Wednesday, May 7, 2014

And that's the CUBE of it

I always wanted to know how cities were planned, at least from a transportation perspective. How do they know where to put a road, how big it needs to be and when it's time to build a flyover? I got those answers in my course this semester, CEE417/UP430: Urban Transportation Planning. If I had to summarize it in one line, I'd say: it's all voodoo!

The course was possibly one of the easiest I have ever taken and that includes my humanities and management courses. The first part of it, dealing with policy issues, were quite easy and extremely interesting as well, although the homework involving five essays was a chore (incidentally, I scored full points in all of them).

The lab was probably the most useful thing of all and certainly added to the employability of everyone in class. While previous years saw only Microsoft Excel being used for very rough calculations, this year the class expanded to using CUBE, the most widely-used program for transportation planning. Surprisingly, they even use it in India (and I thought Indian cities are not planned!). Now, although the program is powerful and makes life much easier, it is not as user-friendly as engineers are used to. A lot of work still has to be done manually.

One of the biggest drawbacks of CUBE is that it has a non-standard scripting language, forcing you to learn new syntax that is unique to the program. This seriously hampers engineers who are happy with C++ or even VBA. The ribbon interface is also unsuited for this program with the contextual tabs being just too large in number.

Overall, the course was decent and the project was very easy. I think I'll do well in it, particularly sine the grading is absolute. 

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