Gayah to use NSF CAREER award to ease traffic congestion and improve efficiency

April 17, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Vikash Gayah, assistant professor of civil engineering at Penn State, will research urban traffic network dynamics from a network-wide perspective, thanks to a National Science Foundation (NSF) Early Career (CAREER) award.

The NSF CAREER award program seeks to support early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Activities pursued by early-career faculty should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

Gayah’s project, titled “Multi-Scale Models of Urban Congestion Dynamics to Support Advanced Congestion Management Strategies,” aims to reduce urban traffic congestion and improve overall transportation system efficiency and reliability. Most traffic models focus on congestion on a local level, either on individual links or intersections. Gayah’s work attempts to study how congestion behaves on a regional scale. Once completed, he plans to use the knowledge gleaned to develop methods that will more efficiently manage traffic.

“The results could help effectively combat urban traffic congestion at individual intersections, along corridors and across entire urban regions simultaneously,” Gayah said.

The idea of network-wide traffic models has been around since the 1960s but has gained traction over the last decade. Gayah plans to improve on existing work in two ways. First, he wants to more comprehensively relate network-wide traffic behavior with the behavior of individual elements, such as roadways or intersections. Second, he wants to combine that knowledge into a multi-scale framework that is capable of modeling traffic networks by combining the knowledge available at the local and network-wide levels.

Gayah said one of the biggest challenges will be to acquire the data needed to validate the models. Although traffic data is increasing in quantity, high-quality data in urban environments is still difficult to obtain. Throughout the course of this project, he hopes to collaborate with transportation researchers across the world to gain access to new datasets that can be incorporated into his project.

“This research is important because we are quickly moving toward a connected and autonomous environment where traffic control will be done on-the-fly using real-time data,” Gayah said. “Therefore, it is important to have a good understanding of how traffic congestion behaves across multiple spatial scales — from the individual intersection to the entire network — to mitigate congestion effectively.”

The $500,000 CAREER award will allow Gayah to recruit two doctoral students to help him delve deeper into this research.

Gayah joined Penn State in 2012. He received his doctorate in civil engineering from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from the University of Central Florida in 2005 and 2006, respectively. He has been awarded the New Faculty Award from the Council for University Transportation Centers (2016); the Faculty Project Award for Leonhard Center Engineering Education Innovation Academy (2017); the Fred Burggraf Outstanding Paper Award from the Transportation Research Board (2017); and the D. Grant Mickle Outstanding Paper Award from the Transportation Research Board (2017).

  • Vikash Gayah headshot

    Assistant professor Vikash Gayah recently recieved a National Science Foundation Early Career award.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 17, 2018