PacTrans News

  • July 2, 2015

    Students, Teachers Visit PacTrans STAR Lab

    This June, 19 incoming first year women pre-engineering University of Washington students and high school science teachers had the unique opportunity to visit the PacTrans STAR Lab. As part of the Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) UP Summer Bridge program, participants learned about the lab’s work in intelligent transportation systems, data science, detection and data collection technologies, and conventional transportation engineering issues.


    Graduate student Kristian Henrickson presented an overview of STAR Lab, while John Ash explored DRIVENET, and Ruimin Ke demonstrated unmanned aerial vehicles.

    The WiSE UP program allows young women to explore engineering majors, gain a better understanding of STEM professions, and prepare for academic success at the collegiate level.

  • June 23, 2015

    Student Spotlight: Ryan Hughes

    Ryan Hughes is one of four PacTrans Fellows for this 2014-15 academic year. As he nears the completion of his Master of Science in Civil Engineering, we spoke with Ryan to learn more about his time and involvement with PacTrans.

    Why did you choose to enroll in this program?

    I chose to enroll in the PacTrans program here at UW because it aligned really well with my career goals. The PacTrans program, which would allow me to take more courses and have an internship getting real work experience at the same time, was really appealing to me as someone looking for just a master’s degree that would prepare me more for the workforce directly. The fact that I could do it in one year and have it funded was also very appealing.

    Ryan Hughes

    Ryan Hughes, PacTrans Fellow

    I have tried to tailor my studies more toward transportation planning and with a mix of urban planning and public policy. Those are things that really interest me and it seemed like the coursework here at UW was more aligned with those fields. I’ve taken two courses in the Evans School of Public Affairs, which I really enjoyed, one on science policy and one on economic development for communities.

    Tell us about your experience as a PacTrans fellow.

    It’s been a whirlwind, only nine months in and I’m almost finished. I think what stands out the most with me is my experience with my peers and classmates. It’s very collaborative and supportive, so a lot of working together, and hanging out after class and on the weekends, and doing social events, formal and informal with each other.

    As a PacTrans student, I kind of felt it my responsibility to be aware of what’s going in the region in terms of transportation. I went to most of the PacTrans seminars that were great for understanding research or listening to hot topics. Also talking to people at work about transportation issues in Seattle, and discussing with my peers and professor all the different issues of the region, or even expanded nationally what’s going in transportation.

    You’ve worked while completing the program. What kind of work are you doing?

    I am a transportation planning and engineering intern with a firm called Fehr and Peers. It’s a transportation consulting firm and our office focuses on long-range planning for local communities and cities, municipalities, counties, and whatnot. My work there has been also various, but I’ve done a lot of mapping work in ArcGIS and supporting those long-range plans with visualization of our different data and graphics. I have worked in transportation modelling software to help with long range modelling for the region. I’ve also gotten a lot of experience writing because I’ve been able to help draft some of those long range transportation plans.

    Have you been involved with other projects in the program?

    My faculty advisor is Don MacKenzie, and although I’m a PacTrans professional master’s student, he included me in his research group early on, which is really valuable for me. I was able to, and still do, attend his research group meetings, which were bi-weekly and would discuss various research topics they were looking at. I could present my own research work challenges to them and try and sort those out.

    What classes, experiences, or lessons learned in the program have had the most impact on you.

    One thing I’m taking away is that we have an enormity of transportation issues to solve in the future and they’re only getting bigger and more complex, but there are a lot of different ways I can come at those problems. I think I have a much better understanding of the problems that are out there, and how we as individuals, engineers, and as societies and cities are going to best attack those problems.

    What sort of opportunities have opened up as a result of this program and PacTrans?

    Very early on, even before I had gotten here, I was looking for my internship, and I had two opportunities open up for me the summer before I started here because of PacTrans.

    I do have a job offer now starting next fall, and I know a big part of that offer was the PacTrans program and the firm recognized the program as being very aligned with what they want to see in an engineer, as a program offering internship experience and extensive course, rather than focused solely on research.

