October 05, 2018
Press Releases

MIT Transit Lab paper accepted for Millar Award

Comfort is an important aspect of the transit passenger experience. Crowding can significantly decrease passenger comfort, disrupt service delivery and act as a deterrent to public transit usage. A recent paper published by the MIT Transit Lab was the winner of the William W. Millar Award for best paper in public transportation research. The paper sought to measure transit crowding in new ways. The research carried out jointly with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) resulted in a more customer-focused policy that included an MBTA Crowding Dashboard. The authors will be recognized in January 2019 at the National Academies of Science, Thomas B. Deen Distinguished Lecture in Washington D.C.



Public transportation, crowding, and customer service

It is important for transit agencies to continuously monitor vehicle loads, determine what changes are needed to mitigate high crowding, and implement those changes. This research explored the use of automatically collected vehicle location data, fare transaction data, and passenger origin-destination inference to measure crowding on buses in Boston.

This research advanced the state of the art for the MBTA in three ways.

  1. By formulating a model to scale up origin-destination matrices inferred from fare transaction data
  2. Through introducing measures of crowding that reflect passenger experience
  3. By creating an approximate crowding source allocation model to make measures of crowding actionable

The implementation of these models and measures in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is discussed in the application section of the paper, "Bus Load Inference and Crowding Performance Evaluation Through Disaggregate Analysis of Fare Transaction, Vehicle Location, and Passenger Count Data." According to author John P. Attanucci, "The research essentially allowed the MBTA to define a more customer-focused service delivery policy and benchmarks addressing the critical issue of crowding on buses."

Authors to accept transportation award

The paper authors, Gabriel E. Sánchez-Martínez, Laurel Paget-Seekins, Christopher W. Southwick, will accept the certificate for the award for this paper at the National Academies of Science Transportation Research Board Luncheon in January in Washington D.C. This award is given each year for the best paper in the area of public transportation.


MIT Transit Lab