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About the Urban Transportation Systems Group

Entering the 21st Century is marked by continuing urbanization process, growth of cities and metropolitan areas. Transportation is one of the basic functions which influences growth, efficiency and quality of life in urbanized areas. The need to accommodate the growing population, provide good accessibility for persons and goods, is an interesting and challenging task for engineers. They must perform planning, design, implementation of plans and operation of transportation systems. In addition to engineering expertise, these tasks require expertise in analysis of economic, environmental and social aspects.

Many cities face serious transportation problems, including chronic highway congestion, inadequate transit and neglected pedestrians. Construction of new facilities is sometimes needed. However, in high-density urban areas where this is not possible, emphasis must be placed on improved utilization and modernization of existing systems and facilities and measures which result in shifting of travel from cars to far less space-consuming transit, taxi and pedestrian travel. This shift and improved pedestrian areas greatly contribute to enhanced livability of cities.

The Program in Transportation Systems Engineering was initiated in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania in 1967 by Professor Vukan R. Vuchic. The program has developed in the Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering into two major directions: Urban Transportation Systems and Logistics Systems.

Research Areas

The Urban Transportation Systems group covers the following topics:

  • Urban transportation systems: pedestrian, bicycle, auto/highway and transit modes;
  • Design, operation and theoretical analysis of transit networks: bus, light rail transit, metro and regional rail systems, automated guided transit and specialized modes;
  • Traffic engineering, highway and street network design and operation;
  • Transportation systems management (TSM);
  • Pedestrian and bicycle traffic and facilities design;
  • Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) applications to highways and transit;
  • Scheduling, performance and optimization methods in transit and street traffic;
  • Urban transportation systems composition and intermodal integration;
  • Impacts of transportation on cities and their livability.
  • Comparative analysis of urban transportation in different countries;
  • Urban transportation in developing countries.
  • Rail transit systems automation;
  • Traffic calming; bicycle and pedestrian areas and networks;
  • Urban transportation policy: definition and implementation of intermodal and balanced transportation systems;
  • High speed rail systems and Maglev demonstration projects;
  • Pollution Impacts of different transportation modes;
  • and Bus Rapid Transit Systems.

Reasons to study Urban Transportation at Penn

The program in Transportation Systems Engineering at Penn has a number of strengths:

Professor Vuchic, who initiated the Transportation Engineering Program in 1967, has publications in the field of urban transportation systems and policy, which are used in many countries. His major books are Urban Public Transportation Systems and Technology (1981), Transportation for Livable Cities (1999), and Urban Transit: Operations, Planning, and Economics (2005).

In addition to the School of Engineering and Applied Science, courses and research in and related to urban transportation are offered in several programs including City and Regional Planning, Wharton's Business Administration, and Urban Studies.

The Urban Transportation Systems (UTS) group has produced a number of technical reports for transportation agencies and cities, including Bus Transit System for FTA, Short and LongTern Plans for Development of SEPTA's Regional Rail System, Improvement of the Green Lines in Philadelphia (in cooperation with University of Delaware), Control Center for the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA), San Francisco BART, Washington Metro and others.

The UTS group has contacts and cooperation with transportation officials in the City of Philadelphia, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) and PATCO transit agencies, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and a number of transportation consulting companies.

The Transportation Systems Engineering Program has extensive worldwide contacts and cooperation: faculty exchanges, guest lectures, international students, international transportation journals and other professional literature.

Most advanced experience of cities around the world are analyzed and used to develop practical solutions in the Philadelphia Region and other metropolitan areas.

Being in the center of the Midatlantic Region, Philadelphia is within easy travel distance from New York, Baltimore and Washington.

University of Pennsylvania students make field trips to some of the most interesting transportation systems in the country: in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York City.

University of Pennsylvania has traditionally had strong connections with the City of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia has unique historic assets, urban environment, a diversified intermodal transit system, as well as several interstate freeways, a major international airport, port, and headquarters of many transportation companies.