Award time

LeiZhang

Congratulations to Nexus alumnus (and new father) Lei Zhang, (now at the University of Maryland) who was granted an NSF Young Faculty CAREER Award for the project Reliability as an Emergent Property of Transportation Networks

Abstract: The objective of this Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program award is to investigate how individual travel behavior (e.g., route choice, trip scheduling, and selection of transportation mode) and transportation-related organizational decision-making (e.g., investment and pricing decisions) impact travel reliability (percentage of on-time arrival at destination). This research tests the hypothesis that minor behavior changes at the individual or organizational level leads to significant changes in travel reliability. The theory explains how individuals and organizations actually make transportation-related decisions, recognizing that they do not have perfect information or unlimited computational capabilities. The empirical portion of the research addresses a gap in the transportation science literature by employing smart phones as mobile GPS sensors to collect travel behavior data.
If successful, this project will provide decision-support tools that could help transform transportation systems operations and planning practices. These tools will enable transportation agencies to assess strategies that induce individual and organizational behavioral changes (e.g., increased transit ridership, improved trip departure time choice, better route diversion decisions, and more cost-effective transportation investments) that could mitigate traffic congestion and improve travel reliability. Over the long run, a more efficient and reliable transportation system will stimulate economic growth, enhance quality of life, and support emergency response. As this research breaks traditional disciplinary boundaries between the behavioral sciences and systems engineering, it also sets the stage for a new research direction that focuses on optimizing transportation system performance based on how choices are actually made, not how they should be made. This project will involve high school undergraduate, and graduate underrepresented students in various research tasks. Research findings will be broadly distributed through a K-12 Transportation Education Web Portal, an open-access Wiki site, and other professional and community outreach efforts.