Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bittner seeks ways to ease transportation

Jason Bittner


Jason Bittner became a senior associate with Cambridge Systematics in 2014.

Moving people and goods efficiently is a priority for alum Jason Bittner, the new director of the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida.

"Ensuring a good return on the public investment is important to me; ensuring adequate mobility options for all people is critical for my transportation research," says Bittner, former deputy director of the National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. "Optimal movement of people and goods is the goal."

The 2000 grad optimized the movement of people and goods in many ways during his 12 years at UW-Madison. "One effort was to assess and understand the services older residents of the state need with respect to transportation," Bittner says. "The project included focus groups around Wisconsin, collection of data via a survey and interviews. The effort led to 14 recommendations for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, several of which may be implemented over the coming years."

Campus transportation research programs saw tremendous growth during Bittner's tenure. He has managed large-scale, regional and national transportation programs and initiatives, analyzed trends in intermodal freight transportation, and built traditional and non-traditional collaborative partnerships. He was program chair and part of the planning and development of national peer exchanges and conferences on freight, transportation asset management and maintenance quality assurance. He held progressively responsible positions, including tenure as acting director of CFIRE.

He has found his La Follette coursework on personnel management and budgeting to be the most useful. "I've also been able to use policy analysis and statistics as part of my research," says Bittner, who held a research appointment with a focus on freight transportation in the College of Engineering's Wisconsin Transportation Center. "Understanding and developing research projects and programs is necessary for my work, and quantitative skills are essential for interpreting and reporting data sets."

As a researcher, Bittner generated over $1.2 million in total research funding as a principal or co-principal investigator from 2009-11. "My energy analysis and policy courses have assisted my research throughout the years," he adds.

Bittner had two project assistantships while earning his Master of Public Affairs degree and was an Eno Transportation Fellow in 2000.  "The first project assistantship was for the Energy Center of Wisconsin, and the second was with the Transportation Center at UW," Bittner says. "In the latter position, I was able to develop the strategic plan for our center and ultimately create the position I worked in for the past 12-plus years."

Since his own graduation, Bittner has worked with La Follette School students as CFIRE project assistants and urged them to apply for the Eno Center for Transportation fellowship. "The La Follette programs provide a hands-on learning experience and allow a great deal of flexibility for students to develop their own courses of study," Bittner says. "The program exposes students to a wide variety of disciplines and is easy to extend to transportation management and policy and other certificate programs."

Bittner also was a lecturer in transportation management and policy at UW–Madison and was instrumental in establishing the campus' multidisciplinary graduate certificate program in transportation. Previously, he was an adjunct professor of political science and public affairs at Edgewood College in Madison, held an administrative management position with the Municipality of New Lebanon, Ohio, and worked for U.S. Senator Howard Metzenbaum.

Bittner co-chairs the Transportation Research Board Committee on Conduct of Research and serves as a lead member of the committee on transportation asset management. He also is involved in the Council of University Transportation Centers and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Research Advisory Committee.

His goal for the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida is for it to be "the preeminent, internationally recognized catalyst for transportation innovation through research, education, training and outreach," Bittner says. "This vision follows CUTR's existing mission of serving as a resource for policymakers, transportation professionals, the education system and the public by providing high quality, objective transportation research."

That research can translate to more efficient transport of people and goods. Battling congestion that slows shipments is critical, Bittner says. "Unfortunately, the cost to the economy of congestion — and specifically freight congestion — is too high. Researchers can offer some solutions, but at the end of the day, we need to recognize that if we don't invest in the system, our competitiveness will suffer here and abroad."

— updated April 11, 2014