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Next National Urban Freight Conference To Be Held Oct. 12-14

Published: October 3, 2011

Freight being transported in the Long Beach/Los Angeles Port.

The 4th METRANS National Urban Freight Conference (NUF) will be held Oct. 12-14 at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach to examine the impacts of goods movement and international trade in metropolitan areas.

“I think our research has influenced the discussion over time,” said Thomas O’Brien, director of CSULB’s Research for the Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT) and one of the event organizers. “We’ve done some pretty well-respected research on the impacts of policy decisions that have been made in Sacramento and Washington. We’re seen, I think, as valuable contributors to the dialogue that occurs. That’s the goal.”

“We have grown from a state level or western type conference to a truly national conference and now to an international conference,” said METRANS director Genevieve Giuliano in the most recent TransCast interview discussing the conference. TransCasts are the METRANS Transportation Center’s podcasts.

Attending this year’s conference will be individuals from Belgium, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Nigeria, and Canada, as well as U.S.-based researchers who work in Asia.

The first NUF in 2006 afforded researchers and practitioners an opportunity to consider the “urban side” of freight across many disciplines. The second conference was held in 2007 and the third in 2009 when it moved to become a bi-annual event.

“For two principal reasons we decided to do this every other year,” noted O’Brien. “One, it’s a really big undertaking and can be all consuming. The other thing is that when we looked at the research being presented, sometimes in the academic world you need some time for new research to be tested, written about and get peer-reviewed, so we thought with a two-year cycle we’d be getting a lot fresher research presented and that that would be attractive to the audience and that appears to be the case.”

Though considered an academic conference and a good opportunity for Ph.D. students to give dissertation talks as well as meet peers from around the country, practitioners and government officials are also a prime audience.

“If you look at the balance of papers, the majority are academic,” said O’Brien, “but we have people from government, from the ports. We have people from the Port of Seattle and from the New York City Department of Transportation. These are people who have to deal with issues and can use the research; that’s our audience.”

The papers and presentations at the event will cover a number of topics including models for urban goods movement; port operations; trucking/air/rail economics and logistics, productivity and labor issues; local and regional environmental externalities: congestion, air quality, environmental justice, etc.; policy and institutional issues in urban goods movement; security/vulnerability of goods movement; and best practices/lessons learned.

“This time we are having a panel session and a workshop on environmental justice and freight,” said O’Brien. “It’s a big topic in planning schools, which is part of our constituency, and it’s a big interest of the U.S. Department of Transportation, so we work with them to identify topics that are of interest to the national research agenda and this year environmental justice is it.

On Wednesday, Oct. 12, the conference will run from 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m., highlighted by an opening plenary session hosted by Giuliano; a welcome by CSULB President F. King Alexander; and comments from Randolph Hall, vice provost for research advancement, University of Southern California; Cindy Quon, Caltrans; a representative from U.S. Department of Transportation; and speaker Barry Wallerstein, South Coast AQMD.

A lunchtime interview with Richard Steinke, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, will be conducted by Mat Kaplan, CSULB’s senior director of technology for the College of Continuing and Professional Education.

The Thursday, Oct. 13, plenary spotlight session on “What Researchers Need to Know About Industry,” will be moderated by O’Brien with scheduled panelists Mark Hirzel, MIQ Logistics; Lupe Valdez, Union Pacific; Matt Schrap, California Fleet Solutions; and Douglas O’Donnell, The O’Donnell Group, Inc.

A noon lunch will feature keynote speaker C. Michael Walton, the Ernest H. Cockrell Centennial Chair in Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

On Friday, Oct. 14, there will be two morning sessions for paper presentations, and from 1-5 p.m. an optional site visit is scheduled.

Limited to 50 participants, the site visit will follow freight from ship to shelf, beginning at a marine terminal at the Port of Los Angeles to look at new terminal developments, technology investments, and operational changes that improve the flow of goods. That will be followed by a visit to a third party logistics coordinator to see transportation and container management in action, including the transloading operations so vital to the Southern California freight industry. The site visit will conclude at a private warehouse near the port to understand better the supply chain geography of a major shipper.

“It’s a microcosm of things going on around the country and around the world,” said Marianne Venieris, METRANS deputy director and executive director of the CITT, “so we think this would be a really good kind of object lesson for people to take this tour and at the same time learn about all of the plans that are being developed to solve the I-710 transportation problems.”

There will be numerous concurrent sessions throughout the first two-and-a-half days of the conference, covering a variety of industry-related topics. Click here for a complete detailed agenda.

The cost of the conference is $295 for presenters and moderators and $350 for general attendees. The conference has been approved for continuing education units.

For more information call 562/985-2876 or e-mail


The METRANS Transportation Center is a U.S. Department of Transportation University Transportation Center (UTC). Established in 1998 through the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), METRANS is a joint partnership of the University of Southern California and CSULB committed to addressing the transportation challenges of regions such as Los Angeles. It is the first and largest UTC in Southern California, home to nearly two-thirds of the state’s population.

–Shayne Schroeder