UC Davis Secures $20 Million Federal Grant Renewal to Lead the National Center for Sustainable Transportation

By Sam Chiu



This week, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the National Center for Sustainable Transportation (NCST), housed at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS-Davis), would receive $20 million to lead a group of seven universities studying transportation effects on the environment. The award reinforces UC Davis’ standing as the nation’s leading university center on sustainable transportation.

The funding was granted as part of the Department of Transportation’s University Transportation Center (UTC) program. This year’s grant competition included a total of 230 applications, representing the largest number of applications ever submitted in the 35-year history of the UTC Program. The NCST is one of only five national transportation centers awarded under the UTC program, and the only one focused on the DOT research priority of Preserving the Environment.

The NCST’s $20 million grant ($4 million per year over 5 years) will allow researchers at UC Davis and other consortium member universities to focus on accelerating equitable decarbonization that benefits both the transportation system and the well-being of people in overburdened and historically disadvantaged communities. Research activities will concentrate in three critical domains: vehicle technology, infrastructure provision, and reshaping travel demand to accelerate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

“Finding a way to decarbonize transportation that does not exacerbate existing inequities is one of the most significant societal challenges we face,” said UC Davis Professor Susan Handy, Director of the NCST. “I am thrilled that we will have the opportunity to work with the U.S. Department of Transportation on this challenge and continue the important work we’ve been doing for the last nine years. With the new grant, we will expand our focus on equity and justice and launch new initiatives on rural mobility, vehicle electrification, and sustainable freight.”

The new grant also enables the NCST to expand its consortium. Professor Handy continued, “We are delighted to welcome Texas Southern University to our partnership.” TSU joins the original members of the NCST consortium: California State University Long Beach, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of California Riverside, University of Southern California, and University of Vermont.

“TSU is honored to join the highly prestigious team of NCST and is truly excited for the opportunity to make contributions to research and education that promote a sustainable and equitable transportation development,” said Lei Yu, Professor of Transportation Studies and Director of TSU’s Innovative Transportation Research Institute (ITRI).

This round of funding marks the second time UC Davis has been able to renew its status as the host of the National Center for Sustainable Transportation. Since its establishment in 2013, the NCST has helped to organize and fund research addressing urgent and critical transportation challenges, and its researchers have partnered with thought leaders and stakeholder groups to provide national leadership for advancing an environmentally sustainable transportation system.

“ITS-Davis is proud and honored to receive this award, recognizing our decades-long commitment to sustainable transportation,” said UC Davis Professor Dan Sperling, Founding Director of ITS-Davis. “Kudos to Susan Handy, our fearless leader of the Center since the first award from the DOT in 2013. We are on a mission to transition our transportation system to a more equitable, environmental, and economically sustainable future—in the U.S. and globally.”

The NCST provides national leadership in advancing environmentally sustainable transportation through cutting-edge research, direct policy engagement, and education of our future leaders. For more information on the center, visit: https://ncst.ucdavis.edu/

For more information on the announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation, visit: https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-funds-innovative-research-providing-vital-training-next