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STV’s Mobility Technology Team Supports the Future of Transit in Houston

Dec 15, 2023
people holding Metro banner signs in front of bus

Prior to joining STV earlier this year as an Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) engineering specialist, Parisa Hosseini, Ph.D., researched Autonomous Vehicle (AV) and Electric Vehicle (EV) technology from the perspective that those were “future” solutions for mobility needs.

Little did she realize that among her first substantial projects was support for the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County’s (METRO), FutureLink – an autonomous shuttle that formerly made its debut this week as a mobility solution that connects Texas Southern University and the University of Houston students, faculty and employees, as well as residents in the transit underserved Third Ward to Houston MERO bus and rail service. This service will help too: increased access for seniors, students, and individuals with limited personal mobility; improved equity and accessibility to public transit; and improved safety and efficiency

“This is no longer the future,” Hosseini said. “This is happening now.”

image of bus

STV, in partnership with Perrone Robotics, an industry-leading AV kit and turnkey AV solutions provider, and Transcend Engineers & Planners provided a range of services to support the shuttle’s development including project facilitation, is charged with creating the operational design domain (AV route), creating the plan to share and analyze data collected by the AV, perform shuttle testing and support community outreach.

Several STV team members attended METRO’s unveiling of the new shuttle this week during an event dubbed “The Future of Transit.”

“FutureLink represents the intersection of innovation and sustainability,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner during the event. “METRO continues to pioneer change and today, we celebrate METRO’s commitment to advancing our city’s vision for the future in which transportation is safe, equitable and resilient.”

woman speaking at podium to the left and people cutting a ribbon to the right

“I’m proud of our entire team, as well as our partnerships with Perrone Robotics, Transcend and METRO,” said Dan Corey, P.E., STV vice president and the director of the firm’s Mobility Technologies practice. “This was truly a team effort. We worked closely with METRO staff and their consultant AECOM, Phoenix Motor Cars, and others seamlessly to get FutureLink operational. This program is a great example of how effective collaboration can evolve to meeting the client’s goals and connecting communities.”

METRO’s utilization of an AV shuttle is emblematic of a larger trend where transit agencies and other public stakeholders are seeking new solutions for what is known as the First Mile/Last Mile problem – where a commuter must find a way to get from the starting point of their journey to the place of public transportation, and/or from the transportation station to their final destination. Due to a variety of concerns, including travel time, cost, and other personal factors, the First Mile/Last Mile issue has long been a challenge for public agencies to overcome.

people standing in front of bus with sign and balloons

In addition to its work for METRO, STV also recently partnered with Perrone to coordinate a pilot AV shuttle demonstration for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Newark Liberty International Airport.

For both METRO, and other AV programs, one of STV’s primary challenges is keeping pace with rapidly evolving technology, while also working in partnership with clients to see that they are leveraging this technology in ways that best serve the community.

“It’s important to us that we help our clients find the right mobility solutions,” Hosseini added. “A key to that is for us to partner with industry leaders like Perrone Robotics and for us to remain flexible and adaptable in how we collaborate with our clients. We want to make sure we understand the challenges our clients face and then apply those lessons to future projects.”