California State University, Long Beach

Changing Lanes

The Center for International Trade and Transportation is attempting to change the transportation industry’s status quo. It may seem like a tall task, but CITT Executive Director Dr. Thomas O’Brien, says CSULB, and Long Beach in particular, is the ideal testing ground for such an endeavor.

“We’re an urban laboratory for freight activity,” O’Brien explains. “In many ways, we’re an ideal test bed for transportation issues in a medium density city.”

CITT, which is part of the College of Continuing and Professional Education, is affiliated with four major transportation research centers:

THE METRANS TRANSPORTATION CENTER Established in 1998 through the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century as the first University Transportation Center in Southern California, METRANS is a joint partnership of USC and CSULB.

NATIONAL CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION The UC Davis-led center is a research, education, and outreach consortium for the U.S. Department of Transportation. CSULB’s partnership began in 2013 and is one of six institutions partnering to help federal, state, regional, and local agencies reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions from passenger and freight travel that contribute to climate change.

• METROFREIGHT MetroFreight is a consortium led by the METRANS Transportation Center and housed at USC. A Volvo Research and Education Foundations Center of Excellence in Urban Freight, MetroFreight researches ways to streamline the transportation, handling and storage of goods in city centers while working to reduce the impact on traffic congestion, air quality and urban livability.

• THE SOUTHWEST TRANSPORTATION WORKFORCE CENTER The center builds partnerships and alliances between strategic stakeholders to advance an abiding goal: develop a skilled and career-ready transportation workforce throughout SWTWC’s eight member states—California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Texas, and Oklahoma. The center is led by the METRANS partnership of CSULB and USC.

“Paying attention to high-growth sectors allow us to develop educational programs that are much more in line with what the workforce needs and we do a better job of preparing students in our classrooms for those jobs because of that work,” O’Brien says.

O’Brien recently completed the paper, “Changing Workforce Development Needs for Regional Transit and Transportation Agencies in California,” which investigates the effect that environmental legislative mandates have had on the workforce needs and constraints of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in the state. In the paper, O’Brien explores the unintended consequences of the shifting transportation economy and how it may improve urban life but creates challenges in the public sector—such as shifting job assignments, delaying job assignments or outsourcing the job function altogether. He says the paper and work similar to it give CITT the tools to respond to the changes.

“It helps us better understand the necessary skill sets of our students and allows us to know what tools they need to do the work, as well as give us a better understanding of how the planning agencies are changing. It also helps in the reverse suggesting to the agencies which education or skills need to be learned on the job,” O’Brien says.

CITT’s education programs include credit and non-credit programs in integrated logistics and feature the award-winning Global Logistics Specialist (GLS) program and the Marine Terminal Operations Professional (MTOP) designation, the only program of its kind in the country.

In addition, CITT offers educational forums, podcasts and newspaper columns that engage the broader community in the discussion surrounding international trade and transportation and co-sponsors research conferences such as the International Urban Freight Conference.

For O’Brien and the rest of the CITT team, it’s necessary to stay up to date in the constantly shifting industry.

Words: Sylvia Rodemeyer
Video Footage: David Ohl