Fake Data, Real Issues

This summer I had the opportunity to join the DataLA Summer Academy through the Mayor’s Data Team. As a Data Fellow placed with the New Mobility Team at LADOT, I was able to combine my passion for data science with my passions for sustainability and smart cities.

With the arrival of mobility as a service providers like Bird and Lime, the City of Los Angeles is looking to leverage dockless transportation data to better regulate mobility providers and to better serve constituents who use the vehicles.

Ultimately, my project was to create a data visualization dashboard for dockless transporation data that is soon to come from the Mobility Data Specification.

The Mobility Data Specification is a data sharing standard for mobility as a service providers operating in the City of Los Angeles.

In creating this data sharing standard that provides the City with access to company data, the City will be able to ensure that all areas of the City get equal access to dockless vehicles, and it will be able to better understand constituent transportation demands.

To create the dashboard, I was first tasked with creating a mock Mobility Data Specification API with fake data to support the backend of the dashboard throughout development. This mock API (Application Programming Interface) consisted of thousands of records for two dummy mobility providers.

With this mock API, I was then able to create a SQL and Python pipe that automatically pulls data from a database to construct data visualizations for a dashboard.

While the objective of my project was undoubtedly technical, it was exciting to explore the political conversations and challenges surrounding such an ambitious technical undertaking like the Mobility Data Specification. Beyond writing code, I also found myself contributing to political discussions about what types of data can and should be collected. For example, I was part of conversations with LADOT and Council District staff that determined what data was okay to be reported out and how that data could be used to make decisions.

By the end of my summer internship, I had both better programming skills and also a new ability to think critically about data science issues. Especially at a time when data is thought to hold the answers to some of society’s most pressing issues, it was interesting to see data oriented projects as multifaceted; teetering on the edge of steep political, social, and often economic issues.

If you are interested in learning more about Hannah’s project and the New Mobility Specification, join us for Data + Donuts @ LACI on October 11th.