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Strategic Planning Document -
The US owes much of its present prosperity to the efficiency of its
transportation system. The flexibility and low cost of personal
transportation in the US is closely associated with most Americans' sense of
personal freedom. But the system faces unprecedented demands for renewal. A
fast-paced information-intensive economy is changing the places people want
and need to travel and new production and management methods are radically
reshaping the shipping needs of businesses. At the same time, the Nation's
transportation system is expected to meet unprecedented standards for
reliability, cost, timeliness, safety, and environmental impacts. Meeting
these expectations, ensuring the vitality of a key part of national
infrastructure, and enhancing the competitiveness of an enterprise that
contributes directly or indirectly to the employment of nearly a fifth of
American workers necessitates a vigorous research and development effort in
which Federal R&D investment, coordination and stimulation plays a critical
The US transportation system includes 190.4 million automobiles, vans,
and trucks operating on 3.9 million miles of streets and highways; 103,000
transit vehicles operating on those streets, as well as more than 7,000 miles
of subways, street car lines, and commuter railroads; 275,000 airplanes
operating in and out of 17,500 airports and landing fields; 18,000 locomotives
and 1.2 million cars operating over 113,000 miles of railroads; 20 million
recreational boats; 31,000 barges, and over 8,000 US ships, tugs, and other
commercial vessels operating on 26,000 miles of waterways, the Great Lakes,
and the oceans; and 1.5 million miles of intercity pipelines.
Transportation Statistics Annual Report 1994, US DOT
National Investment in Transportation
Transportation investment and annual expenditures represent a significant
element of our overall national assets and expenditures. American
households, businesses, and governments spend over $1 trillion to travel 3.8
trillion miles and to ship goods 3.5 trillion miles each year. The net
depreciated value of personal motor vehicles alone is $900 billion, and the
value of roads and highways is estimated at over $700 billion. When adjusted
to formal definitions of the National Income Product Accounts, transportation
accounts for 12 percent of Gross Domestic Product. The chart below
summarizes the value of current transportation investment, amounts spent on
transportation, and transportation-related employment in recent years.
Federal Investment in Transportation Research and Development
The Federal government has played a major role in supporting innovative
transportation technologies in partnership with industry for several reasons,
the main one being that the government owns and is responsible for a major
part of the infrastructure. The positive impacts of technological innovations
in the transportation system can only be measured over a period of several
decades. The risks of research investments, therefore, can be very high and
returns on investment so distant that they do not justify private sector
support. This market constraint is exacerbated by the large number and
diversity of customers that characterize some modes. Since the public
benefits of long-term research often can not be fully captured by private
investors under these circumstances, Federal research partnerships are
essential for ensuring a continuous flow of innovation.
The Federal government also has a unique responsibility for protecting
the public's interest in areas like infrastructure renewal, environmental
quality, passenger safety, worker safety, and reduction of congestion. The
objectives of both business and government can be achieved through well
designed research programs which optimize and leverage the use of both Federal
and private sector resources. Often the kinds of long-term research needed to
achieve major gains in vehicle efficiency, emissions, or safety are precisely
the kinds of research needed by companies to protect their competitive
position in domestic and international markets.
Research on aircraft, ships, land vehicles, and other transportation
technologies are, of course, also critical for national security. Many
defense technology needs can, however, be achieved at much lower cost when
defense research is managed in a way that encourages research investment by
private firms that can use new technology for both defense and civilian
markets. DOD can no longer afford to support research to sustain firms
specializing only in defense markets. Enormous savings can be achieved if
defense products can be purchased from healthy and vigorous commercial
Vision and Goals
The National Science and Technology Council's (NSTC) Interagency
Coordinating Committee on Transportation Research and Development is charged
with ensuring that Federal investment in transportation research conducted by
all agencies is (1) coordinated to ensure efficient use of Federal funds aimed
at this mission, (2) focused on projects identified users, industry and other
stakeholders as being the most critical to achieving success in the agencies'
missions, and (3) limited to areas where it is clear that major public
benefits can only be achieved through cost-shared Federal research. The
Committee is composed of representatives from the Departments of Commerce,
Defense, Energy, and Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and
the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Investing in technology is investing in America's future: a growing
economy with more high-skill, high wage jobs for American workers; a cleaner
environment where efficiency increases profits and reduces pollution; a
stronger, more competitive private sector able to maintain US leadership in
critical world markets; an educational system where every student is
challenged; and an inspired scientific and technological research community
focused on ensuring not just our national security but our very quality of
--Technology for America's Economic Growth, A New Direction to Build Economic
The Committee's vision is of a sustainable and seamless intermodal
transportation system that effectively ties America together and links it to
the world. This system will help citizens and businesses satisfy their needs
by providing efficient, safe, secure, and environmentally friendly
transportation of people and goods. It will result from a strengthened
partnership between government and the private sector focused on effective
management and renewal of existing infrastructure, strategic deployment of new
technologies and infrastructure, and on R&D which supports each of these.
