OPTIMIZED TECHNOLOGY ... The public transportation experience can be a hit or miss depending on the time of day or traffic conditions at hand. There can be times when a trip goes as planned. There are other times when a series of unfortunate events can make the journey much longer than expected, such as traffic backed up because of an accident, long detours due to construction activity or the timing of traffic signals that work against your favor. In the spirit of Silicon Valley, SamTrans is exploring whether technology could benefit its bus fleet with help from a pilot program in East Palo Alto, the agency announced this week. From November 2021 through last February, the public transportation agency used Route 281 to test a cloud-based transit signal priority system on University Avenue (the line also runs through Palo Alto and Menlo Park). The technology anticipated when a bus would arrive utilizing "advanced machine-learning algorithms based on historical travel time and real-time traffic conditions," according to an Aug. 23 press release. The system then tapped into the existing traffic network and added a few more seconds to traffic lights, which allowed the bus to pass through. This contrasts with traditional transit signal prioritization systems, which rely on sensors and transponders to rule whether a "prioritized vehicle" is reaching an intersection. The pilot program led to a 45% reduction in northbound intersection delays and a 19% drop in southbound intersection delays, SamTrans said. Travel time was cut by 18% on northbound buses and 7% for southbound buses. The $178,000 program was funded by the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County. The pilot was a partnership with Sustainable Silicon Valley and the city of East Palo Alto.
A WIN FOR DIVERSITY ... Foothill College's Science Learning Institute (SLI) announced that it was honored with the 2022 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from Insight Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education. "The Inspiring Programs in STEM Award honors colleges and universities that encourage and assist students from underrepresented groups in entering the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)," the college wrote in a statement. Foothill College and the Science Learning Institute will be featured alongside 78 other colleges and universities in the September issue of the INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. "SLI has elevated attention on campus to the importance of diversity and equity in STEM and successfully supports students from underrepresented groups to overcome barriers of access and imposter syndrome to persist in STEM," said Ram Subramaniam, Foothill's associate vice president of instruction.
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