Riding on high-hopes

Dennis Hinebaugh has been working on transportation issues at USF for almost 15 years. This year will mark a milestone for him both personally and professionally. His department is launching a Master’s degree program in Urban Planning, and his daughter is entering her freshman year at USF.

Hinebaugh has always been interested in Transportation. He’s taken that passion and translated it to a career of development, research and education.

“Growing up in Detroit it would be nearly impossible not to be touched by the transportation industry,” he said. “My mom didn’t drive, so as a youth I took the bus wherever I needed to go.”

At USF’s Center on Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), Hinebaugh directs the National Bus Rapid Transit Institute (NBRTI), which is the $1.75 million grant CUTR receives each year from the United States Department of Transportation to offer a clearinghouse and research to BRT.

“I travel a fair amount with the NBRTI,” Hinebaugh said “We host public workshops around the country, and we are asked to speak or moderate at national and international conferences. For the NBRTI I supervise five research faculty and four students.”

Hinebuagh started his career in public transportation at SEMTA (now SMART), the public transit provider for the suburbs in Detroit. He worked on the design and engineering of the Downtown People Mover, a light-rail system running through Detroit’s business district and a subway – though a subway system was never built.

“I was always interested in pedestrian and public transportation, so I took many urban planning, and geography classes,” Hinebaugh said.

Hinebaugh completed about 80 percent toward a Master’s in Urban planning at Wayne State University, located near downtown Detroit, before he came to Tampa to work on the engineering of the downtown Tampa People Mover – which was never constructed – and the Light Rail Transit System.

“Detroit was a tad cold, so Tampa certainly offered a change in weather,” Hinebaugh said.

Hinebaugh is also the administrator of the National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) at CUTR, a University transportation center with the goal of enhancing the performance and relevance of public transportation in urban areas.

Hinebaugh said he takes care of the grant side of managing a nearly $2 million annual program for the NCTR.

“USF offers a great program in the different fields of engineering, but we only have a few courses in public transportation,” he said. “Some senior faculty here at CUTR is looking into the possibility of offering online classes in public transportation. So we may be an industry leader in that area in the near future.”

However, the managing of grants is one of the more challenging aspects of his job. “The rules associated with our federal and state grants are very complex,” he said.

“We have a great administrative support staff here at CUTR, but sometimes the rules seem to get in the way of doing a good job. We are always looking at ways to accomplish both.”

Hinebaugh is looking forward to the beginning of the new Master’s degree in urban planning in 2008. He said the new Master’s degree “should be an opportunity to offer more classes in public transportation.”

Hinebaugh’s major partners include the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which is a subset of the USDOT, and the Florida Department of Transportation.

Hinebaugh said he enjoys working at USF and cherishes the opportunity to work with students.

“What a great set of people working here at CUTR,” he said. “Love working with them all. I really like being at the University. With all of the students around us it helps to keep you feeling young.”

His co-workers echo that sentiment. Edward Mierzejewski, faculty administrator at CUTR, has worked with Hinebaugh from day one.

“Dennis’ projects provide great experience for students,” Mierzejewski said. “I most admire Dennis’ personal integrity.”

Co-worker Victoria Perk agrees.

“He is very genuine, and truly cares about the people he works with,” she said.

Hinebaugh debates what type of legacy he will leave the University and public transportation.

“I really like that we (USF and CUTR) are leading the industry in public transportation research and specifically the field of bus rapid transit,” he said. “I feel that as I look back over my career, that I have helped make public transportation a more viable alternative here in the US.”