Engineering researchers use NSF and DOE funding to help improve transportation in India

Abhishek Dubey, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and Ayan Mukopadhyay, a research scientist in Vanderbilt’s Institute for Software Integrated Systems, are collaborating with researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) to improve transportation in the city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India.

Abhishek Dubey

Currently, the main means of transportation in the densely populated city in northern India is intermediate public transportation (IPT), like motorized two-wheelers, cycling, and walking. The fixed-route bus transit, which is in dire need of improvement, is only meeting 15% of the city’s travel demand.

Dubey and his team are exploring the possibility of an Aerial Ropeway Transit (ART), or cable car, to address the transportation problem. Some specifics of the project are developing transit demand forecasting algorithms; identifying optimal stop locations for fixed-line ART service; redesigning transit network and operational schedule with fairness and equity considerations; and creating story-maps animation videos on public transportation usage for informing policymakers and transport authorities.

Ayan Mukopadhyay

“Improving public transport ridership is critical for addressing issues faced by Indian cities such as traffic congestion, environmental decay, job-housing imbalance, and poor health conditions,” said Dubey. “This project aims to develop data-driven transit solutions.”

In 2020, Dubey received a $2.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation and a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to reimagine regional transit systems using cutting-edge data science techniques through a group of projects called Smart Transit.

Both grants fund projects with the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority and are led by Dubey’s Smart and Resilient Computing for Physical Environments Lab within the Institute for Software Integrated Systems. The Varanasi project is an extension of the current project with Chattanooga. NSF awarded a supplemental grant of $100,000 to help with the project.

A leading collaborator on the Varanasi project with Dubey and Mukopadhyay is Agnivesh Pani, assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at ITT (BHU). Pani directs the research group SCULPT (Sensing and Computing for Urban Logistics, Planning, and Traffic) at the institute.

Contact: Lucas Johnson, 615-343-0137