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Optimal first- and last-mile mobility services

Team: Sean Qian (PI, CMU), Rick Grahn (CMU)

Funding source: US DOT, NSF

Start/End time: 2020-2022

Socio-demographic trends and recent economic development patterns have resulted in travel behavior changes that call for more flexible and accessible public transit options. Because flexible transit services vary in scope, size, and service type, new data-informed methods are useful to optimize services based on the specific needs of local communities and riders. In this study, real-world demand and vehicle trajectory data were used to evaluate and optimize system performance for an existing first-mile–last-mile (FMLM) service in Robinson Township, PA. A general FMLM model for arbitrary demand and service supply was then developed to quantify system performance—both travel time costs and day-to-day reliability—for various operational polices considering spatio-temporal demand variation and transportation network dynamics. Heuristics were used for optimal real-time vehicle routing in sizable real-world networks accommodating various service types and scopes. In this case study, total user costs were reduced by 18.6% when rides were coordinated with mainline fixed-route transit. Predictive routing strategies were shown to marginally improve system performance under sparse and variable spatio-temporal demand. The case study also highlights potentially large travel time and user reliability improvements—reductions of 51% and 53.8%, respectively—when trip requests were made in advance of their desired pickup time. Finally, we show that travel time reliability can be improved for time-inflexible trips with trip prioritization without increasing total user costs. These results were stable to changes in demand density.

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