Anyone whos ever commuted by bus is familiar with this annoying phenomenon: a bus is late getting to a particular stop, and by the time it finally arrives, the next scheduled bus is right behind it. Now, thanks to a new fleet of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) buses equipped with Global Positioning System devices, MIT civil and environmental engineers are studying why buses go off schedule.
Professor Nigel Wilson and his colleagues are analyzing data from the Silver Line, which runs between Downtown Crossing in Boston and Dudley Station in Roxbury, MA. Theyll be looking for causes ranging from operators driving speeds to increased traffic when schools let out. Once they know the most common causes for delays on a route, they will make specific recommendations to the MBTA, such as retraining slow drivers or adjusting schedules or routes. Wilson, who is doing a similar study on public buses in Chicago, hopes to have suggestions in to the MBTA within a year. Meanwhile, graduate student Mike Hanowsky has created a program that will use the data to create more-realistic schedules.
If we can improve the reliability of bus service, a lot of people will think of using public transportation that havent used it in the past, says Wilson.