If you live in South Florida, you know what a hassle traffic can be, especially during the rush hours. For Homa Fartash, a doctoral student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, traffic is personal. Like most of us, she must endure traffic to get to work and school, but more importantly, transportation is the focus of her research at FIU.

Homa’s research centers around Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), mechanisms which drive innovative services to improve traffic management and alleviate traffic. She is working on a project funded by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) that involves installing ramp signals in Broward County to respond to traffic in real time. A ramp signal, also known as a metering light, is a device resembling a basic traffic light that regulates the flow of traffic entering freeways to adjust to current traffic conditions. If a particular freeway, for example, is congested, a ramp signal would signal cars to regulate entry onto the highway during that crunch time, therefore controlling traffic flow.

“I highly hope that using the result of my research will help alleviate congestion on freeways by better management of operation and regulation of entry flow,” said Homa. “Florida has countless highways, and city transportation highly depends on these freeways. I also hope to make an impact on safety (less car accidents), and help commuters save time.”

Homa first became interested in transportation management back home in Tehran, Iran. She describes the traffic situation there as a day-to-day experience. “In Tehran, traffic is a huge problem, and it greatly affects your daily routine,” she said. As a result, Homa decided to pursue both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil and transportation engineering and planning at Iran University of Science and Technology. “As an engineer, I wanted to help society and my community,” she said.

At the time, Homa had no way of knowing she would end up in Miami, another city plagued by traffic woes. She and her husband chose FIU to continue their graduate studies, and therefore, relocated to Miami from Tehran.

Homa will graduate with her Ph.D. this fall. She has three published journal papers, including “Assessments of the need to develop system warrants in addition to local warrants for installation of ramp signals,” in Transportation Research Record. She recently also won Best Student Paper from the Freeway Operations Committee. Homa was also recognized as a “Grad Member Spotlight” by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). She has been part of the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) for more than two years, and currently serves as the membership chair of the South Florida chapter. Homa is also president of the FIU Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), and a graduate representative of FIU’s SWE’s student chapter.

Upon graduation, Homa hopes to stay in Miami and to make an impact in the dynamic city’s transportation system. “Florida is a great state – a pioneer in engineering transportation.”

by Millie Acebal