MIT Reports to the President 1996-97


The Center for Transportation Studies was established in 1973 to develop and coordinate the wide range of transportation-related activity at MIT. It provides a focal point for transportation education, facilitates transportation research, conducts an outreach program to the transportation industry, and encourages a sense of common purpose among the many departments, centers and laboratories involved in transportation and logistics at MIT.

The Center's Web address is In addition to a wealth of information about the Center and its programs, the site includes descriptions of current research projects in transportation, and a listing of MIT theses in transportation since 1980. Transportation faculty and research staff are also listed with their areas of interest, along with connections to other interesting resources on the Web.


Because the quality of applications remains consistently high, qualifying for graduate admission for transportation studies is increasingly difficult. This year, 71 applications were received for graduate studies in transportation, and 20 students were enrolled. Funding was found for 60% of the students.

In December, 48 undergraduates from around New England came to MIT to learn about graduate transportation programs at MIT and Harvard and at the Universities of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The open house event was sponsored by the Region One UTC Program (headquartered at the Center), of which those schools are all a part.

This spring, the faculty voted to approve the initiation of a new nine-month program leading to a Master of Engineering in Logistics, to be administered by the Center. Scheduled to admit its first students in the fall of 1998, the full-time course of study will be the first of its kind to produce logistics professionals with a system-wide, cross-functional perspective who are equally at home with sophisticated data analysis. Designed as an interdisciplinary effort in the School of Engineering, the program will be offered in cooperation with several departments and organizations within MIT, including the Sloan School of Management and the Center for Advanced Educational Services. Enrollment is expected to reach a steady-state of 60 students by the fifth year.


During the past academic year, 150 projects were listed in the Center's Current Research Projects in Transportation at MIT, 47 of which had been started since last year's listing was printed. Sponsored research volume remains level.


The Morgan State University research considers the CVO component of Intelligent Transportation Systems and how it should be deployed in Maryland, which is a prototype CVISN state as designated by the FHWA. Issues of technology, systems and institutions will be integrated into a strategic deployment plan. This work is being performed in a cooperative program with Morgan State University and the Advanced Physics Lab of Johns Hopkins University. Sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, US Department of Transportation.

The major objectives of the proposed project with the Massachusetts Highway Department are the application of DynaMIT, a simulation-based Dynamic Traffic Assignment (DTA) system to the Eastern Massachusetts freeway and arterial network in an off-line mode (the application will have the potential to serve as the foundation for an on-line travel information system in the future); the utilization of the implemented DTA system to design a library of Variable Message Sign (VMS)-based strategies for route diversion in response to incidents; and the utilization of the implemented DTA system to evaluate the effectiveness of the generated strategies in terms of travel time, congestion relief, and information reliability.

The Center for Transportation Studies at MIT has selected this project with the MBTA to receive Federal funding as part of the US DOT New England Region University Transportation Centers Program. This program operates on a one-to-one dollar matching basis with the match typically being provided by the public agency which would benefit most directly from the work. This project will develop a decision support system for non-routine or emergency operations on rail transit systems. It has been developed in conjunction with the MBTA and is specifically tailored to take advantage of the new functions and capabilities available with the new Operations Control Center.

Optimization of Railroad Blocking Plans. (Cynthia Barnhart). On major domestic railroads, a typical general merchandise shipment may pass through many classification yards on its route from origin to destination. At these yards, the incoming traffic is sorted and grouped together to be placed on outgoing trains. The classification process is time, labor and capital intensive since many workers and large quantities of equipment are needed to sort the traffic. To reduce the number of reclassifications, several shipments may be grouped together to form a block. A block has associated with it an origin-destination pair which may or may not be the origin-destination pair of any of the individual cars contained in the block. Once a shipment is placed in a block it is not reclassified until it reaches the destination of that block. We develop optimal or near-optimal blocking plans through the use of large-scale network-based optimization models. These models are designed to capture the global network effects of blocking decisions at each yard. Sponsored by CSX Transportation.


Since its inception in Fy 95, the MIT/Industry Integrated Supply Chain Management Program currently has eight members -- Amoco, Caliber Logistics, Monsanto, Procter & Gamble, Quelle, Siemens, Volkswagen, and Xerox. To date, sixteen research projects have been initiated, eleven quarterly collaboration meetings have been held at sponsor locations, and the second annual executive seminar has been conducted, attracting over 35 senior managers from sponsor companies for a two-day session.


