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Civil and Environmental Engineering

Managing Manhattan Traffic

Rensselaer researchers are working to identify the perfect combination of technology and financial incentives necessary to help alleviate daytime traffic congestion and trim automotive emissions in New York City.

When fully deployed, the program is expected to reduce daytime truck deliveries in Manhattan by up to 20 percent in certain industry segments by shifting a portion of those deliveries to off-hours.

Funded by a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the two-year project brings together an influential group of partners from government, academia, small business, and large corporations under the leadership of Jose Holguín-Veras, a world-renowned expert in freight transportation systems and professor in Rensselaer’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and network modeling expert Satish Ukkusuri, assistant professor and Howard Blitman ’50 Career Development Chair in civil and environmental engineering.

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Managing Manhattan Traffic
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The researchers will conduct extensive polling to determine how economic incentives, most likely in the form of tax breaks, can help persuade business owners to volunteer to begin accepting off-hours deliveries.

Concurrently, the team will outfit delivery truck drivers with “smart” cellular phones that feature satellite global positioning system (GPS) technology. Data collected from these devices — which can provide drivers with real-time traffic information and real-time suggestions for avoiding congestion and optimizing routes — would be shared with delivery firms, enabling them to do dynamic fleet management at a fraction of the cost of alternative systems currently available.

Data collected from the smart phones would also allow Holguín-Veras and city officials to ensure delivery companies are complying with the program. Researchers also will use this dynamic data to create freight transportation models as well as network traffic simulation.

A shift in delivery times could increase the competitiveness of participating New York businesses by offering tax incentives to those willing to accept off-hour deliveries. Plus, with fewer trucks on the road, it will be easier and faster for customers to visit downtown businesses, the researchers predict.

The project, if successful, could serve as an example for similar programs implemented to help fight traffic congestion in cities around the world, according to Holguín-Veras.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.