AMHERST, Mass. - Jonathan Upchurch is the new head of the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Massachusetts. He joins UMass after 16 years at Arizona State University. The announcement was made by Joseph I. Goldstein, dean of the College of Engineering at UMass.
Upchurch specializes in transportation engineering and intelligent transportation systems, or "ITS." While at Arizona State, he was acting director of the Center for Advanced Research in Transportation, and received a Teaching Excellence Award. His research there focused on various aspects of ITS, including human factors, traffic control devices, highway safety, and highway capacity. He was one of the lead researchers in a U.S. Department of Transportation project that made Phoenix, Ariz., one of four "model" cities in the nation, focusing on creative solutions to traffic and safety problems. He also taught the first-ever college-level course on ITS, in 1991.
"ITS is the application of advanced technology to vehicles and roadways to solve a variety of transportation problems," Upchurch said. The field ranges from automobile devices that assist drivers, such as satellite-linked navigational systems, to new technologies that will offer drivers an image of the road ahead in low-visibility conditions, such as heavy fog. ITS also involves sophisticated highway management systems, which can include detectors built into the highway, revealing the speed and volume of traffic, and closed-circuit television monitors, which show where a motor vehicle accident has occurred.
Upchurch says ITS experts are also seeking creative ways of getting traffic information to the public, ranging from World Wide Web sites, to call-in telephone lines with computer-generated messages, to touch-screen kiosks in downtown areas. "In some cities, you can subscribe to a paging service which alerts you if abnormal conditions exist on your route home from work," Upchurch says. "Some services can also send you an e-mail message before you leave the office." The department is involved in monitoring traffic using ITS during the reconstruction of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Bridge, which spans the Connecticut River, connecting Northampton and Hadley. Upchurch hopes to become a part of that effort in the coming year.
Upchurch earned his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, and received his master’s and bachelor’s degrees at the University of Illinois. Upchurch has also served in a variety of roles, including president, at the Institute of Transportation Engineers, a 12,000-member organization with members in more than 70 countries.