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Blog Feature

Big Data  |  Transportation  |  public transit

Big Data and Public Transit: Measuring Vehicle Trips to Help Modeshift

Public transit is a key component of cities’ mobility networks, especially in dense urban centers. Trains and buses help commuters avoid the hassle of traffic jams on congested roadways, not to mention pricey parking. But some cities are attracting commuters and residents so quickly that public transit cannot keep up -- just ask anyone who lives in Denver, Colorado.

The population in Denver has grown by ~45% since 1996, and the average commuter there now spends 49 hours per year sitting in traffic, but only 4.4% of commuters use public transit (Source: Denver Post). Similar scenarios are playing out across the US in cities like Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, and more. Even though alternatives to driving are available in many of these growing cities, not enough commuters are using them – and congestion keeps getting worse.

Traditionally, public transit planners improve systems by looking at existing transit users’ behavior. They identify potential users as those who live and work near transit stations. But in this era of rapid urban population growth, we cannot consider these groups alone: What about the people who are driving because transit isn’t currently a viable option? What about the people who could be using the transit to commute, but aren’t? In this blog post, I’ll walk you though a few ways Big Data can help address these questions.

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