In December, nearly ninety people representing 44 different organizations convened at the MIT Faculty Club for a two-day meeting focused on the challenges and opportunities facing global logistics practice. Sponsored by the Center's Corporate Affiliates Program, the seminar drew an unusually diversified crowd from the private and public sectors and from academia, in 21 states and four foreign countries, to take part in discussions of presentations on a range of global logistics issues.

In January, over thirty senior executives from the members of MIT's Integrated Supply Chain Management Program convened at the MIT Faculty Club for a two-day meeting on the application of supply chain design, organization and technology for competitive advantage. The purpose of the meeting was to bring executives together with MIT faculty and other sponsors to share the latest learning's in supply chain management. Member companies represented were Amoco, Caliber Logistics, Monsanto, Proctor & Gamble, Quelle, Siemens, Volkswagen and Xerox.

In February, 65 people from 25 different organizations convened at MIT's Faculty Club for a two-day seminar on "Freight Terminals: Operations and Customer Service." The purpose was to bring together people involved in freight terminals -- for railroads, trucks or ports, for big or little packages -- to talk about operations and customer service. To the organizers' knowledge, it was the first such conference focused specifically on terminals and certainly the first at which people from trucking, ports and railroads were all convened in the same room talking about their problems in detail.

In May, nearly sixty people attended a two-day conference on transportation safety at the MIT Faculty Club, sponsored by the Center's Corporate Affiliates Program. The conference was organized to explore some leading issues in transportation safety, focusing specifically on commercial transportation, primarily trucking and rail.


As usual, the Center sponsored a reception at the annual Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington in January. This year's event was attended by about 50 alumni and friends.

Every semester the Center sponsors a luncheon seminar series featuring transportation experts from the public and private sectors, and from academia, discussing current issues in the transportation field. Open to the public at large, the seminars draw an audience made up not only of students and faculty from the Institute, but also of representatives from the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in nearby Kendall Square, from other universities, and from business and research organizations in the area.

Last fall, the series featured Thomas Downs, Chairman, President, and CEO: Amtrak; Ann Canby, Secretary of Transportation: Delaware Department of Transportation; Gordon Bethune, President and CEO: Continental Airlines; and David Winstead, Secretary of Transportation, Office of the Secretary: Maryland Department of Transportation. The spring series included Damian Kulash, President and CEO: Eno Transportation Foundation, Inc.; Thomas Cook, President: SABRE Decision Technologies; and David Calhoun, President and CEO: General Electric Transportation Systems.

A new series of luncheon seminars was introduced last year featuring MIT faculty and research staff presenting their current work for discussion and feedback. Participants in the series this year were: Peter Belobaba, Associate Professor, Aeronautics & Astronautics; David Gordon Wilson, Senior Lecturer and Professor Emeritus, Mechanical Engineering; Robert Fogelson, Professor, Urban Studies & History; Karen Polenske and Alvaro Pereira, Professor and Ph.D. Candidate, Urban Studies and Planning; Michel Bierlaire, Research Associate, Intelligence Transportation Systems Program; Mark Hanson, Associate Technical Staff, Air Traffic Automation Group, Lincoln Laboratory; Carl Martland, Senior Research Associate, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Alan Chachich, Research Scientist, Center for Transportation Studies; Herbert Einstein, Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering; Lee Grodzins, Professor, Physics; Ian Savage, Professor, Department of Economics, Northwestern University; Ennio Cascetta, Professor, Department of Transportation Engineering, University of Naples, Italy; Michael Florian, Research, University of Montreal; Bob Simha, Director of Planning, Planning Office; Michael Cassidy, Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, U. Cal. Berkeley; Don Pickrell, Chief Economist US DOT, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

Peter Klaus, Professor of Business Logistics at the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg, was a Visiting Professor in the Center for Transportation Studies this spring, conducting research as part of the Integrated Supply Chain Management Program, and on other logistics topics, through the end of April. While here, he gave a series of six lectures on logistics.


The Corporate Affiliates Program welcomed several new members this year, bringing the current total membership to 35. The new members are Crowley Maritime; Emery Worldwide; Osram Sylvania; P & O Nedlloyd; Sabre Decision Technologies; Sony; and Wisconsin Central Ltd. Continuing members are British Airways; Canadian National; Canadian Pacific Railway; Caterpillar; Conrail; CSX Transportation; Cummins Engine; DuPont; Federal Express; General Electric; Gillette; Goodyear Tire & Rubber; Home Depot; Honda; International Business Machines; LogiCorp; Mars; Monsanto; NYK; Procter & Gamble; Ryder System; Sea-Land Service; Unilever; Union Pacific; United Parcel Service; United States Postal Service; Volkswagen; and Yellow.