The building blocks for achieving this vision are a sound physical
infrastructure; a broad array of technological, design, and behavioral
alternatives that provide an overlay of operational information to enable the
most effective use of the physical infrastructure; and comprehensive knowledge
of the system and its operations. Realizing this vision will require
achievement of the following goals:
A system of personal transportation that meets people's travel needs
conveniently and with a minimum of cost and delay. Government and industry
will work to achieve the following goals within a decade:
A prototype of an affordable, attractive automobile capable of up to three
times current fuel economy and meeting future standards for safety and air
A validated technology base which will enable the commercial development of a
new generation of safe subsonic and high-speed civil transport aircraft that
far surpass today's aircraft in affordability, efficiency, and environmental
compatibility, as well as the development of a safer, more efficient, and more
productive air traffic management system .
Demonstrated technologies that will result in bridges and highway surfaces
capable of lasting years without frequent or major maintenance.
Advanced, integrated highway, air, rail, and marine information systems that
will monitor system performance and will provide operators and passengers the
information they need to maximize their flexibility and choice, and minimize
congestion and environmental impact.
A system of freight transportation that supports both traditional shipping
needs and the new requirements of industries relying on fast, reliable,
flexible deliveries. The government and industry will work to achieve the
following goals within a decade:
Prototypes of heavy trucks, rail locomotives, and buses that will minimize
the use of non-renewable resources and will be safe, secure, economically
viable, suitable for use by an increasingly diverse population, and, at the
same time, be producible and create manufacturing jobs in the US based on both
domestic and export markets.
A civilian space launch industry capable of competing in any unsubsidized
A Federal procurement system based on life-cycle costing and performance
specifications which gives private firms strong incentives to create and
invest in innovations and to meet ambitious safety and environmental goals
efficiently and with a minimum of prescriptive regulation.
A Federal government structure that supports wise and effective decisions,
policies and legislation based on private sector input; comprehensive
knowledge of the transportation system's condition, performance and
operations; and understanding of the impacts and implications of alternative
choices and courses of action.
The vision and goals were crafted around the following guiding principles:
Work with industry and state and local governments in establishing research
Ensure sound Federal support and effective interagency coordination for key
areas of basic and applied research, including engineering topics such as
materials and systems analysis.
Competitive selection of projects should involve independent experts to
ensure that choices reflect merit and not politics.
Significant cost sharing should be provided by industry in all applied
Priority should be given to projects capable of achieving both business
successes and meeting social goals such as environmental protection and
Work within Federal R&D budget limits without expectation of new money.
No matter how well designed, Federal research investment is only one
element of a national strategy aimed at ensuring the continued safety and
efficiency of the Nation's transportation system. The Federal transportation
R&D program must also include:
A business climate that rewards the business investment in R&D that must be
the principle source of innovation in transportation. This requires
minimizing Federal deficits so that Federal borrowing does not crowd out
private investment and trade policies that ensure the widest possible world
markets for US transportation products.
A regulatory system that achieves environmental and other social objectives
at the lowest possible cost and with the lowest possible business burden.
This means regulations that emphasize performance, not prescription, and
administrative measures that minimize red tape.
A program of lifelong learning ensuring that Americans are equipped to build,
operate, maintain and use tomorrow's sophisticated transportation systems.
The NSTC Transportation R&D Committee's function is to support a balanced
national program in these areas.
R&D Priorities and Objectives
The Committee identified R&D needs and priorities by considering
transportation systems in terms of four broad categories. The first three
categories include the visible elements of our transportation system: the
Physical Infrastructure (roads and bridges, railways, ports and waterways,
airports, and launch facilities), the Information Infrastructure (the sensors,
computers, and communications facilities that provide for traffic control and
management), and Next-Generation Transportation Vehicles (cars, trucks, buses,
trains, ships, and aircraft). The fourth category captures the overall
systems-level considerations of Transportation System Design, Planning,
Management, and Operations (assessment of the interactions and relationships
among the three physical elements as well as the performance capabilities and
limitations of the people who operate and use the system).
The rate of advance in each of these areas is constrained by many non-
technological factors, but R&D can have a major and often critical impact.
Since provision of transportation services and equipment is largely a private-
sector activity, industry will generally have an important or even dominant
R&D role. However, in many situations Federal participation is critical in
identifying needs and goals, establishing a knowledge base or concept
feasibility, demonstrating and evaluating performance and impacts, and
transferring technology to users. Committee subcommittees and working groups
have developed the following objectives for coordinated public and private R&D
in each of the categories indicated above:
Physical Infrastructure for Transportation: Develop materials, design
methods, non-destructive testing techniques, and other technologies for low-
cost, long-lasting highways, bridges, airports, and other structures. Develop
low-cost methods for non-destructive testing and repair of existing
structures. (Note: This was selected as an NSTC Priority Area for FY 1996
R&D Data Collection and Review. A report by the CTRD Physical Infrastructure
Subcommittee detailing the results and recommendations of this review is
provided as an Appendix.)
