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122 I N N O VAT I O N S I N T R AV E L D E M A N D M O D E L I N G , V O L U M E 2 These subjects require a background in mathematics, formal mentoring or training programs beyond those statistics, and microeconomics--the last prerequisite already noted speaks for itself. There are few distance usually being the weakest link among most transporta- learning opportunities for graduate degrees or certifi- tion engineers and planners. Transportation planners cates in transportation planning or engineering, and with degrees in disciplines outside of engineering usually none tailored to travel modeling or simulation. lack an adequate foundation in all three areas. As with our new-age modeling techniques, it is help- There are few training opportunities for practitioners ful to turn outside of our profession to find compelling in any of these areas. Massachusetts Institute of Tech- solutions. There are numerous executive MBA programs nology (MIT) and the University of Sydney offer highly that incorporate distance learning in some or all of their acclaimed, weeklong, intensive courses in discrete choice coursework, and the idea of professional certificates in modeling. MIT also offers a weeklong course in the mod- emerging technologies is gaining currency in many uni- eling and simulation of transportation networks. (In- versities. Most of these programs cater to established formation about these courses can be found at professionals. Such students typically cannot take http://web.mit.edu/mitpep/pi/courses_topic.html#data_ extended leaves of absence to participate in traditional modeling and http://www.itls.usyd.edu.au/professional university degree programs, so the coursework comes to development.asp, respectively.) Ken Train has also put them, often supplemented with brief periods of residency together an excellent distance learning course on discrete to gain interaction with professors and colleagues. choice methods with simulation. (See http://emlab (Many executive MBA programs only meet on campus .berkeley.edu/users/train/distant.html.) All are a step in for one 4-day weekend per month and perhaps a few the right direction. However, these courses are mathe- weeks during the summer. The rest of the course work is matically rigorous, which limits their appeal and suit- done by the student at home, often with directed reading ability for planners and modelers without a strong or lectures delivered by streaming video. This obviously quantitative background. Moreover, these courses cover places an additional burden on the student to keep up, only a few of the topics identified earlier. The author is since formal class meetings are further apart than with not aware of any program that offers training in the traditional lectures in residence. The success of the exec- broader list of new-age modeling skills. utive MBA programs suggests that most students have The National Highway Institute also offers courses in the maturity and motivation to thrive in such a pro- travel modeling. There are undoubtedly a number of gram.) Such an instruction format would pay significant other short courses available through planning agencies, dividends for modelers seeking to hone their skills. They university extension services, consultants, and software would obtain a deeper exposure to the subject material vendors. Most of these courses have a nuts and bolts ori- than is possible with short courses, but without the dis- entation that facilitates rapid assimilation of the con- ruption of studying full time. cepts, in a format that does not intimidate participants If one accepts that current training opportunities offer lacking a strong quantitative background. The weakness neither the content nor the depth to close the gap of such courses is that they can only impart a broad between researchers and practitioners, the question overview of the topic. Participants often leave short quickly becomes how this might be overcome. A contin- courses with enough knowledge to begin participating in ually evolving training program taught by the leaders in model development and application, but lack the deeper R&D of travel models can certainly play an important understanding needed to design, implement, test, and role. The MIT and Sydney courses are compelling suc- evaluate all but the simplest of travel modeling systems. cess stories that can be extended to many of the other This is not a criticism of such courses, as they are topics identified earlier. There are several obstacles to intended to meet the needs of entry-level planners, not overcome in this regard: mid-level and senior modelers looking to expand their skill base. Universities respond to incentives. Without a If formal training in these areas is not readily avail- strong federal commitment to such a program there is able, how will transportation planners and modelers little likelihood that such a program will be developed or acquire these skills? The evidence is not encouraging. maintained. Ken Cervenka has facilitated an online focus group seek- Most public agencies and individuals cannot afford ing input about whether and how to move toward new- the cost of tuition and travel for such courses. Establish- age models. Similar dialogue has progressed through the ment of a scholarship fund for public agency planners is Transportation Model Improvement Program listserv. imperative to make such a program affordable. The views expressed are all over the board, but many Public agencies will need reasonable assurances participants are either not speaking the same language or that the staff they send to such training will remain at do not feel they understand these new concepts well their agencies long enough to benefit from the enough to enter the debate. Furthermore, the absence of investment.