A Baker’s Dozen of Urban Transportation Solutions

Vision Zero View Map

NYU Professor Kaan Ozbay and collaborators presented 13 full-paper refereed research papers at the annual National Academies Transportation Research Board (TRB) conference in Washington, D.C., in January. One of the most prestigious international events focused on transportation issues, the TRB draws more than 12,000 policy makers, administrators, urban planners, researchers, and representatives from government and industry.

Ozbay and his team probe big data sets impacting urban mobility, from taxicab supply and demand to traffic safety. One study presented at TRB analyzed the utility of synchronizing real-time data from social media and GPS-enabled smartphones to create a network of “virtual sensors” that track traffic incidents and their impact on travel time. In areas where the traditional physical sensors are limited, the researchers show that a virtual system using online open data collection systems can be a powerful, effective method both for incident response and travel time. 

Another paper selected by TRB details one of only a few studies to mine the enormous sets of data regarding supply and demand characteristics of New York City taxicab services. Ozbay and his colleagues used this data to provide empirical support for economic theories about which factors impact supply and demand behaviors—information that has particular significance as hailing services like Uber and Hailo transform the way urban dwellers find cabs.

Other studies chosen for the conference explore safety issues, such as minimizing the risk of traffic incidents in short-term construction work zones and shifting truck delivery traffic to nighttime hours. The paper titled “Modeling the Safety Impacts of Off-Hour Delivery Programs in Urban Areas”  received the Best Paper award by the TRB Urban Freight Transportation Committee.

It is unusual for a single research group to be invited to present such a significant number of papers at the TRB conference, and Ozbay believes the work stands to considerably impact transportation policy, especially in New York City. “Our safety studies alone could add considerable value to Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan to minimize pedestrian fatalities,” he said.

Ozbay is a professor of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering Department of Civil and Urban Engineering and the Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP).