Researchers to Evaluate Equity, Create Framework for New Infrastructure Systems

The emergence of new infrastructure systems continue to have an increasing impact on existing civil infrastructure, especially when it comes to individual transportation systems and providing access for disadvantaged populations. Related to this situation, it remains unclear how to properly measure equity in delivery of these new systems due to their high operational dynamics and overall uncertainty. Using a newly awarded grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Yu Yang, Ph.D., an assistant professor within the Industrial & Systems Engineering Department (ISE), will develop measures and create a novel framework of analysis that can support policymaking for these new infrastructure systems. The project will provide a deeper understanding of the role that fairness and associated tradeoffs play in the design and operation of these newly emerging infrastructures.  

“This project was motivated by the fact that the adoption of emerging technologies in infrastructure systems significantly impacts equity,” Dr. Yang said. “There is a lack of systematic ways to define fairness for systems with high dynamics, and little is known about the fairness tradeoffs.” 

As an example, Dr. Yang cites how newly emerging electric scooter systems are going against the overall equity model that is present in existing infrastructures, like public transit. Because of the unique challenges that come with measuring fairness in electric scooter access and use, the research by Dr. Yang is set to provide policymakers with a more holistic picture to guide decision-making on various regulations that can uphold public transit equity principles in access to individualized transportation systems. 

“We will build a new optimization model to effectively compute the price of fairness at various levels of fairness in system access using a diverse set of fairness measures. We will also perform extensive tradeoff analyses to assist in policymaking on fairness in system use,” Dr. Yang said. “We hope to verify that these measures can precisely evaluate system fairness and that our optimization models can effectively compute the efficiency loss due to newly enforced fairness requirements. These developments are expected to support comprehensive analysis of fairness and the efficiency of tradeoffs.” 

A case study that involves shared micro-mobility systems and various experiments using real-world data will be used to help conduct and analyze tradeoffs and provide insights for fairness policymaking. The research findings will be implemented into undergraduate and graduate courses to help show the challenges of measuring and promoting fairness in civil infrastructure system access through new emerging technologies.

Brady Budke
Marketing and Communications Specialist
Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering