Data Driver

Since joining SEPTA as a data scientist in September 2019, Sarvesh Shah, FOX ’19, has been instrumental in modernizing Philadelphia’s aging trolley system. His analytics help reduce the transit system’s carbon footprint and ensure it is COVID-19 compliant to protect the health and safety of riders.

image of Sarvesh Shah
Photo credit: Ryan S. Brandenberg, CLA ’14

All aboard

For his current project, Shah is focusing on what he calls SEPTA’s ‘holy grail’: developing a highly complex data warehouse to create the most complete picture yet of SEPTA’s ridership, which annually exceeds 290 million rides. The goal: to enhance the passenger experience, making sure riders get where they have to go quickly, conveniently and on time, thus increasing the number of riders and the revenue they bring.

Switching tracks

Hailing from the Mumbai suburb of Kalyan, India, Shah arrived at the Fox School of Business skilled in machine learning and software development. His master’s curriculum, with its focus on using technology to answer business and business strategy questions, was eye-opening. “I realized I could have a lot more impact on this side of the aisle rather than just crunching raw numbers,” he said.

Among his strongest Temple influences were Professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management Subodha Kumar and Assistant Professor Christopher Monos, whose analysis and design class pulled together all that he had learned from his previous courses, an internship with Uber and a data analysis job with Fox’s Analytics and Accreditation team.

Sarvesh at a Glance

A Philly arrival

Credit the latter to his ongoing mentor, Matthew Kunkle, senior associate director of assurance of learning at Fox. Shortly after Shah’s arrival at Temple, Kunkle hired him to analyze student feedback and scores in order to improve Fox’s classes. Combined with a $5,000 scholarship, the job provided Shah with critically needed funds. Kunkle also offered Shah guidance in adapting to life in a new country.

 “He’s more than just a professor, he’s a friend,” said Shah. “He really helped me adjust to the cultural shock of coming to the U.S.”

Now, he feels right at home in Philly, and relishes in the city’s history and culture—even the food trucks. And Shah, who once relied on the massive public transit system of his home city—the ninth most populated metropolitan area in the world—to get to college, loves the daily impact he is having on SEPTA’s riders, particularly lower-income workers who have no other way to get to work.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to do something for the greater good,” he said.