Making the Most of Data

Screen shot 2016-03-16 at 2.45.24 PMThere’s no doubt we’re in the age of data, and that data can help us approach mobility in an entirely new way. But it’s one thing to collect data, and another to analyze and use it in a productive way.

That’s where a new dynamic duo comes in. The Austin Transportation Department is embarking on a first-of-its kind partnership with the University of Texas’s Center for Transportation Research, in which the university will work with the ATD to evaluate and help with City transportation projects, launch open data sharing, and assist with comprehensive data analysis.

Jim Dale, assistant director for the Austin Transportation Department, says transportation is one of the biggest issues facing the region, and working with UT will help expand the City’s capability to improve mobility and safety.

One of the roles UT will have in this partnership is to act as an independent evaluator for ATD projects. Dale says one of the things they’ll be evaluating first is the effectiveness of ATD’s transportation management center. Another project UT will evaluate is a pilot ATD is currently working on involving adaptive signal controls. That pilot will roll out on four heavy traffic corridors around the city, changing the timing of traffic lights as traffic volume changes.

Beyond that, UT’s CTR will also help the City unlock the data it has. Dale says one example of that is data that comes from low water crossings, train crossings, and school zones. If an app developer or company like Google can have access to that information, it could help direct drivers away from low water crossings when there are flood warnings, or away from school zones during drop off and pick up times. That data can also be shared with EMTs so that ambulances don’t get stuck at street-level railroad crossings.

Dale says that in the future, UT and the City will also work together on data analysis.

“All this data that we’re putting out in the open data portal, and that TxDOT and Capital Metro are putting out, they’ll blend that data and glean insights we haven’t had before,” Dale says. “There are a lot of opportunities there to improve mobility and safety.”

Photo by Terrence Henry/KUT

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