Sustainable Transportation

Sustainable Transportation for a 3rd Century: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Addressing the Last Mile Problem for Enhanced Accessibility

This project addresses the global challenge of planning sustainable transportation infrastructures and, in particular, the problem of solving the “last mile problem” by viewing transportation systems as a way to improve accessibility, not simply mobility. Accessibility promotion demands simultaneous consideration of the movement of people and the placement of resources they need to access. This project assembles an interdisciplinary team that can address these major aspects of accessibility. In particular, the project will explore the interplay between technology, deployment (politics, society, economics, and urban planning) and spatial context.

We propose to address the “last-mile” problem of public transit whereby access to and from high-quality transit strongly shapes people’s propensity to use the transit mode. While cost has been a major obstacle to solving this problem, it is proposed that automated vehicles hold potential to expand transit’s reach by lowering its per passenger cost. In particular, this project proposes electric Sustainable Transporters (eSTs) to bridge the service gap between the nodes of more conventional public transportation (e.g., subways, buses, trains) and one’s final destination (e.g., school, work, home, market).

We will examine the interplay between the eST design and control problem, the design of a responsive power grid, the management of energy resources, the design of community infrastructure and the societal deployment issues. We will measure our success using sustainability and accessibility metrics. Our approach represents an “up front” and integrated analysis of the problem that simultaneously involves multiple disciplines to determine the feasibility of using eSTs to solve the last-mile problem which we view as a step towards broader transformation of the transportation system. The research will begin with an analysis of the existing transportation system in southeast Michigan as a case study for exploring eSTs and other potential solutions to the last mile problem.

Project Team:

Jeffrey Stein, College of Engineering
Ian Hiskens, College of Engineering
Shobita Parthasarathy, Ford School of Public Policy
Jarod Kelly, School of Natural Resources and the Environment
Jonathan Levine, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
Greg Keoleian, College of Engineering; School of Natural Resources and the Environment
Owen Wu, Ross School of Business
Tulga Ersal, College of Engineering