CUTR was established by the Florida Legislature in 1988 as a result of the tireless efforts of administrators of the USF College of Engineering and Senator Malcolm Beard, who served for 10 years as Chairman of the Florida Senate Transportation Committee.
Florida Statute 334.065 outlined the purpose and structure of the center:
334.065 Center for Urban Transportation Research.—
(1) There is established at the University of South Florida the Florida Center for Urban Transportation Research, to be administered by the Board of Governors of the State University System. The responsibilities of the center include, but are not limited to, conducting and facilitating research on issues related to urban transportation problems in this state and serving as an information exchange and depository for the most current information pertaining to urban transportation and related issues.
(2) The center shall be a continuing resource for the Legislature, the Department of Transportation, local governments, the nation’s metropolitan regions, and the private sector in the area of urban transportation and related research and shall generate support in addition to its state-funded base of support provided by s. 206.606. The center shall promote intercampus transportation and related research activities among Florida’s universities in order to enhance the ability of these universities to attract federal and private sector funding for transportation and related research.
(3) An advisory board shall be created to periodically and objectively review and advise the center concerning its research program. Except for projects mandated by law, state-funded base projects shall not be undertaken without approval of the advisory board. The membership of the board shall consist of nine experts in transportation-related areas, including the secretaries of the Florida Departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection, the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, or their designees, and a member of the Florida Transportation Commission. The nomination of the remaining members of the board shall be made to the President of the University of South Florida by the College of Engineering at the University of South Florida, and the appointment of these members must be reviewed and approved by the Florida Transportation Commission and confirmed by the Board of Governors.
(4) The center shall develop a budget pursuant to chapter 216. This budget shall be submitted to the Governor along with the budget of the Board of Governors.
The USF College of Engineering hired Founding Director Gary Brosch, formerly with Rice University, to develop and oversee the center. Under his direction and with the hiring of an experienced and enthusiastic research staff of Ed Mierzejewski from Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan (now Atkins), Steve Polzin from Dallas Area Rapid Transit, and others, CUTR flourished, attracting research grants from a variety of state and local sources.
Originally housed in the basement of a USF Engineering building, CUTR’s continued success prompted the hiring of additional new research faculty. In 1991, its staff of 35 moved to new quarters near the Engineering buildings, and in 1995, with the support of funds from USF and the Florida Legislature, a new 26,000 sq ft CUTR building was constructed, which the center occupies to this day, including staff and student offices, conference and training rooms, and labs.
In 1991, CUTR was designated by the U.S. Congress as a University Transportation Center, establishing the National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) (formerly the National Urban Transit Institute), a designation that has been renewed continually since that time. Working in consortia with other universities, NCTR has conducted numerous transit research projects for the benefit of Florida and US transit agencies and organizations, published the academic Journal of Public Transportation, and provided training and education experiences to numerous Graduate Research Assistants.
Brosch retired as Director in 2001, and an extensive national search resulted in the appointment of Dr. Ed Mierzejewski as the new Director. His retirement in 2010 was followed by the appointments of Steve Reich, Jason Bittner, and Dennis Hinebaugh. In 2016, after an extensive national search, Dr. Robert Bertini joined CUTR and serves in that position today.
From its early beginnings with a small staff to its current group of nearly 120 full-time research faculty, staff, and student research assistants and an Advisory Board of national and local business and transportation leaders to guide the organization, CUTR has enjoyed more than 25 years of continued success in conducting relevant and timely research and analysis for sponsors at the local, state, and federal levels.