While pursuing his doctorate degree in Public Policy Analysis from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in the early 1990s, Paul Metaxatos participated as a graduate researcher on the ADVANCE study, a revolutionary project that took on the feasibility of employing in-vehicle driver navigation systems.
That intelligent transportation systems project laid the groundwork for autonomous vehicle technology used today. After earning his doctorate in 1995, Dr. Metaxatos brought his energies and skills to many other noteworthy studies during his 20 years as a faculty researcher at the Urban Transportation Center.
On the morning of December 15, Dr. Metaxatos was honored along with 10 other faculty and staff within the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs (CUPPA) at the annual Employee Recognition Reception held at CUPPA Hall.
At the event, UTC Director Dr. P.S. Sriraj described Dr. Metaxatos, currently Associate Director for Research Programs and Research Associate Professor, as a mainstay at the UTC as well as “a scholar who lets his research speak for itself.” He noted the role Dr. Metaxatos played in vital UTC studies that addressed intercity bus transportation, obesity and the built environment and two recent projects that centered on pedestrian and cyclist safety at railroad and rapid transit grade crossings. Dr. Metaxatos also was characterized as a serene individual who is very dedicated to his family as well as his work.
Dr. Metaxatos’ commitment to UIC began in the early 1990s. He arrived in Chicago from his native Greece and later earned his Master’s degree in Urban Geography from UIC, with a specialization in Transportation Geography and GIS Systems.
He recalled that in his early years at the UTC, there were more engineering students employed to assist faculty researchers, and the primary source of grant funding was the USDOT and local transit agencies like the Chicago Transit Authority and Metra. Many research projects were completed in partnership with faculty and student scholars from departments across the UIC campus, including Planning, Geography, Civil Engineering, Business and Economics.
When the federal support ended, the UTC sought other funding sources. In 1999, the UTC secured regular funding from the Illinois Department of Transportation to create the Metropolitan Transportation Support Initiative (METSI), which was managed by Joseph DiJohn, the founding director of the Pace suburban bus service. Dr. Metaxatos continues to participate in METSI-funded projects.
As a staff and graduate student researcher, Dr. Metaxatos has worked with six UTC directors. Each, he noted, brought a particular skill or area of specialty to the Center and the kind of research conducted.
When asked to share thoughts on the impact of research he participated in, Dr. Metaxatos said that the pedestrian/cyclist safety research examined a nationwide problem and may have offered some “food for thought” for reducing accidents at grade crossings. He also cited the findings of a study completed for the Regional Transportation Authority that addressed the impact of allowing Chicago-area seniors free rides on public transit; the findings were used to modify the policy, saving transit agencies much-needed revenue.