Researcher Spotlight: Kai Monast, MRP, ITRE/NCSU

Kai Monast, MRP, is the interim director of the School Planning and Transportation Group and the director of the Public Transportation Group at the Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE) at North Carolina State University. At ITRE, Kai specializes in bus and paratransit planning, operations, and performance measurement.

His interests in transportation sprung early on in his life out of a curiosity for the various mobility options available to move people from point A to point B.

“I was interested in transportation as early as high school when I found it liberating to be able to walk places, ride a bicycle and take transit,” he said. “I studied urban planning to make the connection between land use and transportation so we can create better places and provide mobility options.”

Monast is applying his area of expertise in land use and transportation to a STRIDE project he leads titled “Locating and Costing Congestion for School Buses and Public Transportation,” a collaborative project with Dr. Ruth Steiner of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Florida.

Monast says that although the costs of congestion have been extensively studied, most have focused on personal automobiles or commercial vehicles, and have included costs such as fuel consumption, increased pollution, and time spent on the road. However, buses are unique in that they transport many passengers, use a lot of fuel, and are operated by personnel who need to be paid, so the per-hour costs of drivers and other staff consume a large portion of an agencies bottom line.

“The hope is that this work can make buses more efficient, reducing time lost for passengers and reducing costs for transit agencies and school districts,” Monast said. “With improved routes, buses can become a more preferred option, increasing transit revenues and improving the efficiency of the entire transportation system.”

Monast says there have been studies on how transit and school buses affect congestion, however the novelty of this particular STRIDE project is on how congestion on the roadways may affect the buses themselves. He and his colleagues are gathering data from three different sources: 1) School bus routing information; 2) General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS); and 3) Regional Integrated Transportation Information System (RITIS).

“By examining where buses are and when, we will be able to compare those segments with RITIS congestion data and analyze travel time delay of transit passengers and students,” he said. “The most important deliverable is a methodology that can be applied in different communities.”

The results of this project will be appropriate for planners and elected officials and will include recommendations for reducing travel delay of bus passengers through such means as altering times, modifying routes, or adapting road infrastructure.