February 09, 2022
Faculty Feature: Corey Harper
By Alex KramerMedia Inquiries
Scott Institute Faculty Affiliate Corey Harper is an Assistant Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE) and Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy. His recent work focuses on automation, equity, resilience, micromobility and food systems.
As the director of the Future Mobility Systems Laboratory, he leads a team of researchers who explore the infrastructure, equity, and policy implications of emerging technologies on transportation systems. The equity analysis side of his team applies equity metrics to assess how policy and regulation could affect distributional equality of transportation resources. The modeling and simulation side of his group is focused on incorporating new mobility modes (e.g., micromobility and e-commerce) into regional traffic demand models to promote better long-range planning of the transportation system. His research can help policy makers better understand not only how regional traffic congestion impacts new mobility modes but the environmental, climate, and energy impacts as well.
Harper describes his vision for the Lab as “using systems modeling to help policymakers make more informed policy and infrastructure decisions, so that we have a smoother transition to smarter, more sustainable, and equitable smart cities.”
In his most recent work from February 2022, Harper published an analysis of the Congestion and Environmental Impacts of Short Car Trip Replacement with Micromobility Modes in partnership with the USDOT National University Transportation Center Mobility21 Initiative and Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance. This analysis found the large number of short distance trips done private vehicles contributes heavily to vehicle congestion, especially during peak hour travel times, which has associated costs such as wasted time, money, fuel, and emissions. Micromobility options, defined as lightweight vehicle options such as bikes or scooters, provide an opportunity to replace short distance trips and could improve commuter experiences, climate goals, and congestion.
“In order to meet climate change emissions targets more needs to be done in urban areas than just replacing car trips with bikes,” says Harper. His recommendations include prioritizing implementation of bike lanes and other measures to target longer distance peak hour options like commuter rail, to reduce transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions. The reduction in congestion on heavily used corridors will have many additional social and environmental benefits by decreasing energy requirements for individual trips.
Additionally, Harper co-authored a study with Scott Institute Faculty Affiliate Destenie Nock and CMU Ph.D. student Lily Hanig finding that transit inequity increased during the pandemic. Their preliminary results using data from the Port Authority of Allegheny County showed that buses in low-income and minority neighborhoods had frequently overcrowded trips, placing these populations at considerably higher risk for contracting COVID-19 when compared to their white and more affluent counterparts.
Moving forward, Harper and Nock were recently awarded funding through the Innovation Incubator (IN2) 2022 Strategic Channel Partner Award from the Wells Fargo Foundation to examine how the deployment of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure will impact disaster response performance metrics across low and high-income communities in emergency evacuation scenarios. They will be conducting a comparative analysis of Los Angeles and Pittsburgh and will develop an optimization capacity expansion tool to help policymakers assess the impacts of future charging infrastructure investment decisions on low-income communities.
From this work, Harper intends to produce a white paper to inform policy on how to promote a resilient and equitable transition to electrified transportation, so that the buildout of EV charging infrastructure is equitable and supports resiliency in low-income communities.
The ideas of equitable and accessible transportation are central to Harper’s work. When interviewed by the CMU Block Center for Technology’s Podcast, ‘Consequential’ (Season 4, Episode 3) about the value of transportation, Harper says, “public transit provides people without a personal vehicle with a reliable, affordable, and sustainable mode of transportation to be able to do things throughout the day.”
In another upcoming project, Harper also looks at the impacts of online food delivery. New online options encourage additional vehicle trips to substitute more periodic orders, increasing frequency and therefore increased energy use for individual consumers. He is interested to see how this increased use of online options could impact the transportation sector and what the energy, environmental, and climate impacts are related to food delivery.
“My future research will develop policy recommendations to promote equitable and sustainable deployment of EV infrastructure, autonomous vehicles, and mircromobility modes. ” Harper says, “I will continue to explore more questions surrounding equity and energy in transportation and share the results of this work with city local, federal, and state agencies so that my research can have real world-impacts and get us to that smarter transportation system that improves environmental, energy, and social sustainability.”
To hear more about Dr. Corey Harper’s work you can follow him on Twitter or learn more about his work from his website (link: coreyharperphd.com). Additionally you can listen to recordings of two of his talks about Reimagining Transportation Energy in 2020 for Equity and Resilience and Smart Mobility Connection.
Corey received his BS in 2013 from Morgan State University (Civil Engineering) and completed MS and PhD in 2014 and 2017, respectively, from CMU CEE. Before joining the faculty at CMU he was a consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, supporting clients on technical and policy issues related to cyber-physical systems, especially helping the United States Department of Transportation with the integration of connected and automated vehicles.