WMU Launches Transportation Research Center

Mar 12, 2014

Transportation Research Center director Jun-Seok Oh speaks at the organization's inaugural meeting.
Credit Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Officials at Western Michigan University say the work of an institute for studying transportation will be to improve people’s quality of life by giving them more options for how to get around.

The new Transportation Research Center for Livable Communities or TRCLC is one of 33 centers around the country created with grant money from the US Department of Transportation. The TRCLC will have about a $3 million budget to work with annually.

At an official launch meeting Wednesday,  Western engineering professor and TRCLC director Jun Seok-Oh defined “livable communities” as ones where residents can “enjoy their daily lives without having to drive a car.”

He said the center will engage in research on how to improve access to public transportation and to make cities more accessible on foot and by bike.

Michigan Department of Transportation administrator Michael Kapp also spoke at the meeting. He said policy on public transport has shifted since the time when "cars was all it was about."

Oh says improved transportation options not only make a place more enjoyable, they also affect people's health.

He says only 13 percent of American schoolchildren between the ages of five and 14 walk or bike to school today, down from 44 percent in 1969. That might have bearing on a 30 percent obesity rate among Michigan children today, he says.

Oh added that nationwide, only 53 percent of Americans have ready access to public transportation.