AI Algorithm to Help Assess Long-Term Impacts of Teleworking on Public Transit

Penn State University’s Nittany AI Alliance has been working with the City of Philadelphia, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), and the Accenture Pennsylvania Public Sector Practice to develop an AI-driven algorithm to help assess teleworking’s long-term impacts on the region’s future public transportation requirements.

The students are looking at the structural shift in the commuting habits of Philadelphia’s labor force as teleworkers will rely less on commuter rail, subways or buses to commute. Their goal is to deliver a working model that can assist SEPTA in creating a viable business plan.

“We’re realizing that a lot more jobs can be done from home now and we rely a lot on people commuting in and out of the city,” said Emily Yates, smart city director for the City of Philadelphia. “So if jobs are going to transition to teleworking more permanently, what does that mean for our service and how we can provide it?”

Using American Community Survey data and historical ridership data from SEPTA, they developed the  SEPTA Future Telework Forecasting Tool which displays the percentage of jobs that can be done by telework in each area. Researchers are able to select from a list of bus, train, and regional rail routes to overlay on the map – or click on a specific census tract – to gain more information on its bus routes and details on its teleworking risk.

Joel Seidel, a Penn State senior and Nittany AI Associate, expects that “the algorithm and the model that we created could very easily be taken by another team somewhere else and applied to a different metro area.”