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37 Billion Mile Data ChallengeMassDOT today joined the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech) in announcing results of The 37Billion Mile Data Challenge, a competition that inspired the region’s data community to delve into a vast new set of anonymous vehicle-use data and to produce innovative visualizations, applications, and insights on the Commonwealth’s transportation system. The results will inform policy and help the Commonwealth build a more efficient and sustainable transportation system.

The winning entries ranged from “MassEMIT,” a tool that allows users to compare factors such as carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and fuel use by community, to a transportation infographic that informs the public on the true costs of driving. All of the entries can be viewed on the event website, www.37billionmilechallenge.org.

The release of this new data set – the Vehicle Census of Massachusetts – represents a first-in-the-nation release of open State Vehicle Registry data. The Vehicle Census was created by MAPC, in partnership with MassDOT and with support from the Barr Foundation. The event was also made possible through support of MassDOT and MassTech work under Governor Patrick’s Massachusetts Big Data Initiative launched in 2012.

“Every year transportation experts across the nation spend millions of dollars and countless hours modeling how much we drive,” said Marc Draisen, MAPC’s Executive Director. “Thanks to the 37 Billion Mile Data Challenge, Massachusetts now knows the answer to that question. And not only do we have real data to back it up – we have real knowledge gleaned from the data that will inform policy.”

 “We are committed at MassDOT to creating, sharing, and using actionable data as we plan for the future,” said MassDOT Secretary & CEO Richard A. Davey. “This challenge has produced findings that will help inform our efforts to promote and maintain a sustainable transportation system and to better understand our customers.”

“Events like the 37 Billion Mile Data Challenge show how open government data can engage the public, inform public policy, and generate insights or applications which drive social benefit, all of which are core goals of the Massachusetts Big Data Initiative,” said Pat Larkin, Director of the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. “Whether a phone app, an infographic, or a unique analysis, the insights gained will help people to think about how they get from Point A to Point B and the impact those choices have.”

The outcomes of the event will not only have significance for those involved with the Challenge, but also for researchers and policy makers across the United States. Data sets for the 37 Billion Mile Data Challenge will continue to be available at www.37BillionMileChallenge.org. The Challenge builds upon previous efforts to analyze and increase access to state transportation data, including the launch of the MassDOT “Developers Pages” online data resource, MAPC’s Hubway Data Visualization Challenge, and the December 2013 “Visualizing Transportation” Hackathon run by MassDOT, MassTech, and hack/reduce.  These efforts showcase the growing potential of open government data and collaboration to drive innovative public benefits. 

Other sponsors of the Challenge included Code for America: Boston Brigade, hack/reduce, and District Hall. View winning project descriptions below:

Project Descriptions of Award-Winning Entries

Best in Data Exploration Tool and Best in Show  

Massachusetts Split-Screen Emissions Mapping and Information Tool (MassEMIT) by Arthur Fisher http://www.37billionmilechallenge.org/submissions/15

Using data provided by the Massachusetts Vehicle Census and other sources, the entrants calculated a series of town-level metrics that deal with issues such as CO2 emissions, fuel use, vehicle types, and miles driven. This split-screen mapping interface tool allows users to compare patterns between any two of those metrics at a given time, potentially gaining insight into what factors may influence one another, and which communities might best be targeted for improving transportation efficiency and sustainability.

Best in Analysis (Explanatory Model)

Driving and Land Use: An Explanatory Model by Paul Schimek, Zia Sobhani and Kim Ducharme

http://www.37billionmilechallenge.org/submissions/29

The Vehicle Census shows clearly that people drive less in urban areas. Why? This team tested a variety of variables that might answer that question: demographics, income, density, land uses, street width, intersections, sidewalks, and transit availability. They found that comparing these one at a time against miles driven can be misleading. For example, considered by themselves, more sidewalks, buildings, and area property value are each associated with less driving. But once the team controlled for other factors, the apparent relationship disappeared. The team found that fewer roads, more intersections, and frequent transit do have an independent effect on reducing driving, but that by far the strongest predictors of driving are population density and owner-occupied housing.

Best in Policy

Exploring Transit and Driving Behavior in MA with Google Fusion Tables by Matthew Danish

http://www.37billionmilechallenge.org/submissions/20

Does the presence of good, abundant transit lead to a decline of miles driven in personal vehicles? In this state-wide look at transportation patterns, Matthew Danish explored this question using data sources from the contest and the various transit authorities, as well as tools such as Google Fusion Tables and Postgres/PostGIS.

Collaborative Data Award

MassVehicleExplorer by Team Cornish Rex (Alexis Chan, Alan Esenther, Kartik Khanna, Evan Patton, Allison Patton)

http://www.37billionmilechallenge.org/submissions/24

This team developed visualization tools (The Boston Car Data Explorer, Top 1000 CO2-equivalent emissions), analyzed data (Who impacts whom?), and prepared a SQL dataset, all complete with instructions. Notably, the team made each of these valuable tools available to other contestants to aid their explorations of the data.            

Public Service Announcement (PSA) Award

Driving Facts Infographic by Melanie Morgan

http://www.37billionmilechallenge.org/submissions/21

This approachable, engaging infographic depicts some telling transportation data nuggets that were discovered in the Massachusetts Vehicle Census.

Dollars and Sense Award and People’s Choice Award

Let’s Reduce Gas Burden in Massachusetts by Maneesh Mahlawat

http://www.37billionmilechallenge.org/submissions/25

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