The growth and expansion of cities since the mid 20th century has led to a strong dependency on private automobiles. During the last years, urban planners have started rethinking the mobility modes in a city and have finally realized that a truly sustainable transportation and urban environment in general, requires a shift to multimodal transportation.

In the PittSmartLiving project, we view the shift to multimodal transportation in a holistic way. In particular, we will design, develop, deploy, and evaluate a platform that will integrate information from and align the incentives of all involved stakeholders (commuters, transport operators, and local businesses) towards increasing the utilization and quality of public transportation. The resulting Cyber-Physical system will:

  1. provide commuters with real-time information of arrival and utilization of all relevant options of public transit (e.g., bus, subway, shuttles, bikes, etc.), and
  2. build a marketplace around multimodal mobility, where businesses can offer time-sensitive incentives connected to this transit information to nearby commuters (e.g., the next bus is too full, come in and enjoy $1 coffee).

This has the potential to improve not only the overall ridership experience by balancing utilization across public transportation networks (e.g., shifting some of the demand away from the peak hours), but also to optimize customer flows in local businesses. Significant emphasis will be given to the development of mechanisms that will be able to deliver the required services while respecting the privacy expectations of the commuters. As part of this project, an unprecedented experimental infrastructure will be deployed (in the Oakland and Downtown areas of Pittsburgh) that will allow the PIs to identify a set of incentive mechanisms that can shift commuters to public transportation in a real urban environment. This is the first time that an urban core truly becomes a laboratory, where scientists and engineers can run experiments aimed at improving the quality of life of city-dwellers.