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Algorithmic Bus Timing

What if bus transfers didnt have to include 20 minutes of waiting around?

Photo of DaiLynn Dietz
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One of the biggest issues people have with current public transit options is how it takes much longer to go by bus than by car (or even walking sometimes). A big part of this comes from long wait times during transfers.

With modern computing power and access to real time data, implementing algorithms to schedule and modify bus routes is a natural next step. There's been research at academic institutions on how to best do this, but some of the benefits they see is an increase in efficiency of bus routes and a decrease in rider wait time.

What if we could use information being gathered on bus routes, like what transfers are most popular and general movement patterns of riders, and optimize transfer timings along their travel path? What if we could recognize redundancies in some of our routes and stream line them? 

Here's a link to a paper on bus algorithms: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071023163840.htm

With this being a project with precedence, it would be something a programmer could implement quickly and without much research cost.

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

The rapid would implement the algorithm change, they may hire a programmer, a programming intern, a college senior project, or maybe a software house. The solution they produce would benefit riders everywhere.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

With a background in computer science and working in an innovation team, I often think about systems that could make leaps and bounds forward with just a little code.

Size of your team or organization

  • I am submitting as an individual

Funding Request

  • $25,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

The pilot could be as simple as generating potential route options, and then examining them with experienced public transport experts and testing them on a public transit simulation. Alternatively, they could be put into testing on a route with a popular transfer and tested in the field.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

If overall, riders were arriving at their destinations quicker, which could be measured by tracking individual fares, or perhaps by accessing some google data, it would be a success. If riders on just that route were arriving faster, but other routes suffered as a result, it would not be a success.

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Photo of Laura Muresan
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Speaking of transfers: Another thing that would help with transfers is if there were better pedestrian crosswalks that could help pedestrians cross more quickly and safely to their transfer location. Some of the transfers I made involve crossing very busy streets, where drivers are turning right on red (generally legal in the US), but are making those turns even when pedestrians are present. Anything that makes a transfer both quicker and safer would be a huge win.

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