Every year, as part of the Center's Corporate Affiliates Program, one of the members hosts the rest of the group at a two-day meeting and tour of one of its facilities. This year, in September, nearly 70 representatives of 43 organizations convened in Watsonville CA, between Santa Cruz and Monterey, for the latest Affiliates Day at Skyway Freight Systems, a subsidiary of Union Pacific Corporation. The subject of the meeting was "Technology-Based Logistics Solutions" -- the first day focused on technology, the second on customer case studies.


Every summer for the past twelve years, the Center has offered an intensive week-long seminar on Logistics Analysis for Carriers and Shippers. Attended by representatives of carriers, shippers and third-party logistics providers, the course is structured around a series of lectures and case studies and involves intensive interaction among the participants. This year the course was attended by 60 participants.


Personnel changes in the Center this year include the departure of Patrick Little, Marygrace Filippone, Peter Welch, and Amanda Bourque, and the hiring of Michel Bierlaire, Didier Burton, Janet Kerrigan, Sydney Miller, and Qi Yang. The Center was also joined this past year by Professor Peter Klaus, a Visiting Professor from Germany.


Moshe Ben-Akiva, a long-time member of MIT's transportation faculty, was named the Edmund K. Turner Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, effective September 1. Ben-Akiva has been teaching in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering since 1973, as part of the transportation division. His teaching interests have focused on demand modeling and econometrics, and he has been conducting research in transportation systems analysis, intelligent transportation systems, demand modeling, econometrics and infrastructure management.

The Center's Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowship for 1996-97 was awarded jointly this year to Sarah Stock and Owen Chen. A doctoral student at MIT's Operations Research Center, Sarah Stock is writing her dissertation on "Dynamic Flow Management Techniques Applied to Air Transportation Problems." Professor Dimitris Bertsimas is chairman of her doctoral committee. Owen Chen is a doctoral student in the Center for Transportation Studies; his dissertation is focused on "Integration of Traffic Assignment and Traffic Control." Professor Moshe Ben-Akiva is chairman of his doctoral committee. Made possible by a grant from the UPS Foundation, the doctoral fellowship covers full tuition and a full-time graduate assistant stipend for nine months.

In recognition of outstanding contributions to the betterment of society, Arnold Barnett, Professor of Operations Research and Management in the Sloan School of Management, and a sometime participant in the Center's efforts, was presented in November with the President's Award by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). Barnett has been a major contributor to many fields -- including aviation safety, criminal justice, race relations, war-casualty patterns and the misuses of statistics in the social sciences.

Transportation student Lisa Klein (MST'97) was named the winner of the 1996/97 National Student Award for Region One of the University Transportation Centers Program. Her selection was based on a competitive process that included all eligible students who receive financial support from the New England University Transportation Center. The judges chose Klein for her outstanding academic record, her unique leadership qualities, her professional ability and her paper entitled "Parking Cash-Out as a Transportation Demand Management Tool and a Potential Application in Cambridge Massachusetts."

Five faculty members associated with MIT's Operations Research Center, all of whom work from time to time on transportation issues, were awarded chairs this year in their respective departments: Dimitris Bertsimas was named as a Leaders for Manufacturing Professor at the Sloan School of Management; Robert Freund was named the Seley Professor of Management at the Sloan School of Management; Amedeo Odoni was named the T. Wilson Professor of Aeronautical Engineering in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics; James Orlin was named the Penn Brooks Professor of Management at the Sloan School of Management; and Lawrence Wein was named as a Leaders for Manufacturing Professor at the Sloan School of Management.

This spring, Professor Thomas Sheridan received the 1997 National Engineering Award from the American Association of Engineering Societies. The award is presented "to recognize an engineer whose career and accomplishments have particularly benefited humanity." Dr. Sheridan is professor of engineering and applied psychology in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and is also a professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He researches human/machine systems and human factors in transportation.

Qi Yang, of the Center's sponsored research staff, was selected as one of 35 finalists in the 1997 Discover Magazine Awards for Technological Innovation for his work on the Microscopic Traffic Simulator. Almost 4000 innovators were invited to participate in the program this year, producing a vast selection of entries in each of the categories. The magazine's editorial staff narrowed the entries to 35 finalists, all of which were featured in the July 1997 awards issue of Discover Magazine.

Yossi Sheffi

MIT Reports to the President 1996-97