Cities collecting data to improve their transportation systems are rounding up public and private data from street sensors, GPS-enabled buses, automated vehicles and ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. But how can that data be most efficiently managed?
In Texas, it goes in a rodeo, of course.
The University of Texas at Austin's Data Rodeo project aims to corral and synthesize existing transportation data and make it useful for transit agencies, researchers and third parties.
The idea for the rodeo came a few years ago when the university's Center for Transportation Research was developing planning models for the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. Some of the data required for the models came from the city of Austin, some came from surrounding Travis County, and some came from the state.
“We had to talk with 10 different people for over three weeks to get the information we needed,” said Natalia Ruiz Juri, a research associate at the CTR and director of its Network Modeling Center.
So rather than asking for data every time they needed it, the researchers centralized the information in the Data Rodeo.
The rodeo played a key part in Austin’s final application for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. The city described it as a two-way open data management system "that enables travelers, public agencies, and Smart City partners to archive, analyze and access meaningful data and decision-making tools.”
The Data Rodeo collects various disconnected public and private data sources, tools and technologies for analyzing transportation data. It has three objectives: data archiving, data analysis and data accessibility, with an ultimate goal of delivering real-time access.
But rather than create a regional transportation dashboard, the Data Rodeo is "trying to be one step removed from that,” Juri said. The project is more about working with governments to open up their data to make it available for developers and researchers and centralizing application programming interfaces and other access points that are now dispersed across multiple agencies.