California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin (right) meets with faculty, staff and students in UCI’s Institute of Transportation Studies. Steve Zylius / UCI photo: Steve Zylius/UCI

Research by UCI’s Institute of Transportation Studies promises to “make a difference for the state,” according to California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin, who met last week with ITS faculty, students and staff on campus.

The comment followed presentations by institute researchers – ranging from undergrads to postdocs – on their multidisciplinary work.

The topics included suggestions for closing gaps in “transit deserts” in Southern California; studying black carbon and PM 2.5 pollution emitted in freight corridors; air quality sensors in Greater Los Angeles; and research into how more people working from home affects transportation infrastructure and low-income residents who don’t have access to a car.

Omishakin also heard from an ITS grad student on landfills and efforts to strengthen recycling, as well as a presentation about the growing need for battery charging stations and how services can be designed in ways that are equitable and efficient.

One researcher discussed the explosive growth of ecommerce and the placement of warehouses in the Inland Empire region. Others outlined their collaboration with Caltrans (on a project to improve traffic detection sensors around the state) and the REMADE Institute, a Department of Energy-funded program to improve the efficiency of U.S. manufacturing.

UCI Institute of Transportation Studies researcher Joshua Swank, who earned an M.A. in philosophy, political science and economics at UCI, discusses his work with the REMADE Institute, which aims to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing and transportation. Steve Zylius / UCI

“The history of our industry has focused on how to build things, whether it be from understanding concrete mix to pavement mixture to issues related to signalization to move vehicles,” Omishakin noted, reflecting on opening remarks by ITS director Stephen Ritchie. “To end up in a setting like this and to see faculty and students are thinking much more broadly about the issues is something that is touching and moving to see, because you all are clearly more focused on the things that are impacting people day-to-day and definitely the future, as well. I think it’s spot on.”

He added, “From what I’m hearing today, there’s no doubt that a lot of the work you’re doing is going to be something that makes a difference for the state, not just be a dust collector somewhere in the research portal; it’s going to be very relevant and usable.”