Using Artificial Intelligence to Map Telecommuting Prevalence

In the Philadelphia region, residents of wealthier neighborhoods will be more likely to work from home in the future, thus altering travel patterns and transit usage, according to a new mapping project powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

September 9, 2020, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


William Penn

FotosForTheFuture / Shutterstock

"Students from Penn State University's Nittany AI Alliance, in partnership with the City of Philadelphia, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and Accenture, have developed an AI-driven algorithm to illustrate the 'teleworking risk' of census tracts across the Philadelphia region," according to an article by Kristin Musulin. 

"The algorithm uses American Community Survey data and historical ridership data from SEPTA to indicate the percentage of jobs that can be done by telework in each tract, then displays those percentages in a heat map," according to Musulin. 

The interactive SEPTA Future Telework Forecasting Tool allows for layers like bus and train routes to be added to the heat map. The creators of the map hope that the findings of the study can help planners prepare for a future that includes a lot more telework—and all the land use and transportation implications such a shift would entail.

One key characteristic the project reveals about "telework risk," or the potential for large numbers of people to work from home instead of commuting into offices and other workplaces, is that wealthier areas are more likely to see large numbers of people working from home.

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