March 16, 2017

WPI receives $175k to study urban transportation

Professor Yanhua Li, who received a National Science Foundation grant for a transportation study.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute computer science and data science professor Yanhua Li has received a two-year National Science Foundation $175,000 grant for a transportation study.

Li has proposed a "hub-and-spoke" model with shared shuttles among those who would otherwise take taxis or other car-sharing services, or public transportation. He has compared the system to the airline industry's, in which flights are routed out from airports, leaving a central location for various destinations.

Unlike airlines, which have fairly stable travel schedules, Li said urban transit systems can be unpredictable and requires significantly more data to determine the best travel scenarios.

"We need to understand how to design a system that's more dynamic for urban areas," he said.

Li will have a research team of three doctoral students in his WPI lab developing data techniques to create a framework for a streamlined transportation system. They've already found that routing urban trips along spokes that connect to a few hubs along direct paths is more efficient.

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