Saidi, Mr. Saeid

2015 Tomorrow,  Finalist

Calgary researcher leads team to sustainable transportation

In the popular city simulation game SimCity, players are tasked with becoming mayor of their city and managing the pieces of the city to build the greatest metropolis in the world. One of the most important elements that players must focus on is transportation infrastructure, as a city cannot grow if the people cannot move around efficiently.

As an industrial and system engineering student in Iran, Saeid Saidi sought inspiration from games such as SimCity and Cities in Motion. But things started picking up for Saidi when he took an elective class in transportation engineering when deciding how to approach his master’s degree.

“My undergraduate degree was focused on industrial engineering, not civil engineering,” Saidi says. “I took an elective course in transportation engineering and I absolutely loved it. Looking back at my childhood I was always interested in SimCity and I used to play for hours. I loved acting as the mayor of the city and taking care of people’s urban problems, including transportation.”

Now a PhD student studying at the University of Calgary, Saidi still seeks assistance from simulation software. But instead of simulating the perfect city, his approach has shifted to improving Calgary public transportation infrastructure.

Building a better community

While working as in intern at Urban Systems Ltd. Working on a project related to implementation challenges of City of Calgary’s Municipal Development and Transportation Plan; I realized that the vision for a more sustainable and environmental friendly future Calgary is there. I decided to work on a topic which can contribute on how to achieve to these goals.

Saidi’s work is currently focused on using the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system in Calgary to create a more sustainable urban environment. While cities typically look at ring roads to create less congestion on the roads, Saidi’s work takes a different approach.

Saidi says ring roads typically move people away from each other, because they ultimately build pop-up communities outside of the bounds of the ring road. In European and Asian cities, there’s less room to grow and city planners look at ways to bring people together. In Calgary and other North American cities the easiest way to bring people together is through systems such as LRT.

Saidi’s work focuses on a ring transit line, which makes a circle within the city connecting existing lines in new ways. He has tested the scenario using simulation software, with positive results. The research has been internationally recognized by transportation scholars due to the unique approach to optimize the transportation network.

“When you think of our current transit lines, as you move closer to the city centre, the distance between each line is relatively small,” Saidi says. “As you move further to the areas on the outside of the city, the distance is much larger. With a ring line, we’d be looking at giving better coverage between those areas. In addition, a ring line can make cross-town trips around the city more convenient for transit passengers”

Saidi says providing better coverage would also provide greater growth in outlying communities because people typically want to live near good transit connections and eventually increase the number of transit riders compare with personal automobile users. Areas such as Westbrook or Brentwood have already seen a boom in urban projects, as a result of nearby train stations.

Residential communities promote commercial growth, which leads to a stronger economy.The work Saidi has completed for this project is the result of cooperation with Calgary Transit and Schulich School of Engineering’ transportation group.

Building a great leader

Saidi says when an important seminar or event comes up for the transportation team, he’s typically the leader of the pack to make sure the pieces fit together smoothly.

“The Alberta Motor Association Active Traffic Control and Management Lab is a 0.75 Million initiative funded by Alberta Motor Association and a other organizations,” Saidi says. “The opening ceremony was a very intense process because it was attended by the former minister of infrastructure and other community leaders, and I was the person in charge of presenting the lab to these groups for the first time.”

Saidi says a good leader is somebody who can lead by inspiration and communicate effectively.

“I think what’s the most important is the ability to easily work with others and having positive attitude. One might have leadership experience, but if you don’t have the qualities it’s harder to be a successful leader.”

Saidi says leadership is something he has learned in both his academic and personal experiences. He has worked as a chairperson for various non-for-profits and special interest group. Outside of his academic life, he helped develop a network for students studying internationally to come together as a community to realize the full potential of working together.