Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

U-M receives grant for sustainable transportation research in Detroit, Beijing

U-M will receive a $250,000 grant from Alcoa Foundation to support the university's Sustainable Mobility and Accessibility Research and Transformation (SMART) project.

The grant will be used to develop and apply practical solutions to the challenges of sustainable transportation in the Detroit and Beijing regions.


SMART is a cross-university initiative of the U-M Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and now is part of Alcoa Foundation's $4 million Advancing Sustainability Research: Innovative Partnerships for Actionable Solutions initiative that funds 10 global sustainability research projects in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Russia and the United States.

The project will marry knowledge and action on sustainable transportation and related sustainable economic development in two cities that are vastly different and yet face challenges and opportunities that might offer wider lessons for advancing sustainable transportation in other regions and communities around the world.

"Sustainable transportation is especially important today because accelerated urbanization, population growth and globalization pose a range of challenges including environmental ones," says Susan Zielinski, director of U-M's SMART program. "These issues make it critical to develop smart and practical transportation solutions that will sustain our cities, our climate and our environment now and in the future."

SMART takes a systems approach to urban mobility and accessibility, Zielinski says. It uses a public-private innovation approach to engage businesses, governments, nongovernmental organizations and academia in mapping and piloting integrated transportation solutions customized to each region. It also identifies related quality of life benefits and economic opportunities.

"The SMART program builds on a long-standing relationship between Alcoa and the University of Michigan," says Tim Myers, president of Alcoa Wheel & Transportation Products. "Our organizations share a strong commitment to sustainability and this SMART research program will lay a foundation for the future of knowledge and action around sustainable transportation."

The projected outcomes of the SMART initiative are to:

• Mobilize a diverse partnership base required to collectively describe, develop and apply practical and integrated solutions.

• Uncover new data and conceptual frameworks: technical, behavioral, economic and policy-focused.

• Pilot innovations, enhancements and communications approaches that will improve transportation connectivity and sustainability in the Beijing and Detroit regions.

In addition to SMART, the Advancing Sustainability Research: Innovative Partnerships for Actionable Solutions initiative has several partners worldwide. Over the course of two years, partners will create and leverage sustainability research, as well as provide opportunities to develop and share solutions worldwide.