Creating a Data Framework for Future Cities

April 18, 2018

As expectations of a what a futuristic city should look like come closer to realization where cities are starting to become smarter, using data, sensing, and advanced communications to improve the lives of citizens, Institute of Transportation Studies Berkeley and International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) researchers have created a generalized evaluation framework that can be used for assessing project impacts within the context of transportation-related city projects to help make that realization happen in a new white paper: Understanding How Cities Can Link Smart Mobility Priorities Through Data.

The white paper, authored by Susan Shaheen, Co-Director, Transportation Sustainability Research Center and Adjunct Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Elliot Martin, Research Engineer Transportation Sustainability Research, Mikaela Hoffman-Stapleton, Staff Researcher Transportation Sustainability Research Center, and Peter Sowik, Researcher ICCT, addresses the need to better understand the inventory of data needs and gaps in the current environment for smart city innovations that are likely to exist in the near future.

“This is an exciting time for cities and the future of transportation. Our joint research with ICCT provides a critical foundation for understanding and informing smart city efforts by identifying program objectives, key data needs, and potential data gaps. This is an important step in empowering cities interested in employing data, technology, and citizens in creating smart mobility strategies. By aligning goals and metrics, cities will be better able to measure progress, monitor and adapt their projects (as appropriate), and achieve their goals,” says Shaheen.

Vehicles are in the early stages of becoming truly automated, with potential benefits spanning mobility, accessibility, safety, and the environment. At the same time, electric drivetrain vehicles are growing in market share and decreasing in cost, yielding benefits for urban air quality and energy security.

“Indeed, there are encouraging signs that these developments will alleviate some current stresses on the transportation systems, although if cities do not proactively manage the implementation of these efforts, innovative mobility technologies could result in widespread traffic congestion, degraded air quality, and a deterioration in the overall quality of life for most citizens,” says Martin.

The white paper also discusses a selection of metrics and data sources that are needed to evaluate the performance of smart city innovations using a collection of projects and applications from near-term smart city concepts or actual pilot projects underway (i.e., US Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox, and other pilot projects operating in the regions of Los Angeles, Portland, and San Francisco).

Using these projects as the basis for hypothetical case studies, researchers present selected metrics that would be necessary to evaluate and monitor the performance of such innovations over time and identify data needs to compute those metrics and further highlight the gaps in known data resources that should be covered to enable their computation. The objective of this effort is to help guide future city planners, policy makers, and practitioners in understanding the design of key metrics and data needs at the outset of a project to better facilitate the establishment of rigorous and thoughtful data collection requirements.

“Clearly, there is a long way to go in the development and proliferation of these technologies before they become common and widespread,” says Slowik. “But that future is now on a visible horizon.”

A central component and facilitator of this future is data, which is essential to provide an evidence-based approach for cities to measure the impacts from emerging technologies that will enable smarter cities. These impact categories span a number of areas, although the study focused on: 1) safety, 2) transportation, 3) equity, 4) environment, 5) energy, and 6) congestion.

“Despite the importance of evaluating impacts over time, data limitations exist today and may continue to persist tomorrow in ways that hinder the ability of cities to effectively measure and monitor the performance of innovative technologies in achieving their intended aims,” says Hoffman-Stapleton.

Read the full white paper here: .