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Businessexcellence July 07 78 Urbitran Group has done a great deal to make city transport systems work better over the past 34 years. It’s now following a strategy of growth by acquisition to take it to the next level, Michael Horodniceanu revealed to Ruari McCallion Slicker cities Known to many as Dr. H, Michael Horodniceanu’s name should be familiar enough to New Yorkers: he was the city’s traffic commissioner from 1986-90. “As a professional, how could I pass on the opportunity to run the most challenging traffic and transit system in the world?” he said. The opportunity arose from his involvement with Urbitran Group, of which he is CEO. The company began in 1973, offering expertise in transportation planning and traffic engineering. “We [the founding members] were all university professors, and they aren’t noted for being well-paid,” he said. “We looked for consulting opportunities to help us make ends meet but we were different from others, in that we did so in an organized fashion.” Urbitran’s advantage was that it was able to offer clients better services, faster. “Our university’s computer back then occupied 13,000 square feet. It probably had the power of one of today’s desktop PCs but it meant that we could offer clients high-speed simulations, which others couldn’t.” Urbitran began with just four people; Horodniceanu was able to leave the university and work full-time in 1980. It now has over 200 staff. It’s been a story of evolution, innovation and insight. “We were selling our intellectual strength and innovation,” he said. “What we realized was that

July 07 Businessexcellence 79 we’d get paid, say, $50,000 to do a study and then one of the large engineering firms would get paid $2 million to do the plans, which were based on our study. So we evolved ourselves to offer and implement design.” He drew a comparison with construction. “High-flying architects do the concept and get paid handsomely; the mass of work is done at relatively low cost by the designers. In our business, the money is made by the people who are doing the designing.” Making money from any branch of traffic planning and management is quite a feat, as the main customers are governments and they aren’t renowned for their willingness to part with lots of money. Urbitran’s appeal is that it isn’t a casestudy specialist, designer or project manager, nor even a one-stop shop of all three. “We don’t try to sell clients a bridge, or a road or whatever; we solve problems,” Horodniceanu said. “Anyone can design a bridge or a building but not everyone can get it approved. One of our strengths is on the creative and social interaction side—getting community and governmental approvals.” He maintains a position that some may find surprising. “Transportation isn’t an engineering profession, it’s a social science that uses Urbitran Group