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Meeting A Community’s Transportation Needs

The Center for Transportation Research will host a Transit Camp for Rising High School Students July 29-31, 2015. Click here to learn more.

By Nichole Stevens

400x277-CTR-RoadWashoutThe Center for Transportation Research has been optimizing community transportation for over 40 years.

One of the Center’s most long-standing programs, Tennessee Vans (TN Vans) works in partnership with community agencies statewide. Through these partnerships, TN Vans maintains its program sustainability and produces positive financial, social, and environmental outcomes that meet the transportation needs of comity-based clients.

Since its inception in 1990, TNVans has worked to meet mobility needs of the transportation disadvantaged, including persons with disabilities, seniors and youths, as well as those who cannot or choose not to drive. The program provides vehicles and services to a wide range of different groups and commuter van pools.

“The program has a big impact on the community,” said Lissa Gay, Center Communications Director. “It’s one of these little, quiet programs that does a lot of good and reaches a lot of people.”

Many organizations have utilized the program’s nontraditional transportation service, including the Sertoma Center, Africa in April, Great Smoky Mountains at Tremont, Skills Development Center and Wesley House, have all provided positive feedback about the van pools offered through TN Vans.

“Most of the work the Center does is sponsored research,” said Gay. “We’re an umbrella organization and we work together and share resources.”

As a collection of research consultants, the Center is always working to contribute to a body of knowledge that will advance transportation research. Conducting research and investing in the best way to communicate it is another way the Center makes an impact on the community.

The Center recently received a $1.2 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for an ongoing safety project on nighttime seatbelt usage. Center for Transportation Research Director, Jerry Everett, said the project will consist of three broad areas of strategies enforcement, media campaigns and community outreach.

It works by fluctuating between periods of data collection and campaigning strategies that will communicate their findings to at-risk motorists.

“When the outreach portion begins, it will raise awareness and hopefully affect a change in behavior,” Gay said.

Traffic incident reports and statistics indicate that nighttime accidents result in more death and injuries than daytime accidents.

The study works in tandem with the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, local law enforcement agencies and other community-based groups.

400x278-CTR-DrivingSimulator“Its sole intent in to improve the safety of those traveling in the study area especially during nighttime hours by increasing the number and percent of people who wear their seatbelts,” Everett said.

The study will take place in six counties across Tennessee; Knox, Blount, Loudon, Roane and Sevier counties, where Rutherford County will act as a control group for the comparison. The study will focus on drivers between the age of 16-34 and their driving behaviors during evening hours.

“The lessons learned in the study area, both the successful efforts and those that did not work well, will be shared throughout the U.S. so that others can learn from the research,” said Everett.

“This project brings together researchers, practitioners, and the public in a collaborative fashion to address a real-world transportation issue,” said David Clarke, director of the center. “Highway traffic safety is a key aspect of our center’s mission, and we can achieve that better by getting everyone on the same page.”

The Center for Transportation Research was nominated as a Partnership that Makes a Difference. Click here to read more.