Data Driven Urban Mobility: Introducing the Urban Mobility and Transportation Domain of the 100 Questions Initiative

Image from Unsplash/Jilbert Ebrahimi

Two weeks ago, The Governance Lab (The GovLab) along with CAF — Development Bank of Latin America, the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI), and the New Urban Mobility Alliance (NUMO) launched the public voting phase of the Urban Mobility and Transportation Domain of the 100 Questions Initiative.

After consulting with mobility experts across the globe, and receiving more than initial 110 questions, our cohort of 85 ‘bilinguals,’ experts in the mobility and transportation field and data science, prioritized the top ten questions in the field that merit further research. But before undertaking operational projects, we want to turn to the greater public to narrow down the list to three key questions. This concept — of using expert and public consultations to steer the use of data — opens up the public policy and development initiative processes for more tailored, impactful, and participatory work.

Information about how and where we move literally and figuratively drives our services. Increasingly, mobility data has been used to improve local services, such as from examining phone data for safer bus routes, to improving track-and-trace by using GPS to monitor the spread of COVID-19.

Residents understand the value of their data to create change in the way they move around their cities. In Bogotá, Colombia, almost seven thousand citizens provided their inputs in a graphical interface to provide proposals for the redesign of a major avenue in late 2020. The graphical inputs were translated into data that was used to understand what types of interventions were most popular amongst citizens (e.g. increasing space for public and active transport, reducing space for private motorized traffic). As well, to make commuting safer for women and girls, the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina employed a technological solution to map and then qualify how the built environment and the use of space impacts how women perceive their safety while traveling from and to their homes across the eight informal settlements of the city. This information not only visualizes the issue of gender including in city planning but the resulting data becomes a tool for effectively prioritizing public investment.

Data around and about mobility can be used for other objectives, such as epidemiology. Using spatially aggregated mobile phone data from the UN Development Programme, researchers surveyed the relationship between mobility changes and COVID-19 incidences across Latin America and the Caribbean. This longitudinal study of 314 cities found that decreased mobility correlated with less infection, and used these findings to tailor local responses to stop the spread of the virus, especially accounting for vulnerable social groups. Similarly, researchers at the Universidad del Desarrollo, University of Turin, and the University of Greenwich used x-data records from Telefónica, which captures internet connections by devices to internet towers, to track changes in mobility across the pandemic in Santiago, Chile.

These use cases illustrate the power of data to make updates that protect residents. To this end, the bilinguals that we brought together for the 100 Questions Initiative honed in on ten pressing questions to address. The top ten questions are as follows.

  1. How can transport/mobility data collected using innovative data collection methods, such as smartphone data, be shared and made easily available for researchers, urban planners, and policymakers?
  2. Where do travelers want to go, but cannot reach and why? How do place of residence, race, gender, ethnicity, and equity differences impact these decisions?
  3. Who gains and who loses with the operation of unconventional public modes of transportation like moto-taxis, non-registered mini-buses, and unregulated taxis? What policies could integrate informal and para-transit into formal transit infrastructure of cities for more sustainable service delivery?
  4. How can we incentivize people to take trips by sustainable modes, such as walking, biking and/or public transit, rather than by personal motorized vehicles? Which governance frameworks and regulatory tools can we use to change transportation behaviors?
  5. What sources of data and methodologies are nowadays the most effective to use to calculate the modal share of a city?
  6. How can we measure/quantify the cost of urban road space and how can it be redistributed?
  7. What are the impacts of women and marginalized communities’ involvement in the governance and planning of active mobility spaces on the wellbeing and stress levels of women in transit?
  8. What populations are under-served in terms of urban mobility in developing countries based on inadequate transportation policy and how can we address their mobility needs in relation to job, health and educational opportunity access?
  9. How can we design, manage, and incentivize public transport service and infrastructures to be more inclusive, affordable, convenient and friendly to the needs and expectations of vulnerable city users?
  10. How can we incorporate technology-enabled spatial analysis methods (such as location-based data analysis) and validate open data (e.g., census data, satellite data, GTFS data, POIs, etc.) to understand and respond to people’s public transportation needs in a responsible manner?

Which of these questions do you consider to be the most important to answer? Let us know by voting at mobiity.the100questions.orgpublic voting is open until July 28. You can vote for as many of the questions you want, as many times as you would like. The questions are available for review in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Vote NOW and OFTEN — your vote will help set the tone for emerging, data-oriented research in urban mobility and transportation for cities across the world!

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Want to learn more? Anyone interested in collaborating should email contact@the100questions.org. For more information about the 100 Questions Initiative, visit the100questions.org or contact Stefaan Verhulst, lead of the initiative at sverhulst@thegovlab.org.

About the 100 Questions Initiative

The 100 Questions Initiative is presented by The Governance Lab at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. This initiative seeks to map the world’s 100 most important questions in the most critical domains, such as gender, migration, and air quality, that could be answered if datasets and data science were unlocked and leveraged to their full potential, in a responsible manner. It is supported by a global advisory board comprising data science and subject matter experts from the public, corporate, and non-profit sectors. Members include Ciro Cattuto, scientific director of ISI Foundation; Gabriella Gómez-Mont, founder and former director at Laboratorio Para La Ciudad; Molly Jackman, leader of Content-Product Data Science and Engineering at Netflix; Vivienne Ming, founder of Socos Labs; Wilfred Ndifon, director of research at AIMS Global Network; Denice Ross, fellow at Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation; and Matthew Salganik, professor of sociology at Princeton University. For more information, visit the100questions.org or https://the100questions.org/faq

About The Governance Lab at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering

The Governance Lab’s mission is to improve people’s lives by changing the way we govern. Our goal at The GovLab is to strengthen the ability of institutions — including but not limited to governments — and people to work more openly, collaboratively, effectively, and legitimately to make better decisions and solve public problems. We believe that increased availability and use of data, new ways to leverage the capacity, intelligence, and expertise of people in the problem-solving process, combined with new advances in technology and science, can transform governance. We approach each challenge and opportunity in an interdisciplinary, collaborative way, irrespective of the problem, sector, geography, and level of government. For more information, visit the thegovlab.org

About CAF — Development Bank of Latin America

CAF — Development Bank of Latin America is a development financial institution committed to improving the quality of life of all Latin Americans. CAF´s actions promote the sustainable development and integration of the region through loans, non-reimbursable technical assistance resources, and support in the technical and financial structuring of programs and projects in the public and private sectors in Latin America. CAF works in 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as in Spain and Portugal through 13 offices, to serve the region.

About the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative

TUMI is the leading global implementation initiative on sustainable mobility, formed through the union of 11 prestigious partners. Facilitated by GIZ and funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Development (BMZ), TUMI’s vision is thriving cities with enhanced economic, social, and environmental performances in line with the New Urban Agenda, the Agenda 2030, and the Paris Agreement. TUMI is based on three pillars: innovation, knowledge, and investment. Website: www.transformative-mobility.org

About the New Urban Mobility Alliance

NUMO, the New Urban Mobility Alliance, is a global organization that channels tech-based disruptions in urban transport to create joyful cities where sustainable and just mobility is the new normal. Founded in 2019 as an outgrowth of the Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities, NUMO convenes diverse allies and leverages the momentum of significant revolutions in mobility to target urban issues — including equity, sustainability, accessibility, and labor — impacted by the shifting transportation landscape. NUMO is hosted by WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. Learn more at www.numo.global

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