Data Rules the Road: Massachusetts Driving Habits Revealed in Data Challenge
Insights Gained Through Data Competition Significant, Will Inform Policy
BOSTON – The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech) today announced the results of The 37Billion Mile Data Challenge, a competition that inspired the region’s data community to delve into a vast new set of anonymous vehicle-use data and to produce innovative visualizations, applications, and insights on the Commonwealth’s transportation system. The results will inform policy and help the Commonwealth build a more efficient and sustainable transportation system.
The winning entries ranged from “MassEMIT,” a tool that allows users to compare factors such as carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and fuel use by community, to a transportation infographic that informs the public on the true costs of driving. All of the entries can be viewed on the event website, www.37billionmilechallenge.org.
The release of this new data set – the Vehicle Census of Massachusetts – represents a first-in-the-nation release of open State Vehicle Registry data. The Vehicle Census was created by MAPC, in partnership with MassDOT and with support from the Barr Foundation. The event was also made possible through support of the MassDOT’s and MassTech’s work under Governor Patrick’s Massachusetts Big Data Initiative, a program launched in 2012.
“Every year transportation experts across the nation spend millions of dollars and countless hours modeling how much we drive,” said Marc Draisen, MAPC’s Executive Director. “Thanks to the 37 Billion Mile Data Challenge, Massachusetts now knows the answer to that question. And not only do we have real data to back it up – we have real knowledge gleaned from the data that will inform policy.”
“We are committed at MassDOT to creating, sharing, and using actionable data as we plan for the future,” said MassDOT Secretary & CEO Richard A. Davey. “This challenge has produced findings that will help inform our efforts to promote and maintain a sustainable transportation system and to better understand our customers.”
“Events like the 37 Billion Mile Data Challenge show how open government data can engage the public, inform public policy, and generate insights or applications which drive social benefit, all of which are core goals of the Massachusetts Big Data Initiative,” said Pat Larkin, Director of the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. “Whether a phone app, an infographic, or a unique analysis, the insights gained will help people to think about how they get from Point A to Point B and the impact those choices have.”
The outcomes of the event will not only have significance for those involved with the Challenge, but also for researchers and policy makers across the United States. Data sets for the 37 Billion Mile Data Challenge will continue to be available at www.37BillionMileChallenge.org. The Challenge builds upon previous efforts to analyze and increase access to state transportation data, including the launch of the MassDOT “Developers Pages” online data resource, MAPC’s Hubway Data Visualization Challenge, and the December 2013 “Visualizing Transportation” Hackathon run by MassDOT, MassTech, and hack/reduce. These efforts showcase the growing potential of open government data and collaboration to drive innovative public benefits.
Other sponsors of the Challenge included Code for America: Boston Brigade, hack/reduce, and District Hall.
37 Billion Mile Data Challenge Additional Information
Project Descriptions of Award-Winning Entries
Best in Data Exploration Tool and Best in Show
Massachusetts Split-Screen Emissions Mapping and Information Tool (MassEMIT) by Arthur Fisher
Using data provided by the Massachusetts Vehicle Census and other sources, the entrants calculated a series of town-level metrics that deal with issues such as CO2 emissions, fuel use, vehicle types, and miles driven. This split-screen mapping interface tool allows users to compare patterns between any two of those metrics at a given time, potentially gaining insight into what factors may influence one another, and which communities might best be targeted for improving transportation efficiency and sustainability.
Best in Analysis (Explanatory Model)
Driving and Land Use: An Explanatory Model by Paul Schimek, Zia Sobhani and Kim Ducharme
The Vehicle Census shows clearly that people drive less in urban areas. Why? This team tested a variety of variables that might answer that question: demographics, income, density, land uses, street width, intersections, sidewalks, and transit availability. They found that comparing these one at a time against miles driven can be misleading. For example, considered by themselves, more sidewalks, buildings, and area property value are each associated with less driving. But once the team controlled for other factors, the apparent relationship disappeared. The team found that fewer roads, more intersections, and frequent transit do have an independent effect on reducing driving, but that by far the strongest predictors of driving are population density and owner-occupied housing.
