Applications are closed
for this workshop

Optimization strategies for transportation

October 31 to November 4, 2016

at the

American Institute of Mathematics, San Jose, California

organized by

Chris Augenstein, George Naylor, and Bala Rajaratnam

This workshop, sponsored by AIM and the NSF, will examine new and different methods for optimizing transit efficiencies and estimating new transit services in emerging or underserved markets using applied mathematical research for the area served by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). The major goal will be to define an efficient service based on optimizing a discreet set of constraints driven by systematic mathematical methodologies and analysis, developing a system responsive to meeting travel demands based on a transit route structure unfettered by past route structures, historical service patterns or institutional constraints.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority is the operator of the bus and light rail transit system for Santa Clara County. Service is provided using a mix of service types, including long-haul express bus service, local bus service, limited stop service and light rail service, addressing the transportation needs of a variety of users. Ridership and utilization of transit services has been characterized with stagnating patronage that has essentially been flat for the past decade, along with a farebox recovery ratio (the percent of the cost of operations covered by passenger fares) currently at 12 percent, one of the lowest ratios compared to peer transit agencies. These trends stand in marked contrast to overall employment and population growth in both Santa Clara County and the Bay Area as a whole, which has increased significantly over the past several years, particularly in the employment sectors. However, the challenges facing the VTA are not unique, as many regions with similar development patterns have seen reduced or stagnating demand for transit services.

The specific goals of the workshop are:

  • Bringing together the various stakeholders who may have very different perspectives. Stakeholders will include planning practitioners with a specialization in transportation and transit, technical experts in the fields of statistics and applied and theoretical mathematics, technical experts and researchers in the field of transportation planning and engineering and experts versed in federal and local level research programs and funding.
  • Developing various problem statements that will include optimization of transit service deployment to improve efficiency under various constraints, optimization of fare policies to maximize operating revenue and generation of new methods to serve changing markets that evolve over time.
  • Exploring the use of 'big data' sources, that is, data that is collected from mobile devices that can be analyzed and summarized to understand how and when persons travel.
  • Creation of algorithms to mine cell phone data to determine home and work (or school) origins/destinations, and to determine trip links or route/path information between home-work/work-home O/D pairs.
It is anticipated that the successful workshop will result in the development of specific problem statements that clearly define research elements that can then be advanced through future research and development. A critical outcome will be a framework that defines existing and potential new research programs and identifying possible funding sources. It is anticipated that the definition of specific problem statements can be used by the VTA to establish an agency research program as well as develop partnerships with regional planning agencies and local research institutions to further refine and solve problem statements. Transferability of experiences to other urban areas with similar issues of diminished transit demand and variable transit effectiveness will also be a key outcome of the workshop.

The workshop will differ from typical conferences in some regards. Participants will be invited to suggest open problems and questions before the workshop begins, and these will be posted on the workshop website. These include specific problems on which there is hope of making some progress during the workshop, as well as more ambitious problems which may influence the future activity of the field. Lectures at the workshop will be focused on familiarizing the participants with the background material leading up to specific problems, and the schedule will include discussion and parallel working sessions.

The deadline to apply for support to participate in this workshop has passed.

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