Geography alum helps unearth wealth of ORCA card data

Sean Wang

Sean Wang, 2011 UW Geography alum, (third from left) spent this summer as a fellow in UW’s eScience Institute’s Data Science for Social Good. Wang, now a Ph.D. candidate in geography at Syracuse University, worked with a team of researchers to extract a wealth of previously unexplored data on transit ridership through ORCA card usage. The project helped to bring to light patterns of ridership among all nine regional transit systems within the ORCA network. The long-term impact of the project will help transportation planners make more informed decisions about route planning in the future.

Wang credits his undergraduate training in UW Geography for shaping who he is as a researcher today, identifying the department’s “insistence on rigorous training in research design and methodologies across the entire spectrum of human geography.” With the ORCA project, this allowed him to be comfortable accommodating both the hardcore quantitative, geospatial analyses that the project entailed while also focusing on issues of equity, ethics, and social justice. Wang identifies the influences of faculty members Michael Brown, Sarah Elwood, and Suzanne Withers as making him the geographer he is today in regard to how he understands and approaches a research question.

Read the full Seattle Times story of Wang's work.