Students win $25,000 transportation research grant

Sarah King
Contributing Writer

A team of VCU and University of Richmond students won a $25,000 research grant for sustainable transportation in the city of Richmond from Ford Motor Company.

The one year grant from Ford’s College Community Challenge funds will help the students research methods of improving the city’s transportation, including increasing access to transportation in low-income areas.

“We’re looking to organize a mass transportation solution to get jobs across the Richmond area,” said senior Melanie Hamilton, a marketing major who is one of the 11 VCU team members involved with the project. “Right now lower income communities have the GRTC bus but for a lot of areas where the bus doesn’t go, residents need to walk two to four hours just to get to work or get food.”

Students will also use the grant money to find a way to prepare the city for the 2015 World Cycling Championships that will take place in Richmond.

“Right now it’s projected that there will be an extra $500,000 to 1 million people here for the nine – 10 day event in July,” said Michael Dillon, a senior studying information systems and the project’s assistant manager. “The collegiate cycling championships will also be here in May of 2014, so we’re just trying to prepare the city for these two events—just inform the city about what’s going to happen.”

The Ford money provides a budget for the “Building Sustainable Transportation in RVA” project and will enable the students to do research on what initiatives might best serve the community, Dillon said. But the project is still in its infancy.

“This semester’s focus is primarily on conducting secondary research and transitioning into primary research,” said Celeste Ross, the project manager and a senior and marketing major.  “Eventually we are also planning to implement a social media campaign so the community can follow our progress and contribute to the conversation.  Part of keeping us organized and on track is through communicating with VCU advisors, our Ford advisor, and community partners to keep all of these parties informed.”

In December, the team will pitch a solution to the transportation dilemma based off of the research they’ve conducted to Ford.  The team is focused on secondary research, which involves getting in contact with GRTC and the mayor’s press secretary, collecting statistical data and demographics and analyzing methods that other cities have implemented.  Primary research will then involve going out into the community and targeted segments.


  1. Great to see an article about students from two local universities working to solve a real local problem with funding from a private firm. Well done!

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