SRU faculty, student researchers to present findings at POMS Conference


POMS conference

(From left) Matt Hart, an accounting major from Cambridge Springs and Chad Bende, an accounting major from Delmont, present their research on bus routes at a Butler Transit Authority meeting. Students analyzed the authority’s Automatic Vehicle Data to help improve bus service. (Submitted photo.)

April 20, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -It's a win-win situation. As the result of an undergraduate research project, a local transportation authority has data to increase efficiency and the two Slippery Rock University students that conducted the research have earned an invitation to present at the May 6-9 Production and Operations Management Society's 27th Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Matt Hart, an accounting major from Cambridge Springs, and Dong Nguyen, a finance major from Vietnam, analyzed Automatic Vehicle Location data from the Butler Transit Authority. They, along with their faculty advisor Roger Solano, associate professor of business, will present PowerPoint's explaining how their findings helped improve computer tracking of buses and on-time performance.

AVL uses GPS to track the location of fleet vehicles, noting such factors as arrival and departure times, ground speed and adherence to route specifications. The system provides the BTA with real-time data of its operation.

The BTA approached Solano for help in analyzing data points from the authority's Route 1, which includes Butler City, Pullman Square and the VA Butler Healthcare site. The route generates 86,000 data records per year with the research team having access to information from 2013-2015.

The group found a high number of unreported data points by the AVL. After identifying the problem, SRU's research group offered a system configuration solution to the BTA that drastically improved data collection accuracy.

Additionally, SRU researches determined a number of busses were departing the terminal behind schedule. The BTA has since made in-house adjustments to improve departure times, while Solano's group continues to study authority schedules to see if further changes could be made in order to improve on-time performance.

John Paul, executive director of the BTA said the he was very impressed with the groups work and enthusiasm about the project.

"The data analyzed and presented was very insightful," Paul wrote. "It was invaluable to the authority in understanding the daily factors and variables with the routes and their on-time performance. This work is extremely important to enable the authority to make the needed adjustments to our routes and schedules."

Solano said the project is part of the University's on-going efforts to fuel learning with powerful pedagogies and transformational experiences by increasing the number of students participating in activities that involves undergraduate scholarship and service learning.

"The students really benefited because the project helped them to improve the skills that will help them land internships and admission into graduate school," said Solano. "Through the presentation of our data to the BTA and at the conference, they are also able to further build their confidence and communication skills."

Solano's work with the BTA began in spring 2014 as a classroom project, evolving into the current research line over the past year.

"While there has been published research in this area, we are some of the first researchers - to our knowledge - to analyze AVL data in a rural transits system," Solano said.

Two other SRU student researchers, Chad Bender, an accounting major from Delmont, and Tylor Tustin, an information systems major from MacDonald, were part of Solano's team, but are unable to attend the conference.

Solano will chair the "Efficient Operations" session of the "Empirical Research in Operations Management" program at the conference.

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