IURIF’s state and local policy research is designed to help policy leaders and citizens understand how changes in the global economy, technology, and the workplace affect communities.
Since this work began as the State and Local Policy Program (SLPP) in 1991, IURIF research has garnered a national and international reputation for research and educational work on transportation and the environment, telecommunications and transportation, congestion pricing, and for public policy studies on economic development, including pioneering work on the industry clusters strategy.
IURIF is currently leading a significant research initiative for the State of Minnesota called the Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness (TPEC) program. The goal of the program is to investigate how innovations in transportation can contribute to economic competitiveness.
Various factors and connections contribute to the economic competitiveness of a community or region. IURIF’s research seeks to understand these factors and connections and evaluate how they can be leveraged for future growth. This work includes applying the frame of industry cluster theory to Minnesota’s most competitive and promising economic clusters, nurturing rural-metro linkages, and Understanding how transportation investment can spur economic development, how “smart grid” and “smart city” interconnectivity can be leveraged for economic growth and opportunity, and how technology can improve quality of life and service delivery generally, including improvements in traffic congestion, economic productivity, and freight logistics (ie: last-mile delivery).
Technological innovations create new challenges for policy, which almost always is developed in reaction to existing technologies. Unless policy makers have a good understanding of how technology is evolving, new or unchanged policies can act as constraints to realizing the full benefits of new technology. Information technology is dramatically changing the management and operation of transportation systems. The work of the state and local policy team in the technology area includes research around autonomous vehicles, community-based transportation, and teleworking.
In particular, recent technological and regulatory developments indicate that automated or “self-driving” cars may be as close to reality as ever. Given the potential benefits to safety, infrastructure efficiency, and access, planners need to develop scenarios that consider how the widespread use of these vehicles will impact transportation and land use patterns, as well as related activities.
- In collaboration with the Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness (TPEC) program, IRUIF researchers formed a self-driving vehicle (SDV) task force in spring of 2017 to identify how various SDV deployment strategies could improve mobility and access for transportation-dependent Minnesotans: seniors, people with disabilities, and others who are not able to drive themselves. Read their final report.
- IURIF sponsored a symposium on these issues in October 2014, with the proceedings included in an issue of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science and Technology.
Technology is also contributing to improvements in transportation policy in the near term. IURIF has led research into car sharing, where people use cars for short periods of time, usually by the hour; transit services for individuals who, because of age, disability, poverty, or other reasons, cannot routinely use automobiles; and bike sharing. This work is done in partnership with Minnesota Council on Transportation and Access (MCOTA).
These services, commonly known as community-based transportation, are often criticized for needing to be more effective and efficient, given the resources expended. IURIF’s research seeks to understand the full range of activities that fall within the purview of community-based transit, to identify and clarify the possible sources of inefficiency, and to develop ways to make the systems work better.
IURIF has examined how telecommunications technologies enable a wide variety of transportation options and enhancements, especially telework.
The program has partnered with the State of Minnesota and the Metropolitan Council to develop the eWorkPlace project, which provides resources that employers can use to establish and promote telecommuting.
IURIF collaborated on Project STRIDE (Strategic Telework Research in Disability Employment), which conducted research to determine how well telework will answer the needs of employees with disabilities.