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Transportation Today in Greater New York

SGIThe economic muscle of the New York Metropolitan Region is reflected in the complexity – and openness – of its transportation systems. This region is home to close to 20 million residents, more than 600,000 business establishments, more than 1.3 million registered trucks, and more than 8.8 million employees. Every year, more than 67 million trucks cross the toll facilities administered by the various transportation agencies. The region is one of the largest and densest in the world with an average of 17,600 persons per square mile. One third of the nation's transit commuters are in this metropolis; one tenth of all national Vehicle Miles traveled on expressways are within this metropolis. The complexity of moving goods and passengers is compounded by the severe congestion, the existence of significant physical constraints and the fact that the area is home to the largest concentration of transportation facilities in the world, including three airports, dozens of container terminals, intermodal yards and more than 11,000 miles of highways.

NYC is the principal transit center in the US and North America . The New York City rapid transit system is one of the largest in the world, and the largest in the United States . NYC rapid transit is comprised of underground lines, open railroad cuts, grades, and elevated structures some as high as 88 feet above street level. There are 468 subway stations along 230 miles of routes, and train service is provided at each station twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. On any given weekday of the year, more than 4.6 million passengers (a number greater than the entire population of Los Angeles ) use the New York City subway system, while 2.5 million riders use NYC Transit buses every day. Entry into NYC’s transportation system is also vastly expanded by NJ Transit, PATH, and Amtrak with their hundreds of miles of rails and multiple stations that feed people in and out of the region every day.

Adding to the complexity of managing this system, were the events of September 11, 2001, which exposed its vulnerability to terrorist attacks. In this regard, one of the areas of immediate concern is that of monitoring the movement of trucks and cargo entering and circulating within urban and sensitive areas. This is a necessity especially for the control of trucks entering New York City (Manhattan) through critical bridge and tunnel crossings. Associated with the movement of trucks and cargo is the need to monitor their weight, (i) because of pavement deterioration as a result of exceeded weight limits, and (ii) because of the risk of accidents caused by overweight trucks, which often result in fatalities.

The Challenges

To date, there is a limited amount of information available relative to data on freight movements to reasonably assess security risks in urban areas. The Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) which is maintained by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), while extremely useful for freight planning and modeling, cannot provide a sufficient level of granularity to be useful for risk management applications.

Traffic management agencies have made strides during the last decade in monitoring and managing general vehicle traffic. Transportation Management Centers (TMCs) collect data and deploy effective strategies. However, these management strategies regard trucks as “big vehicles” because there is no communication with the trucking company dispatchers and freight forwarders that monitor the movements for their clients.


The City University of New York, Institute for Transportation Systems (CUNY ITS), has risen to the challenge of addressing these efficiency and security issues by establishing a Universal Transportation Model Simulation Center (UTMSC) that uses state-of-the art computing technology and processes, to develop, maintain and provide continuous improvements to an operational UTM system in close cooperation with NYCDOT, NYSDOT, and NJDOT engineers and planners, emergency and security agencies, trucking companies, freight forwarders, the consulting world, federal, state and local public agencies, and the Universities that will participate in this crucially required effort. CCNY-CUNY is the ideal entity to establish this center because this initiative will involve a number of entities that rarely work closely together, but which all maintain close relationships through research and other projects with CCNY-CUNY.

The UTMSC, housed on the City College campus – Marshak Hall – Room 602 -- has already begun to make its mark on the US and world stage. For example, in the US , modeling projects have been done for New Jersey and Alabama Departments of Transportation; on the world stage, projects have been done in Cyprus , Greece , and Italy . Cyber-training has been piloted with 18 US and three international locations simultaneously. All of the above, and more, has been conducted over the course of 5-7 years, during which time, the UTMSC has been successful in raising the resources – a “strategic investment” of $500,000 from the NY City Council, through the Manhattan Borough President’s Office; a co-investment of $679,000 from SGI (Silicon Graphics, Inc.), in addition to an educational equipment discount of $500,000; and a “grant” from CCNY of $200,000 -- to enable the acquisition of a SGI Altix 4700 supercomputer, and site renovation and operational start-up to reach the full potential of the UTMSC capabilities. The UTMSC became fully operational in Spring 2008

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