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STEM SIGHTS: The Concordian who wants to enhance your metro ride

PhD candidate Alireza Mohammadi measures temperature, noise and light on public transit
March 8, 2018
By Kenneth Gibson

Photo by mwmbwls (Flickr Creative Commons)

If you’ve every struggled to get comfy on the metro, then you may be interested by Alireza Mohammadi’s research.

Mohammadi is a PhD candidate in Concordia’s Department of Building, Civil, and Environmental Engineering. His research focuses on customers’ expectations of safety and comfort while using public transit. Since 2016, his research has been supervised by assistant professors Luis Amador and Fuzhan Nasiri.

To do his work, Mohammadi uses hand-held devices to measure temperature, humidity, vibration, noise, light, and carbon dioxide. He hopes to use this data to develop a “comprehensive asset management model” that would allow cities and governments to optimize their transit systems.

‘My research aims to make commuting a better and safer experience’

How does this specific image (above) relate to your research at Concordia?

I focus on urban railways such as the metro system. My research could be applied to the Montreal Metro, for example, from two angles.

First, measuring and comparing the level of comfort and safety in the old metro cars and new AZUR cars in order to prepare quantitative assessment for further actions.

Second, there are several expansion and upgrade options for Montreal’s metro system. However, the tactical question for decision-makers is which line or segment (a specific station, a certain part of a tunnel or a specific train car) should be extended, and when, or if, it needs to be renovated first to improve the overall level of service, safety, and comfort before it can be expanded.

Furthermore, decision makers must be thinking about how to improve the overall network within the given budget. My research generates the kind of data decision-makers would use to inform these choices.

What is the hoped-for result of your project? And what impact could you see it having on people's lives?

My research aims to make travel a better and safer experience for daily commuters on public transit. I want to increase overall rider satisfaction by addressing dimensions that are often overlooked in transit infrastructures management plans.

These include noise, vibration and temperature. Making transit use more comfortable for riders could have an impact on people’s lives by making it attractive for more commuters to abandon the use of private cars.

What are some of the major challenges you face in your research? What are some of the key areas where your work could be applied?

Canada is a highly urbanized society with over 80 per cent of the population living in cities. There are many limitations for building new infrastructures while managing the existing ones. This raises challenges such as aging, budget gaps, and increasing demand.

What person, experience or moment in time first inspired you to study this subject and get involved in the field?

I have worked for a long time as a project manager in huge infrastructure projects. Still, there is a lack of correlation between practical needs and academic outputs. I think research projects should be customized in order to address real issues in industry or society, and I wanted to contribute to that.

How can interested STEM students get involved in this line of research? What advice would you give them?

Infrastructure asset management is still a novel research line. Students with varied backgrounds could conduct research related to financial, social, environmental and political aspects of urban infrastructure systems. So, if a student has an interest in infrastructure management, regardless of their background, there are opportunities for them to get involved.

What do you like best about being at Concordia?

I believe Concordia has strong research groups in the field of infrastructure construction and management with appreciation and support for multidisciplinary research.

Are there any partners, agencies or other funding or support attached to your research?

I have received financial and in-kind research support from Concordia, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canadian Transport Research Forum (CTRF), the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) and Centre d’expertise et de recherche en infrastructures urbaines (CERIU).

Find out more about the Sustainable Energy & Infrastructure Systems Engineering Lab.

Check out a CBC interview with Alireza Mohammadi, and learn more about his research in CBC video report!

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