Information Infrastructure for Transportation: Apply the innovations
available from the national information infrastructure to develop an
Intelligent Transportation System that will ensure the safe and efficient
intermodal operation of the Nation's vehicles and physical infrastructure.
Next-Generation Transportation Vehicles:
Aeronautics: Maintain world leadership in aircraft, engines, avionics, and
air transportation system equipment for a safe, sustainable, global aviation
Space Launch: Ensure reliable and affordable access to space through a
stronger US space launch capability which meets the needs of the civilian,
national security, and commercial sectors. (Note: Presidential Decision
Directive NSTC-4, "National Space Transportation Policy," was issued on August
5, 1994. The Secretaries of Defense, Commerce, Transportation, and the
Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are
preparing a report that will include a common set of requirements and a
coordinated technology plan.)
Personal (Light-Duty) Motor Vehicles: Bring about renewed leadership in
automotive technologies through the development of a new generation of energy
efficient, low emission vehicles that will preserve American jobs and improve
American competitiveness. (Note: This was selected as an NSTC Priority Area
for FY 1996 R&D Data Collection and Review. The review was conducted by the
Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles under the NSTC Committee on
Civilian Industrial Technology.)
Medium and Heavy Duty Motor Vehicles (Trucks and Buses): Ensure US
leadership in truck and bus technology by investing in improved materials,
components, and design concepts and other technologies required for improved
accessibility, energy efficiency and environmental characteristics.
Rail Vehicles (Intercity and Transit): Position the US as a world technology
leader and primary exporter of rail-related equipment and services by
facilitating technological innovation in rail vehicle design and construction
and by introducing advanced materials, and communications and control
technologies which will result in improved performance and reduced costs.
Ships and Shipbuilding: Restore the competitiveness of the US in
shipbuilding, ship repair, ship design, and ship production in order to ensure
a strong and competitive US shipbuilding industry unsurpassed in building the
finest and most technically advanced vessels in the world.
Transportation System Design, Planning, Management and Operations
Transportation System Assessment Tools and Knowledge: Develop information
required for government and industry managers to make effective decisions
about the safe operation of existing transportation systems as well as new
Human Performance in the Transportation System: Define appropriate roles for
the human-in-the-loop through human-centered automation and improve the safety
and competitiveness of American products through the integration of human
performance principles and procedures and the application of new information
dissemination, communication, and display technologies to transportation.
Measures Applied in Assessing Priorities
The measures used in identifying priority R&D topics are the key national
goals derived from the vision stated above. Priorities also depend upon the
potential impact of the research on each measure. Specifically, impact in the
areas listed below guided the Committee's efforts. Development of more-
specific and quantitative metrics in each area will be a focus of Committee
activities in 1995.
Increased Personal Mobility, Access and Goods Transport. Effective,
reliable, low-cost and convenient transportation is central to quality of life
and economic health in the United States. Progress is measured in reduced
congestion in urban and intercity travel, reduced costs and delays in
intermodal transfer, and a high level of access to employment, goods, and
services, particularly for people living in rural areas and for elderly and
Economic Growth and Job Creation. Transportation is critical to economic
well-being both as an enabler of business activity and in markets for
transportation goods and services. This measure includes both direct job
creation and competitiveness in transportation related businesses (e.g. auto
and auto parts manufacturing, airlines, and vehicle service companies) and the
indirect impact of transportation efficiency on the productivity of the US
economy as a whole.
Enhanced Public Safety and Security. Measures of success include reduced
rates of accidents and injuries in the transportation system for both
passengers and operating personnel and increased security for freight
shipments. A high level of personal safety and physical security is essential
for domestic and international travelers, crews and operating personnel, and
the general public, and for cargoes being carried.
Environmental Quality and Energy Efficiency. Transportation produces
approximately one-third of US greenhouse gases and is responsible for a major
fraction of the pollutants that contribute to urban air pollution. Success
can be measured in terms of reduced emissions and progress in areas such as
transportation's contribution to noise, spills, hazardous wastes, and other
environmental areas. Energy efficiency is closely linked to environmental
goals, as well as to transportation costs and National energy independence.
Transportation accounts for two-thirds of US petroleum consumption and more
than one-quarter of total energy usage.
The purpose of this report is to highlight ongoing Federal research
efforts in this science and technology (S&T) field and to identify new and
promising areas where there might be gaps in Federal support. The report is
intended for internal planning purposes within the Federal agencies and as a
mechanism to convey to the S&T community the types of research and research
priorities being sponsored and considered by the Federal agencies. The
Administration is committed to a broad range of high priority investments
(including science and technology), as well as to deficit reduction, and to a
smaller, more efficient Federal government. These commitments have created a
very challenging budget environment--requiring difficult decisions and a well
thought-out strategy to ensure the best return for the nation's taxpayer. As
part of this strategy, this document does not represent the final determinant
in an overall Administration budget decision making process. The research
programs presented in this report will have to compete for resources against
many other high priority federal programs. If these programs compete
successfully, they will be reflected in future Administration budgets.