Semisequicentennial Transportation Conference Proceedings
May 1996, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

A 21st Century Vision of Intelligent Intermodal Transportation Technology

Clifford Bragdon and Carl Berkowitz

Dowling College,
Oakdale, Long Island,
New York 11769-1999.

This paper describes a comprehensive and innovative approach by The National Aviation and Transportation (NAT) Center®, in the area of intermodal transportation education, training, and applied research. Through national and international partnerships, the Center's efforts focus on the analysis of intermodal transportation systems; airport and environs simulation and modeling; human factors; fiscal and administrative issues; energy and the environment; conflict resolution; and other areas essential to creating an integrated transportation system which is seamless, yet sensitive to both the needs of the public (government) and private (business) sectors and their customers. The NAT Center's 105 acres (adjacent to Brookhaven Calabro Airport), including an over $100 million construction program, is dedicated to providing a facility to the study of intermodal transportation and giving the United States the ability to lead in the next crucial area of international competition, moving people, products, and information faster, cheaper, smarter, and safer. This Long Island, New York facility provides a broad-based educational platform in academic instruction, training, and applied research, and the first of three buildings opened on September 1, 1994. When the master plan is fully implemented and all construction is completed, 3,000 students will be part of the first international campus dedicated to the study of intermodal transportation. Key words: education, global, intermodal, transportation, technology.

An effective and efficient transportation system is a vital factor in assuring a favorable quality of life, health, and social and economic well-being for our society and national security. An aviation system that is safe and provides for the efficient movement of people, goods, resources, and information is essential for both the maintenance and growth of the U.S. economy. Transportation consistently ranks as one of the major factors in determining site location for development and is a lifeline for economic survival in a mobile-based world.

The U.S. is experiencing continuous population growth and higher population densities; constrained mobility is leading to transportation gridlock. Today 90 percent of our population occupies 10 percent of the nation's land and is continuing to infringe on the transportation station environment; effective transportation solutions are needed, since the loss of human productivity due to air and ground transportation gridlock amounts to over one billion dollars a day (1).

The nation's transportation system will not be able to meet future demand without trained people with special knowledge and skills. It is an industry that needs dedicated, technically trained specialists with important engineering, administrative, and managerial skills. Persons with such training and experience will be in constant demand and this need will continue to grow in the 21st century. A recent NAT Center study indicates that over 500,000 new jobs will develop in this field by 2005 in just the U.S.

The passage of the U.S. Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) legislation marked a shift from individual modal growth to intermodalism. For the most part transportation and the various modes involving air, land, and sea have been encouraged to develop independently without any systems integration process (Figure 1).

The NAT Center was developed under the premise of achieving a balanced or integrated transportation system using the intermodal approach involving the efficient movement, use, and transfer of people, goods, services, resources, and information in order to maximize its potential in a competitive global economy. This approach represented a major departure from individual and isolated modal emphasis (Figure 2). The initiative to develop the NAT Center complex preceded the Federal ISTEA legislation by over two years.

To meet these identified needs in aviation and intermodal transportation, the NAT Center has positioned itself to provide national and international leadership. Programs are designed and built on three primary characteristics which provide the basis for all activities. These three ingredients are visionary approach, global perspective, and public/private partnerships.

Visionary Approach

American institutions of higher learning have become increasingly reactive to the process of formal education. At the NAT Center it has been recognized that a new paradigm in education, training, and applied research is needed (Figure 3). While a discipline-based approach is considered the norm among most colleges and universities it is too territorial, offering a narrow view into the subject (Figure 4).

A more thematic approach is necessary that is comprehensive and multidisciplinary representing the new paradigm. The NAT Center programs are designed to be a comprehensive one-stop transportation resource center, unlike any other institute in the world merging with education, business, and government in a comprehensive manner (Figure 5).

This thematic rather than discipline-based approach to education has produced the first undergraduate degree in intermodal transportation in North America and provides the student with opportunities to develop concentrations in eight areas. Using this thematic approach with each of the disciplines (engineering, aviation science, urban planning, architecture, management, computer science, etc.) and working within a cooperative and comprehensive sphere of influence has resulted in two new B.S, degrees: the first in intermodal transportation planning and management, the second in international business and intermodal transportation. The NAT Center is also developing two master's degrees in intermodal transportation management and transportation science and a doctoral degree in transportation science and management. In total, there are eleven degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level related to aviation and intermodal transportation.

Consistent with this creative curriculum, the NAT Center is developing programs that explore the potential use of multimedia technology to deliver this important educational material. Some of the areas being explored are the use of the three-dimensional electronic transportation network for distance learning. Already begun is the process of establishing a broad range of informational services on the World-Wide Web and educational programming including both credit and noncredit offerings.

