for one to two years on special transportation projects.  The TRB forums allow them to expand their knowledge on other emerging transportation issues.  Moreover, the Fellows had opportunities (not often available to young professionals) to collaborate and network with national transportation experts and leaders.

“At the Low Volume Roads conference, we were exposed to a productive mix of on-the-ground research and innovative thinking,” recalled the Fellows. “We met all sorts of people working on everything from safety signage to turning rail cars into pedestrian bridges to researching how autonomous vehicles could be used on public lands. We were inspired by everyone’s passion and dedication to public service. At the different field trips and events, we played ‘networking bingo’ and were able to converse with transportation professionals in a variety of fields.”

In addition, the discussion about E-bikes at the ADA 40 Committee meeting led to the development of a lectern session on this topic for the TRB Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. in January 2020. Fellow Naomi Firemen is conducting research on this issue at the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex. She was added to the January agenda and will have the chance to make a presentation to a national audience.  All three Fellows will also be showcasing posters about their research at the TRB Annual Meeting, which they are looking forward to: “We are excited for this year’s TRB conference to reconnect with the ADA40 committee, expand our networks, and learn about even more current and innovative transportation research topics.”

Meet the Fellows!

Portrait of Transportation Fellow Nathan Begay on outdoor balcony overlooking parklandsThe newest Fellow participating in the Public Lands Transportation Fellows program is Nathan Begay, who started working at the Valle de Oro Urban Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, New Mexico in September.  Nathan graduated from the University of New Mexico with a Masters in Community and Regional Planning with an emphasis in Physical Planning and Design. Much of Nathan’s emphasis of study had been on placemaking, sustainable design, and community engagement. In addition to graduate school, much of his work experience has been dedicated to working on public lands, including work with the National Park Service at Canyon de Chelly National Monument and Salinas National Monument and working on trail crews with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps in parts of northern Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

At the Valle de Oro Refuge, Nathan is excited to work within the complex and rich culture of the South Valley. In addition to working within this unique cultural landscape, he is looking forward to giving back to the neighborhoods surrounding Valle de Oro. Nathan is promoting greater connection within the refuge through better trail and public transportation connectivity, creating beneficial relationships with the surrounding community, and finding innovative ways to foster multi-modal transportation in the South Valley. Nathan is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He is a member of the Towering House Clan (Kinyaa’áanii), born for the Red Running into Water Clan (Táchii’nii) from Iyanbito, New Mexico.

Contact Information: nathan.begay@montana.edu

WTI Researchers Contribute Chapter to Mobility Workforce Book

Book Cover image showing child on scooter and book titleA newly published book on training the next generation of transportation workers at all levels includes a chapter written by two WTI staff members.  Empowering the New Mobility Workforce: Educating, Training, and Inspiring Future Transportation Professionals identifies strategies that education, industry, and government leaders can use to facilitate learning and skill development related to emerging transportation technologies and challenges. Susan Gallagher, WTI’s Education Workforce Program Manager, and former WTI Director, Steve Albert wrote a chapter on “Cultivating a rural lens: successful approaches to developing regional transportation corridors through professional capacity building,” which focuses on the unique workforce challenges faced by transportation agencies at the rural and regional level and describes relevant examples of incorporating professional capacity building into transportation projects.

The book addresses one of the most critical issues in transportation – the growing workforce shortage. Transportation industries project a need to hire more than 4 million employees over the next decade.  Empowering the New Mobility Workforce has been endorsed by national transportation leaders, including former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta. It is available on the Elsevier Publishing website or on Amazon.com.

Citation: Reeb, Tyler (Ed.). (2019). Empowering the New Mobility Workforce: Educating, Training, and Inspiring Future Transportation Professionals. Amsterdam: Elsevier Publishing.

New Transportation Fellow Arrives at National Wildlife Refuge

Group photos of attendees at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge attending 2019 Fellows orientationThe Public Lands Transportation Fellows program has welcomed its first fellow for 2019-2020! In early July, Naomi Firemen arrived at the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex for training in her new position.  The Complex encompasses three individual wildlife refuges in the Virginia/Washington D.C. area.  Most of Naomi’s work will focus on improving transportation options at the Occoquan Bay NWR, a 600-acre refuge that is home to many migratory species and is currently expanding its facilities for visitors.  She will also explore opportunities to enhance transportation between Occoquan Bay and the other two refuges within the complex.

The Public Lands Transportation Fellows (PLTF) program provides fellowships to outstanding masters and doctoral graduates in a transportation-related field. Fellows have the unique opportunity to work at a federal land unit to plan or implement a project addressing visitor transportation issues for approximately one year.

Photo Caption: (left to right) Carl Melberg, USFWS Region 5 transportation coordinator; Amanda Daisey, USFWS PRNWRC Project Leader; Nathan Beauchamp, USFWS Transportation Program Analyst; Naomi Fireman, PRNWRC PLTF; Jaime Sullivan, PLTF Manager; Laura Whorton, USFWS Branch Chief of Transportation and Data Management; and Phil Shapiro, STC.

CHSC Releases Training Videos for Health and Safety Professionals

The Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC) has released online resources called “Brief Spotlight Videos,” which address key topics on a variety of critical public health and safety issues. The videos provide practical tips and ideas for practitioners who address these issues on a daily basis.

 

 

The Spotlights include:

  • Applying Motivational Interviewing to Advocate for the Positive
  • Meetings 101
  • Medication Assisted Treatment
  • Networks and Buy-Ins
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences
  • Stigma Training Series (six videos)

The Spotlights can be viewed at https://chsculture.org/trainings/brief-spotlight-videos/.

On the Road to Safety – Engaging Partners at National Events

Jaime Sullivan in hard hat and safety vest at NACE 2019 MeetingImproving safety on rural roadways is a multi-faceted challenge – to make progress, it helps to collaborate with many partners.  WTI’s Jaime Sullivan, who is also the Manager of the National Center for Rural Road Safety, has been on the road in recent weeks meeting with key safety partners at national meetings and conferences.

At the April annual meeting of the National Association of County Engineers (NACE), Jaime exhibited the Safety Center booth to promote the Center’s resources, trainings, and initiatives. Montana LTAP Director Matt Ulberg was also in attendance.  NACE, LTAP, the Safety Center, and the West Region Transportation Workforce Center have all been collaborating on the development of a Local Road Safety Certificate that will provide engineers and transportation professionals with specific training on assessing safety challenges and implementing countermeasures.

Photo of nametag and meeting agenda for AASHTO Safety Committee Annual Meeting 2019Jaime then traveled to the Safety Committee meeting of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), where she presented an update on the Local Road Safety Certificate program.  She was also invited to give a presentation on the safety components of the NCHRP Rural Research Road Map project, which is identifying and prioritizing the most critical issues facing rural transportation.  “The AASHTO meeting, which was led by Montana DOT Director Mike Tooley, was a great opportunity to get input and recommendations from transportation leaders and practitioners who see the challenges and consequences of safety issues on a daily basis,” said Jaime; “this firsthand input really improves and invigorates our research and training efforts at the Center.”