|Public Transit Director Bill Robinson said about 35 of West Virginia’s 55 counties currently have some form of public transportation available. Public transit accounts for about 6 million rides a year in a state with a population of about 1.8 million.|
“That’s like everybody in the state rode the bus twice each year,” he said. “That should be some measure of why it’s so important to people.”
Robinson said transportation officials have wanted to link data for the state’s 18 transit agencies for a while. “Someone has to sit there and look up all this information and then do it,” Robinson said.
Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Jimmy Wriston, P.E., a graduate of Tech, first suggested the idea of working with WVU Tech students to help solve the labor-intensive problem of collating data for all of the state’s transit agencies.
Hussein Elkhansa, M.S.E., G.I.S.P., Chief Data Officer for the DOT and Director of the Strategic Performance Management Division, agrees. When Wriston and transit officials have an idea to do something like collate route information for all the state’s transit agencies, Elkhansa and his staff have the technical savvy to make it happen.
After some discussion, it was decided that the best way to get WVU Tech students in on the project was for DOT to hire them as temporary employees.
“We figure, if we hire them as temporary employees, it’s a win-win situation,” Elkhansa said. He said the citizens get the work done, the students get to add real-world experience to their resumes, and if the students decide to work for WVDOT in the long run, that’s a win for the agencies as well.
While WVDOT works with colleges and universities all over the Mountain State, tapping WVU Tech for help with the bus project made a lot of sense. Elkhansa said WVU Tech professor Amr Mohammed, Ph. D. has expertise in transportation matters, and worked on a similar project in Canada.
The students involved in the project are excited about its prospects.
“As software developers, we know there are opportunities out there,” said Jacob Tellep, a WVU Tech senior who is participating in the program. “But there are fewer opportunities where you actually get to help people.”
“If you don’t have transportation, you’re stopped in your tracks right away,” Tellep said. “It’s vitally important.”