These new technologies are beginning to complement and displace more traditional methods of classroom instruction by offering access to global instructional resources. Planned satellite broadcasting efforts will let academia share information through broad scale electronic connections. Distance learning via electronic transmission will eliminate the isolation of students and faculty at remote sites, encourage collaboration, accelerate the transfer of technology, and enhance research productivity. The NAT Center is also developing strategies and infrastructure to connect scholar-to-scholar, scholar-to-student and administrator-to-administrator. Telecommuting is beginning to compete with the air market for specific activities and is increasingly being used by the work force. The NAT Center is aware of this revolution and is analyzing the role of telecommuting as a change agent and its impact on the transportation system. It is expected that electronic 3-dimensional spaceways for communication will be widespread as gateways into the 21st century open. This is clearly evident by the U.S. Telecommunication Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton.

Global Perspective

Transportation offers essential connectivity between the system provider and the system user. The NAT Center as part of the global village is cognizant of the importance that future success is dependent on an international perspective. The importance of this global view is particularly evident in light of certain economic facts. Most U.S. businesses now rely increasingly on international trade for their future growth. For example, in 1995 62 percent of Coca Cola's and fifty percent of McDonald's revenue was derived from international markets. By 1998 it is estimated that the economy of the Pacific Rim will eclipse that of Europe; by the year 2005 China will have the world's largest economy. The impact of economic growth in South and Central America has yet to be factored into the global equation.

In recognition of globalization, the NAT Center has launched an aggressive international strategy by providing aviation and intermodal transportation leadership. The first initiative was the establishment of the International Institute for Economic Educational Enterprises (I2E3) which was established to foster internationalism and economic development.

The NAT Center is also working with 18 different nations in aviation transportation as part of the STAR (Specialized Training in Aeronautics and Research) consortium that is endorsed and supported by the European Union. STAR's main objectives are to sponsor initial and recurrent professional training, applied research, degree programs, and continuing education. Headquartered in Bordeaux, France, STAR's membership includes over 200 corporations and universities. The NAT Center has been designated STAR USA and is formulating a network of more than 30 U.S. businesses and prominent university partners.

Working with its global partners, the NAT Center has become increasingly concerned with sustainable development and with finding ways to minimize the impact of development on the biosphere. (This was a world concern that received global attention at the Rio de Janeiro Environmental Conference). The NAT Center as a result has become an active partner in the development of the transportation and communication components for discussion at Habitat II. It is a sponsor along with Columbia University of a preparatory conference in New York during February 1996. Habitat II is the UN worldwide environmental conference scheduled for Istanbul, Turkey, in June, 1996, and this prepcon will make an important contribution.

The NAT Center has established the first International Intermodal Transportation Simulation System. This system will identify and solve aviation and intermodal transportation problems using computer-based simulation that includes all three spatial dimensions: aerial, surface and subsurface. The system will also utilize the five human senses and all modes of transportation (air, land and sea). The first phase of this program is supported by a $2.9 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. This funding was used to recently establish a laboratory and will be the foundation for a comprehensive Center for Advanced Simulation (CAS). The CAS when completed will house classrooms, laboratories, as well as a hypermedia auditorium (Figures 6 and 7).

The CAS will be used for strategic air transport planning and problem solving, conflict resolution, emergency preparedness and risk assessment, human factor issues, logistics, and scheduling. This technology will also help define the systems that will enable transportation specialists to better understand the movement of people and goods in a safe and efficient manner using risk-free and less environmentally intrusive training techniques. The simulators have the capability of evaluating problems and provide training at the micro and macro level. Micro activities include operator-level training, planning, and gaming; macro activities include regional planning and project evaluation. Some of the other activities include crew and equipment resource management, electronic multimedia simulation applied to large-scale transportation projects, and issues using electronic rehearsal exercises. Key to the use of this simulation-based facility is the enhancement of transportation that has economic development benefits.

Public/Private Partnerships

NAFTA Intermodal Transportation Institute

Supporting the NAT Center's international initiatives is the NAFTA Transportation Institute in conjunction with the University of Texas at El Paso (Figure 8). This institute addresses comprehensively the issues of getting goods to market in North America. This institute began operation at the beginning of this year with the support of Congress and a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. One million dollars has been specifically earmarked for the first year of operation. The institute will help small businesses develop their market potentials in Canada and Mexico and help stimulate further partnerships for these companies using transportation as a catalyst.

Educational Partnerships

Secretary of Labor Dr. Robert Reich described opportunities in the next century indicating that management will be looking for people with a global attitude, problem-solving skills, and an understanding of global problems and international experience. The NAT Center has already established internationally based educational partnerships involving nations representing nearly 75 percent of the world's population and markets. These relationships will become important laboratories and educational exchanges for identifying transportation issues and solutions. Furthermore, these institutional linkages represent gateways to global understanding, and creating and maintaining an educated global work force is a top priority.

The NAT Center is not limited to providing traditional academic degrees. It is at the forefront of providing for the education continuum, attracting young people to transportation careers, offering school-to-work transitions, providing continuing education and on-the-job training for those already in the field, and retraining displaced workers into new career paths. Supported by a Department of Labor grant, it has established a program for displaced aerospace workers desiring new careers.