  • June 19, 2015

    Tour STAR Lab at ITS America Symposium

    PacTrans is proud to sponsor the ITS America Symposium on Building a Smart, Diverse, and Shared Travel Network, July 16 – 17 at the University of WashingtonThree technical tours are included in the symposium registration, including to the PacTrans STAR Lab.

    Bike Seattle’s Burke-Gilman Trail
    Sponsored by Iteris, strap on your helmet and take off on a Pronto bike with us as we take a bike tour of the Burke-Gilman Trail.

    **This tour is included with your symposium registration but capped at 20 people. It includes a helmet and access to a Pronto bike.

    Tour of University of Washington Light Rail Station – Set to Open in 2016 
    Where a hard hat and go underground to tour the new Light Rail station being built on the University of Washington Campus. A new pedestrian bridge allows walkers and bikers to avoid traffic and will alleviate congestion by directly connecting the station to upper campus and the Burke-Gilman trail.

    **Riders will board trains underground. Ride to downtown Seattle in six minutes or to the airport in about 42 minutes. Tour is capped at 18 attendees.

    Tour of the STAR Lab
    Join us to tour STAR Lab, located on the University of Washington Campus. Major objectives of the STAR Lab are: support advanced ITS research; cultivate ITS professionals; explore effective solutions to transportation problems; provide hand-on training instruments and software applications for students in ITS classes; and construct a bridge between the UW and agencies of transportation practice.

    **Tour is capped at 30 people.


    View symposium program and register.

  • June 18, 2015

    Jennifer Warner Wins at OSU Scholar’s Insights Competition

    Jennifer Warner

    The third annual University-wide Scholars’ Insights competition, an event based on the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) research competition developed by the University of Queensland, took place on May 6. Jennifer Warner, a civil engineering MS student advised by Dr. David Hurwitz was awarded second place for her presentation “Out of Sight, Out of Mind…Right-Hook Crash Solutions”. The presentation was based on Jennifer’s research in the OSU Driving Simulator evaluating a variety of design treatments to mitigate right-hook crashes. Congratulations Jennifer! Jennifer successfully defended her MS Thesis and will be moving to Pennsylvania to start her career as a transportation engineer with Stantec.

  • June 17, 2015

    Emily Feenstra Speaks on Engaging in Public Policy

    Emily Feenstra, Director for Infrastructure Initiatives of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), spoke at the PacTrans-sponsored Transportation Seminar on June 4. Her talk, “The Case for Engaging in Public Policy – Your Projects Depend on It,” related the current status of infrastructure funding, how ASCE has engaged in the policy debate, and the importance of engineers’ involvement in policy.

    Making infrastructure visible is a main priority for ASCE, explained Feenstra. Often, the public does not notice the aging infrastructure, in part due to the slow – and undramatic – nature of deterioration. ASCE aims for infrastructure to be as high a priority as health care and education, and one step toward this goal is communicating ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure (Report Card).

    emily feenstra, asceThe Report Card provides an assessment of current infrastructure conditions and needs, assigning grades in an A to F school report card format, and makes recommendations on how to raise these grades. With America’s cumulative GPA for infrastructure at a D+ in 2013, Feenstra demonstrated the need for increased investment. By investing an additional $157 billion per year through 2020, the country can prevent a $3.1 trillion loss in GDP, $3.5 million job losses, and a $3,100 per year drop in personal disposable income per household.

    To improve the Report Card, Feenstra offered three key solutions: bold leadership and a compelling vision, sustainability and resilience, and prioritize, plan and fund. Several issues at the national level, however, remain important to consider, including infrastructure spending decreasing relative to other countries, and the looming insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund.

    Feenstra suggested a host of ways civil engineers can get involved. To influence policy and issue awareness, Feenstra proposed engineers share their state’s infrastructure report card through social media, host an infrastructure event, or tweet questions to state legislators and members of congress.

    Feenstra’s talk clearly broadens PacTrans students’ knowledge by introducing the policy side of projects.

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