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Westwood, I-95 South, New Travel Lane, November 15, 2012The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), MassDOT, and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech) have opened a public competition, The 37Billion Mile Data Challenge, designed to inspire the technical community to delve into a new trove of anonymous vehicle-use data and discover insights that can inform policy and help the Commonwealth build a more efficient and sustainable transportation system.

Individuals or teams are invited to join the competition, which is now open and ends on April 19th, at www.37BillionMileChallenge.org. There is no fee to participate. Awards will be given to entries that are exceptionally insightful, interactive or actionable. All entries will be posted online, where the general public will have the ability to select an additional People’s Choice Award winner. Prizes include cash, pre-loaded Charlie Cards, souvenir license plates, and more. An awards ceremony will be held on May 1st from 7-9 at District Hall in the Boston Innovation District.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council created the Vehicle Census of Massachusetts, on which the Challenge is based, in partnership with MassDOT and with support from the Barr Foundation. MassTech is sponsoring the awards event as part of their leadership of the Mass Big Data Initiative, which is helping drive awareness and growth of the Mass Big Data ecosystem across the Commonwealth. Code for Boston and Hack/Reduce are sponsoring the Challenge’s day-long skill-building and team-assembling Datathon on Saturday, March 22.

The Vehicle Census includes anonymous information about vehicle characteristics and yearly mileage, as well as a spatial dataset with aggregate statistics at the neighborhood level. The data release is the first such in the nation, giving the Challenge national significance. Organizers hope the Challenge will stimulate programmers, designers, data analysts and enthusiasts, and transportation stakeholders to share the insights they find in the data, and create tools to put those insights into action. To that end, high profile judges will include MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey, Boston Globe data viz master Gabriel Florit, Jon Follett from Involution Studios, MassArt Professor of Design Brian Lucid, Northeastern University transportation expert Stephanie Pollack, MAPC’s Tim Reardon, Christopher Scranton of MassTech, and Mary Skelton-Roberts of the Barr Foundation.

Key Dates:

March 10, 2014:  Teams and individuals may register for the challenge, gain access to the public data set and sign up for the Datathon at www.37BillionMileChallenge.org

March 22, 2014:  The Challenge Datathon, a daylong event focused on building programming, design and data analysis skills, where participants will have the opportunity to create multidisciplinary teams and get advice from experts. The event will take place at District Hall, 75 Northern Ave., Boston, MA, 02210.

April 19, 2014:  The Challenge officially closes

Friday April 18th, 5:00pm:  Deadline for in-person submissions. Entries should be received at the MAPC offices, 60 Temple Place, Boston, Mass., 02111.  11:59 pm – Deadline for entries submitted online at the event website: www.37BillionMileChallenge.org

May 1st, 2014:   Awards ceremony and reception will take place 7-9 pm at District Hall, 75 Northern Ave., Boston, MA, 02210.

Challenge Questions

Vehicles registered in Massachusetts traveled a collective 37 billion miles in 2010, putting a heavy burden on the Commonwealth’s transportation system, the environment, and family finances. MassDOT, MAPC, and local communities across the Commonwealth have made it a priority to reduce vehicle miles traveled. The 37 Billion Mile Data Challenge seeks to leverage data on yearly vehicle characteristics and mileage, using a first of its kind anonymized data set from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, coupled with additional data sets, to find patterns, insights and solutions that can inform policy and help the Commonwealth build a more efficient and sustainable transportation system.

Participants are free to explore all aspects of the dataset, and encouraged to consider these challenge questions:

      What factors make a neighborhood more likely to have high car ownership and mileage?

      How much does the average household spend on gas, and where does driving place the biggest burden on family budgets?

      Where might investments in walking, biking and transit have the biggest impact in reducing how much people drive?

      What is the best way for communities to measure GHG emissions and set goals for reducing them?

      Do minimum parking requirements for new developments match up with vehicle ownership rates in different communities?

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 are available today via: 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.  Each of these efforts showcased the potential of open government data and collaboration to drive innovative public benefits. 

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