Articulation agreements with secondary schools and community and four-year colleges, with the future intent of supporting these relationships with on-site programming and distance learning, are also being developed at the global level. To further support these articulations, a series of summer institutes have been developed to educate and train teachers who will prepare and inspire young people to pursue careers in transportation. As a vehicle for attracting students into the NAT Center programs, 12 high school partnership programs and 10 community college articulations have been established. Additional initiatives are underway, including a combined degree programs with local colleges and universities in engineering and related areas.

The NAT Center is currently developing two innovative secondary schools: a "Vision School for Transportation" and a magnet school "The Center for Education in Technology and Science." The Vision School for Transportation is being developed with the City of New York, local transportation agencies, and the private sector. This school articulates with undergraduate programs in transportation, and students will be offered career development opportunities, internships, guest speakers, mentoring, and tutoring. The Center for Education in Technology and Science will accept highly motivated 10th graders. These students will take courses at the NAT Center for two years and upon completion of the program will receive academic credit for up to two years of college, a Regents Diploma, and/or the International Baccalaureate.

A number of programs specifically designed to reach middle school students to inform them about opportunities, career choices, and study options in transportation are hosted at this Long Island, New York facility. For a week in the summer, students live on campus and use aviation technology as the basis for learning science and mathematics.

Opportunity Skyway is a national career development program designed to keep disadvantaged and disabled students enrolled in high school and focused on careers in aviation transportation. Its many volunteers serve as mentors to students, partners to teachers, and advisors to 30 local chapters in 12 states. This program is supported by the NAT Center.

Technology Partnerships

The NAT Center has established a reputation for building innovative partnerships to promote technology between academia, industry, and government and is in a unique position to take advantage of the national defense conversion initiatives by helping to transfer military technologies to civilian applications. This process has begun with the application of detection systems to improve highway intersection operations. The first initiative is with Northrop-Grumman and Francisco Mier and Associates in the development of a continuous flow intersection (CFI) with infrared sensors, a technique for improving left turn traffic performance. This partnership has received national and international recognition. Such applications are now being considered throughout North America.

When traffic problems are caused by heavy turn movements, traditional tactics include the use of special signal phases and channelization, enforcement personnel, widening the right-of-way, improving alternate routing, or grade separation. CFI provides an at-grade solution that improves traffic operation beyond the capacity of conventional solutions. The primary design element of CFI, as it is configured at the NAT Center, is to remove the conflict between left-turning vehicles and oncoming traffic; the CFI design accomplishes this by introducing a left-turn bay placed to the left of oncoming traffic (Figure 9). This bay is accessed by the creation of a midblock, signalized intersection. Traffic is permitted to load the left-turn bay, cross-street traffic, thus eliminating any traffic conflicts. The signal phase servicing through traffic also services protected left-turn movements, so oncoming traffic does not conflict with left-turn vehicles.

As a result of this design, multiphase signal operations to provide protected left-turn movements can be eliminated, enhancing signal efficiency. When combined with the sensor, new levels of signalization optimization can be achieved. The New York Times reported that this design is one of the most innovative in the past 30 years. Not only is travel flow enhanced along with capacity, there is also a demonstrated reduction in existing vehicle-related pollution. A more complex application is being considered in Mexico City at a present roadway intersection that has 14,000 vehicle operations per hour under peak conditions.

Research Incubator

This initiative is designed to advance promising new technologies and expertise. Through a combination of applied research, demonstration projects, and policy analysis, the incubator will improve and enhance aviation and intermodal functioning to create a seamless transportation system. This facility encourages partnerships between business, academia, and government to create new solutions to aviation and intermodal transportation challenges. Plans are underway to create an Advanced Transportation Technology Intermodal Incubator.

Academic Affiliations

Academic partnerships involve a consortium of six universities and industries called Aviation Consortium for Education and Training (ACET) headquartered at the NAT Center. Strong linkages with seven educational institutions in New York and New Jersey have been established as part of a university transportation consortium coordinated through the NAT Center. The members of this group include Columbia University, Syracuse University, Cooper Union, Fairleigh Dickinson, Niagara University, and Monmouth University.

Transportation Projects

Several efforts involve air quality, transportation planning, airport noise, land use planning, conflict resolution, and intermodal transportation master planning. These applications include initiatives in five different states at the municipal and metropolitan level. A unique application is a high speed passenger/freight (Magnetic Levitation) demonstration simulation, planning, and engineering program for Brevard County, Florida, linking highways to airports to MagLev.


The NAT Center provides a variety of support services and is a platform for cooperation and partnership. The facility is designed to be the definitive one-stop resource center for intermodal transportation education, training, and applied research and is positioned in a major educational role in transportation development into the 21st century both nationally and internationally. The Center's operational philosophy is "The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Create It"!


1.C.R. Bragdon. Intermodal Connectivity: A Status Report. 75th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, Washington, D.C., 1996.

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