It’s All About Transportation

Dr. Anna Nagurney

By Anna Nargurney, Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Source: RENeW.

The media has had extensive coverage of transportation news and research, which is very gratifying (and which is getting me really psyched to teach my Transportation & Logistics class).

News about Professor Arnie Barnett’s study, “Cross-National Differences in Aviation Safety Records,” which appears in the August issue of the INFORMS journal Transportation Science, has now gone viral with articles on it from The Washington Post to The Sydney Morning Herald, with the latter with the attention-grabbing headline of “Your Chances of Dying in a Plane Crash? It Depends Upon Where You Fly.”

As those of us who have had the privilege of interacting with Professor Barnett of MIT’s Sloan School of Management know, Professor Barnett has a fear of flying. We hosted Professor Barnett in our Speaker Series several Falls ago and he was fantastic! Coincidentally, as a frequent flier, this summer, I was trolling the Internet for safety stats on several airlines since I had a heavy travel schedule for speaking engagements that took me to South America and Eastern Europe. My intuition told me to be careful in deciding which airlines (and which routes) to fly and now Barnett’s paper confirms that caution should, indeed, be taken.

Plus, who could have missed the news about the South Korean female, Ms. Cha, a 69-year-old widow with four children, who on her 950th attempt passed her written driver’s test and then on her 10th attempt received her driver’s license! She has been lauded as a national hero for her determination and for never giving up. She actually said that she enjoyed taking busses to her driver’s ed classes since she had only a minimal elementary school education and minimal literacy and craved learning! Her goal was to be able to get a license so that she could take her grandchildren to the zoo.

As for another transportation news story, Michael Grynbaum, writing in The New York Times, has further coverage on the closure of Broadway in NYC, as well as on the history of the design on the street grid dating back to the early 1800s! My most recent paper, just published in Europhysics Letters, was on the related topic of network topology, traffic, the Braess paradox, and the wisdom of crowds.

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Green buildings, LEED, and energy efficiency

By Anna Nargurney, Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Source: RENeW.

Dr. Anna Nagurney

Did you know that buildings consume 70% of the electricity used in the US? Although there has been clear progress in terms of making appliances more efficient, an enormous amount of energy is still wasted in buildings. Equipment may be left operating when it is not needed, air conditioners may be running full blast where there are no occupants, and mechanical and electrical infrastructure may become less efficient over time.

When one considers how much time humans spend in buildings it is imperative that research into sustainable buildings receives full consideration and support.

Alec Appelbaum has an excellent Op-Ed piece in The New York Times, “Don’t LEED Us Astray.” LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a program which awards points for incorporating eco-friendly material and practices into buildings’ design and construction. It has brought great attention to environmental awareness from the buildings and construction sector, as well as from consumers.

The United States Green Building Council gives out the LEED certification, with the highest level being “platinum,” and such certification has now become the most-widely used green building measure in the US.

Appelbaum, in his article, notes that much more should and could be done regarding the LEED certifications, since they provide a snapshot of a building at a point in time. According to Appelbaum, and I concur: some certified buildings end up using much more energy than the evaluators predicted, because the buildings are more popular than expected or busy at different times than developers forecast, or because tenants ignore or misuse green features. The governmentshould institute regular audits or “check-ups” to ensure that the certified buildings are performing energy-wise, as certified. Those who perform well may get tax credits or even subsidies for outstanding performance.

I would argue that one needs to capture the entire life cycle of the building (clearly a challenging research and practical problem, but manageable). In order to do this, we need to develop green building supply chain design models. We have, recently, taken a step in this direction with our study, “Sustainable Supply Chain Network Design: A Multicriteria Perspective,” which is forthcoming in the International Journal of Sustainable Engineering.

Given how much time people spend in buildings and, hence, how important buildings are to our health and well-being, and that of the environment, we, as a nation, need to push the frontiers of energy research in this direction.