Best in Policy
Exploring Transit and Driving Behavior in MA with Google Fusion Tables by Matthew Danish
Does the presence of good, abundant transit lead to a decline of miles driven in personal vehicles? In this state-wide look at transportation patterns, Matthew Danish explored this question using data sources from the contest and the various transit authorities, as well as tools such as Google Fusion Tables and Postgres/PostGIS.
Collaborative Data Award
MassVehicleExplorerby Team Cornish Rex (Alexis Chan, Alan Esenther, Kartik Khanna, Evan Patton, Allison Patton)
This team developed visualization tools (The Boston Car Data Explorer, Top 1000 CO2-equivalent emissions), analyzed data (Who impacts whom?), and prepared a SQL dataset, all complete with instructions. Notably, the team made each of these valuable tools available to other contestants to aid their explorations of the data.
Public Service Announcement (PSA) Award
Driving Facts Infographic by Melanie Morgan
This approachable, engaging infographic depicts some telling transportation data nuggets that were discovered in the Massachusetts Vehicle Census.
Dollars and Sense Award and People’s Choice Award
Let’s Reduce Gas Burden in Massachusetts by Maneesh Mahlawat
These entrants devised a novel way to answer the question of whether driving burdens everyone equally in Massachusetts. They combined driving and efficiency data from the 37 Billion Mile Challenge with income data to reveal which zip codes’ households spend the greatest percentage of their household income on fuel. The judges appreciated the submission’s focus on equity and believe this submission has the potential to inform policy issues.
About the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC):
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) is a regional planning agency serving the people who live and work in the 101 cities and towns of Metro Boston. Our mission is to promote smart growth and regional collaboration. We work toward sound municipal management, sustainable land use, protection of natural resources, efficient and affordable transportation, a diverse housing stock, public safety, economic development, an informed public, equity and opportunity – and the democratization of information to achieve those goals. For more information, visit our website www.mapc.org, blog: Planning101.mapc.org, or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MAPCMetroBoston (#37BillionMiles) and Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPCMetroBoston.
About the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT):
In 2009, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) was created to unify the state’s various transportation agencies. MassDOT now includes the Highway division, the MBTA and Mass Transit, Aeronautics, and the Registry of Motor Vehicles. MassDOT is committed to providing a safe and reliable transportation system to all those who travel in the Commonwealth and works to deliver excellent customer service. MassDOT has been nationally recognized for its innovative approach to transportation, including the Accelerated Bridge Program, the “Where’s My Bus and Train?” apps and “Fast 14” work. For more information, visit MassDOT at our website: www.mass.gov/massdot, our blog, at www.mass.gov/blog/transportation; or follow MassDOT on Twitter, at www.twitter.com/massdot and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/massdotinfo.
About the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and the Innovation Institute:
The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative is an innovative public agency working to enhance economic growth, accelerate technology use and adoption, and harness the value of research by engaging in meaningful collaborations across academia, industry, and government. The Innovation Institute at MassTech was created in 2003 to improve conditions for growth in the innovation economy by enhancing industry competitiveness, promoting conditions which enable growth; and providing data and analysis to stakeholders in the Massachusetts innovation economy that promotes understanding and informs policy development. Learn more at www.masstech.org.
About the Massachusetts Big Data Initiative:
Governor Patrick announced the Massachusetts Big Data Initiative (Mass Big Data) 2012. With support and leadership from the Innovation Institute at MassTech, Mass Big Data works to leverage and expand the Commonwealth’s position as a global leader in the rapidly growing big data sector. Through a Big Data in Transportation Working Group, MassTech, MassDOT, and industry partners have launched successful hackathons, challenges, and transportation data initiatives and provided new access to open data. In April, MassTech released the 2014 Mass Big Data Report, which confirms the continued growth and competitiveness of the Commonwealth’s big data industry. Learn more at www.massbigdata.org.