Putting Intelligent Transportation Systems to Work in the New Fiscal Reality

Jul 25, 2013


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Working for their client, the Port Authority of Allegheny County, a team of Carnegie Mellon University’s H. John Heinz III College Students recently tackled the challenge of using newly available data from intelligent transportation technologies to inform transit management decisions.  Using data from automatic passenger counter systems, other onboard systems, and public datasets, the team applied models to predict patterns of transit demand, and identify communities that appeared underserved by Port Authority’s bus service.

Like most forms of public transit Port Authority runs an operating deficit.  In 2013 that deficit approached unsustainable levels given secular declines in public funding sources.  "One way to deal with this problem is to cut service at a time when it is needed more than ever, said Greg Lagana, Director of Projects at the CED.  "Another is to take a much harder look at how that service is delivered to make the best possible use of the operating funds available."

"As these students pointed out in their report, APC devices involve a capital cost of $15-18K a bus.  That is a significant investment," continued Lagana.  "To ensure it is worthwhile, much more work like the research in this report needs to be done – using data from these devices to improve transit management decisions and benefit riders and taxpayers."

“This student project is a great example of taking a real world transportation problem and coming up with solutions through the use of innovative data analytics," said Stan Caldwell, Associate Director of Heinz College's Traffic 21.

The team’s final report also included an analyses of bus schedule adherence, bus crowding and strategies to reduce it, and bus stop placement, utilization, and consolidation to reduce travel time and operational costs.  This project was made possible through the College’s partnership with Port Authority via the Center for Economic Development and Traffic 21.

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