Open Traffic Data

The theme of the October 2015 issue of Thinking Highways magazine is data, and it includes a think piece I authored on open traffic data. In the few short weeks after I wrote the piece, there were a couple of interesting announcements on the topic. While not open to other parties, TomTom is partnering with the University of Minnesota’s Accessibility Observatory to provide maps and historical traffic data for analyzing accesss to jobs for metropolitan areas throughout the U.S. As I discussed in my article, open transit data, published in the de facto GTFS standard, is an adequate surrogate for transit accessibility studies, but traffic data needed for private auto accessibility studies is proprietary and expensive for researchers. The TomTom / University of Minnesota partnership opens up the opportunity to more widely utilize accessibility as an important outcome-focused metric for assessing the utility of metropolitan transportation networks.

In addition, a new OpenTraffic initiative has been announced. The goal of the initiative is to create a repository for open traffic data, in many ways analagous to the open mapping data collected by the OpenStreetMap organization. It is far too soon to know how much traction, if any, that initiative will get, but it will be interesting to track its development, and also to see if the increasing use of connected vehicle applications opens up new avenues for low-cost sharing of raw data, or whether the silos of proprietary data will continue to be the only model.