As a San Francisco-based company, the wildfires that recently spread across northern California have been extremely troubling for our team at StreetLight Data. For us, this went beyond poor air quality in the Bay Area. The fires impacted the homes and personal well-being of our employees, our clients, and our families. While it is always difficult to see tragic events occur anywhere in the world, watching fires destroy places we love was something else entirely.
The experience forced us to think harder about what we, as a company, can do to help. Our product, StreetLight InSight®, helps transportation professionals use Big Data from mobile devices to understand travel patterns – but what specific information can it provide to aid in evacuations? At a personal level, how can we help communities in need, at least in the continental US and southern Canada, where we currently operate?
Before I dive into details, I want to stress that we’re here to help. If your community is facing an imminent evacuation, and our Metrics could help you get people get out of harm’s way, email me (I’m the CEO) directly. Tell me what you need, and we’ll skip the formalities and paperwork to provide the data for free as quickly as we can.
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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