Improving winter storm resource deployment

Metropolitan College at Boston University



Climate Change, Data Analytics, Data Collection, Geo Services, Mobility, Process Improvement, Public Safety, Workflow

Procurement Method:

University Partner:

Metropolitan College at Boston University

Partnership Description

The MBTA will be working with the Decision Sciences Research Lab led by Canan Gunes Corlu, Associate Professor, and John Maleyeff, Associate Professor of Practice, at Boston University’s Metropolitan College. The graduate student team will aim to develop a prototype decision support system for MBTA operations personnel to create a more nuanced approach to deploying resources during severe weather events. As MBTA riders, the research team is looking forward to their research efforts returning dividends in the form of improvements to their personal transit experiences. Read more about the lab’s work here:


The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is seeking a scientific solution to consistently inform resource deployment during winter storms for our operations departments.


The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is located in the Northeast where winter storms can cause transportation service to slow or even stop completely. The Snow and Ice Operations Plan provides operational instructions to departments working to support our public transportation services despite these winter storms. 

Prior to each storm, operational leadership determines the severity level of the storm and we deploy staff and assets based on that severity level. However, a storm's severity level is based only on three variables (existing snow base, expected snowfall, temperatures) and universally applied to all transportation modes and maintenance crews regardless of how differently the storm might affect a given group. 

We are ultimately interested in most efficiently deploying our resources. They must be maximally effective without being wasteful or unnecessarily risky. We believe that a more nuanced process for determining a storm's severity level might support that outcome.

Academic research teams will have access to:

  • Data from MBTA weather stations (5) in the Boston region. 
  • Selected operations department subject matter experts and department heads.
  • Operational standard operating procedures for snow and ice operations. 

Requirements & Outcomes

The MBTA seeks the following outcomes:

  • Decision-support process(es) to support MBTA Operations leadership's determination of a storm's severity level(s).
  • Descriptions of the rationale for how a storm's severity level(s) are determined. 
  • Proposed methodology(ies) for applying storm severity level(s) to staff and asset deployment. 

STIR Labs Research Challenges Published

Learn how you can tackle the challenges at our informational webinar