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Grad Student Wins National Transportation Scholarship

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Andisheh Ranjbari prepares to walk on stage and accept her American Public Transportation Foundation scholarship on Oct. 6, 2015.

Grad Student Wins National Transportation Scholarship

Nov. 12, 2015
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UA civil engineering student Andisheh Ranjbari is working on a high-speed transit system for intercity travel.

Andisheh Ranjbari, a doctoral student in civil engineering at the University of Arizona, has received the 2015 Parsons Brinckerhoff-Jim Lammie Scholarship from the American Public Transportation Foundation. She is the first-ever recipient in Arizona and the second-highest-ranked student -- based on academic, community service and other criteria -- among applicants for all 2015 foundation scholarships.

The Arizona Transit Association, or AzTA, nominated Ranjbari for the scholarship and sponsored her trip to San Francisco to accept the award on Oct. 6 during the annual meeting of the American Public Transportation Association. The foundation is the national association’s charitable arm.

“Andisheh’s credentials and academic record speak volumes,” said Becky Miller, AzTA executive director, who accompanied Ranjbari to accept the $3,500 scholarship. “But just as important is her ability to bring real-world solutions to public transportation programs and her efforts to promote those solutions with transportation professionals throughout Arizona. With young people like Andisheh Ranjbari in our state, the future is exceedingly bright.”

Championing More Efficient and Accessible Public Transit

Ranjbari, who wrote a master’s thesis in her native Iran on urban bus system design, is working with Yi-Chang Chiu, UA associate professor of civil engineering and engineering mechanics, on a high-speed, high-capacity, high-accessibility intercity transit initiative called Flexpress.

Flexpress is a proposed electric vehicle bus transit system that could cut drive time between Tucson and Phoenix by more than half. Ranjbari has been conducting the network design and modeling, demand analysis and market research for the system, which could reduce highway congestion and increase access to public transit in many other parts of the country, she said.

Flexpress uses Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control technology to virtually chain up fleets of driverless buses and transport large numbers of passengers, like on a high-speed train, Ranjbari said. The vehicles would slow down at urban centers and disconnect, with drivers taking passengers to terminals throughout the area that are closer to their final destinations.

“Andisheh has demonstrated her leadership in spearheading this innovative concept and challenging research,” Chiu said. “This award is well-deserved.”

Ranjbari has served as president of the UA student chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers since 2014. She received the University of Arizona 2015 Outstanding Graduate Student Leader Award.

“This scholarship will be a great help financially and is a tremendous encouragement for me in pursuing research in the field I have a passion for,” Ranjbari said. “I am grateful to AzTA for supporting me through this wonderful journey, and I would especially like to thank my advisers, Dr. Yi-Chang Chiu and Dr. Mark Hickman, who have helped and supported me in numerous ways through my PhD studies.”

The Parsons Brinckerhoff-Jim Lammie Scholarship, awarded annually by APTA since 1999 to a student pursuing a career in public transportation engineering, is named for a former leader of the global engineering consulting firm WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff.