Research on demand-responsive transit systems leads to NSF CAREER Award

By: Cornell Engineering

Samitha SamaranayakeSamitha Samaranayake, an assistant professor in Cornell University’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and a graduate field faculty member in Systems Engineering, the Center of Applied Mathematics and the School of Operations Research and Information Engineering, has received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for his work with demand-responsive transit systems.

This Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) project, titled “Algorithmic Foundations for Demand-Responsive Transit Systems—Creating More Equitable and Sustainable Cities through Better Transit”, will address fundamental research questions related to designing and operating transit-centric transportation systems, with the aim of enabling an efficient, sustainable and equitable transportation system for all.

“While the past decade has seen enormous advances in transportation technologies such as ridesharing and self-driving cars powered by, for example, artificial intelligence, smart phone adoption and new business models, it remains unclear whether these innovations alone can lead us toward a future that is sustainable and equitable,” says Samaranayake. “This project argues that fundamental progress in this regard is best achieved via hybrid transit systems, services that seamlessly integrate the efficiencies of mass transit with agile, demand-responsive modes related to ridesharing.”

The technical focus will be on algorithms for designing and operating such systems, an area with key research gaps. The research will be conducted through the lens of Algorithm Engineering, which focuses on developing theoretical insights from successful data-driven and heuristic approaches, and heuristics from theory. Collaborations with stakeholders, such as transit agencies, technology providers, community groups, and policy makers will enable an understanding of practical and societal needs, model calibration using real-data, and validation through simulation and deployments. The project aims to broaden the renewed national focus on transit infrastructure to innovations in service modes, and will involve community outreach and education efforts targeting high school students, college students and public agencies.

Samaranayake’s research will incorporate technical ideas from civil engineering, operations research and computer science to develop new methodologies and train students with cross-disciplinary expertise—the hallmark of Cornell’s College of Engineering.

Other Articles of Interest