The summer after my freshman year I had an internship in Ballston, Virginia. My commute to work every day took over an hour and included a car ride to the bus stop, a 45 minute bus ride, a 10 minute metro ride, and finally a 10 minute walk. This was my first real exposure to public transportation and I was quickly met with the frustrations of Northern Virginia traffic. Ever since, I have been interested in the transportation networks in the local area.
My research this semester looks into evacuation planning based on flooding models in the eastern shore region of Maryland. When a disastrous event occurs, such as a hurricane, it is imperative that emergency personnel are able to coordinate optimal evacuation routes so that people can reach safety as quickly as possible. This past week, I spent time learning about Wardrop’s Principle of traffic user equilibrium. In 1956, an economist, Martin Beckmann, developed an equivalent mathematical problem to Wardrop’s Principle. This mathematical problem was translated into an algorithm that is used today in many network models to determine user equilibrium and system optimal evacuation routes for a network. The next step is to modify this algorithm so that it inputs current flooding data, thereby making the model dynamic. Hurricane landfall is a dynamic process, and the impact zone and network integrity evolve as the event develops. Therefore, the evacuation plan and route guidance need to change as the hurricane makes landfall.
As a civil engineer, we are faced with new challenges every day. The changing global climate has increased the frequency of extreme weather, and these events put added stress on our already deteriorating infrastructure. Roads can be flooded, bridges can be impassable, and the safe evacuation of all people is the number one priority in these events. In my future career, I will be faced with these sorts of challenges on a daily basis, and research will pave the way for new solutions to these problems.