National Studies of Innovative Transportation Systems - funded by the US Department of Transportation and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development

There have been three major efforts to examine and evaluate innovative transportation technologies for the United States during the past 44 years, 1968 - 2012. This page provides brief descriptions of each one of them, along with links to documents they produced that provide additional detail and illustrations. Federal funding has supported each one but participating private contractors and universities have been responsible for most of the content of these studies. Each one was conducted with a national scope and was intended to provide guidance for the White House, Congress, various Cabinet level administrations and private sector companies that have appropriate production and implementation interests and capabilities.

Federal New Systems Study Project

2012 marks the 44th anniversary of the New Systems Study Project (published in 1968). This project produced a report that was sent by President Lyndon Johnson to the Congress entitled Tomorrow's Transportation : New Systems for the Urban Future An excerpt from this report is available on-line.

The study popularized such terms as Personal Rapid Transit, Major Activity Centers and Dial-a-Bus. It delineated concepts which have become known as Automated People Movers (APM's) and Automated Guideway Transit (AGT). The "reflections" paper describes how the study came about, the legislative requirements which initiated it and lists study project participants. Descriptions of some of the concepts which were analyzed are included. The influence the project had on government transit research programs in the United States and other parts of the world are discussed. The paper concludes with a summary of some "new systems" developments that originated with or were encouraged by the project. Demonstrations of four of the systems developed by the project were provided at Transpo '72 held at the Dulles International Airport.

The author (William Merritt) was Director of the New Systems Study Project in the Department of Housing and Urban Development and was the first Associate Administrator for Research in the newly created Urban Mass Transportation Administration of the Department of Transportation.

Follow-on studies sponsored by the Urban Mass Transportation Administration included the following topics:


The National Maglev Initiative, sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration of the US DOT

Link to the entire Final Report, 1990 --

From the Preface

In June 1990, the Department of Transportation (DOT), responding to a directive from Congress, submitted a preliminary report on the technical and economic feasibility of constructing high-speed, intercity maglev transportation systems in the United States.  At the same time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), also in response to Congress, submitted a preliminary implementation plan for the development of a U.S. designed maglev system.  In its report, the Department's preliminary conclusion was that some maglev routes could be built and run at a profit and that public benefits could justify public sector support on other routes. Although there was some indication of the opportunity for significant technological advances, the limited nature of the study was insufficient to develop recommendations for initiating a maglev program in the United States.  Further technical and economic investigation were recommended.

In April 1990, the DOT, USACE, the Department of Energy (DOE), and other agencies formed the National Maglev Initiative (NMI)
to conduct and coordinate further research and evaluation.  The goals of the NMI were to continue the analysis conducted earlier in evaluating maglev's potential for improving intercity transportation in the United States and also to determine the appropriate role for the Federal Government in advancing this technology.  About $26.2 million was spent through FY 1992 on maglev technology research and economic analysis.  In FY 1993, an additional $9.8 million was appropriated to complete the NMI and conduct high priority
research. Also, in December 1991, the Intermodal SurfaceTransportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) authorized a $725 million
maglev prototype development program but no funding has been appropriated for FY 1992 or 1993, pending the results of the


For a long list of the participants in this study, see Appendix B of this report

Automated Highway Systems (renamed Intelligent Transportation Systems - ITS)

A large AHS research effort was mounted in the early 1990's in the U.S.  Many of the issues that were investigated are still very much on the agenda of those interested in developing and deploying both intracity and intercity Automated Highway Systems. A brief summary of the main components of AHS work around the world is presented below. ITS America is the organization that represents the many companies that are now engaged in further research and development work around the world.

In 1993, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) awarded fifteen Precursor Systems Analyses (PSA) research contracts totaling $14.1M to investigate the issues and risks related to the design, development, and implementation of Automated Highway Systems (AHS). These contracts, each of approximately one year duration, were awarded during the period July through September, 1993, based on a Broad Agency Announcement issued by FHWA in November, 1992. At the time, the AHS program was part of a major initiative of the US Department of Transportation in Intelligent Vehicle/Highway Systems. This program was subsequently terminated in 1998. See the TRB Special Report #253 entitled National Automated Highway System Research Program: A Review, for details. However, a large amount of  research and development has been continued since then by both the US DOT and numerous private companies around the world, under the revised term -  Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). The US DOT participation in and funding of ITS work is administered by the Research and Technology Administration as described by the RITA website:

Here is a link to a listing of the 20 activity areas within which research was conducted under the AHS PSA program in the 1990's. These PSA studies were conducted as part of the early stages of the government's AHS Program. Additional details regarding the AHS program and the contractors that performed these studies are provided here. This is a rich collection of analyses and information about a wide variety of AHS problems and opportunities. The full text of the 72 reports (85,000 pages) is available on a CD-ROM which can be checked-out from from the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center library in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Last modified: June 19, 2012