C2SMARTER goes to Washington

NYU Tandon researchers are a driving force at the Transportation Research Board’s 103rd annual meeting

Group of people attending the Transportation Research Board’s 103rd annual meeting

There might not be the red carpet or golden statuettes that you’d find at the Academy Awards or Golden Globes, but for transportation engineers and researchers, the Transportation Research Board’s 103rd annual meeting is among the year’s most eagerly awaited events. 

Held in Washington, D.C., in early January, the 2024 meeting drew more than 13,000 participants from around the world, including members of the recently renewed C2SMARTER (Connected Communities with Smart Mobility to Equitably Reduce Congestion), the NYU Tandon-based U.S. Department of Transportation Tier 1 University Transportation Center. (The C2SMARTER consortium includes Rutgers University, the University of Washington, the University of Texas at El Paso, CUNY-City Tech, the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and Texas Southern University.)

C2SMARTER consortium members led by NYU proved to be, as in past years, a major presence at the multi-day event, held under the auspices of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 

 A gala affair

From Left to Right: Professors Linda Boyle, Eugene Vinitsky, Sarah Kaufman, Saif Eddin Jabari, Joseph Chow, Kaan Ozbay, Xuegang (Jeff) Ban, Hani Nassif, Shri Iyer, Jingqin (Jannie) Gao, Gerarda Shields, Daniel Vignon 

With NYU Tandon kicking off a year-long celebration of the school’s 170th anniversary in 2024, C2SMARTER got the ball rolling with a festive reception that drew more than 300 attendees. And while there may not have been golden statuettes, two people affiliated with the Center were honored for their contributions to the field: Harry A Capers, Jr., P.E.,  and Jingqin (Jannie) Gao. Their awards were presented by Professor Magued Iskander, who chairs the Department of Civil and Urban Engineering at NYU Tandon. 

Capers, a military veteran and now the VP of Corporate Bridge and Federal Programs at the New Jersey-based civil engineering firm Arora and Associates, was presented with a Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of the accomplishments he has accrued in the 50 years since his graduation.  

Prior to joining Arora and Associates, he had spent more than three decades at the New Jersey Department of Transportation, including as State Bridge Engineer, charged with designing, constructing, inspecting, and maintaining the state’s bridges and serving as a representative to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) bridge subcommittee. While accepting his award, Capers — who graduated with his B.S. in 1974 and subsequently earned a master’s degree — gave credit to the stellar education he received in the Department of Civil Engineering at NYU Tandon (then known as Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute) and called upon today’s NYU Tandon Civil Engineering students to continue to lead the field. 

From Left to Right: Professor Ozbay of NYU, Harry Capers, Professor Hani Nassif of Rutgers University

Gao, who earned her M.S. and Ph.D. from the NYU Tandon Department of Civil and Urban Engineering’s Transportation Systems program in 2012 and 2020, respectively, and now serves as C2SMARTER’S Assistant Director of Research, has conducted research related to emerging transportation technologies such as connected and autonomous vehicles and urban analytics for smart transportation. During her time as a graduate student, she presided over Tandon’s student chapters of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and Intelligent Transportation Society (ITS), hosted various student engagement and networking events, and served as a teaching assistant, among other activities. At the reception she was, quite fittingly, presented with the Emerging Leader Alumni Award, but that is far from the only honor she holds: she was named to Who’s Who America in Professional Women in 2023 and has also been the recipient of the 2019  Dr. Louis J. Pignataro Memorial Transportation Education Award and the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) National Leadership Legacy Award.  

 From Left to Right: Professor Ozbay of NYU, Dr. Jingqin (Jannie) Gao, Professor Hani Nassif of Rutgers University, Mr. Shri Iyer of NYU C2SMARTER

Presentations of peer-reviewed research papers funded by C2SMARTER

Among the hundreds of items listed in the meeting’s itinerary are sessions in which select attendees present their research to the peers; this year, more than 40 papers were presented by members of the C2SMARTER consortium, with the majority of those authors hailing from NYU. 

The papers covered an array of timely topics, and among the highlights were:

  • “Using Data from CAV (connected and automated vehicles) Generated Electronic Messages to Improve the Safety and Operation of Freeways,” based on the NCHRP project conducted by Ozbay and Gao.
  • “Safety, Liability, and Insurance in the Age of Automated Driving,” by Sina Bahrami of the University of Michigan and NYU Tandon Assistant Professor Daniel Vignon
  • C2SMARTER partner Texas Southern University’s Professor Mehdi Azimi served as the presiding officer (chair) for a lectern session on inland waterway research. Azimi also received recognition from TRB’s Inland Water Transportation (AW020) committee during the annual meeting.
  • C2SMARTER partner Rutgers’ Professor Hani Nassif, Patrick Lou, and Chan Yang presented their lectern session “Prediction of Maximum Live Load Effects for Bridges Based on Weigh-in-Motion (WIM) Data,” which explored the continued work on the BQE roadway testbed and WIM research for Autonomous Enforcement Approach for overweight trucks.
  • C2SMARTER partner NCA&T’s Victoria Lanier, Venktesh Pandey, and MD Sami Hasnine led “Optimizing Bike Infrastructure for Sustainable Urban Mobility: A Joint Mode and Route Choice Equilibrium Approach,” a presentation for TRB Minority Student Fellows.

A packed schedule for C2SMARTER Faculty and Students

In addition to presenting papers, members of C2SMARTER found themselves in great demand in other capacities.

Professor Ozbay, for example, led a highly successful workshop, “Understand Digital Twins for Transportation Systems,” which was sponsored by the TRB Traffic Simulation Committee (ACP80)  and which examined the possibilities of leveraging virtual representations updated from real-time data for everything from traffic signal control to city-wide management and planning. 

And while there was no shortage of longtime practitioners and august academics in attendance, it was evident that the transportation sector is attracting a talented new generation of experts: a panel organized by the TRB’s Young Member Coordinating Council was moderated by Vignon, who joined NYU Tandon in 2022 and now serves as a member of C2SMARTER’s Junior Faculty Council. He was joined by Institute Associate Professor Joseph Chow in a wide-ranging discussion of scientific outreach and communication for young faculty.

The annual TRB conference — the largest venue for transportation researchers in the world — has become the center stage for NYU Tandon’s success in building a world-class transportation systems program under the leadership of Ozbay, its founding director. 

“The designation of C2SMARTER as a Tier 1 University Transportation Center in 2017 and its subsequent renewal in 2023 as a result of extremely challenging national competitions have been instrumental in our growing reputation as the leader in the field, with a focus on building sustainable and resilient urban transportation systems,” Professor Ozbay, explains. He continued, “The Center’s very strong and growing presence at the TRB’s annual conference every year is a great testimony to our success through the hard and highly innovative work with measurable broader impacts on society that the C2SMARTER consortium puts together.”

urban highways with graph superimposed


See how C2SMARTER accelerates transportation opportunities arising from advances in communication and smart technologies.