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Davey Official ImagePosted by: MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey 

At MassDOT, we are committed to using data to inform our decision-making and to help guide our transportation planning.   Big data analytics help inform our efforts to administer the best possible service and guide decision-making that can impact the Commonwealth’s transportation future.

As part of Governor Patrick’s Mass Big Data Initiative, we’re working collaboratively with technology industry leaders, top researchers, and government partners to demonstrate the potential of big data to help us provide a reliable, affordable transportation system that is responsive to our customers’ needs. 

Last weekend, we partnered with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to convene a Visualizing Transportation hackathon event at hack/reduce in Kendall Square. Thanks to the hard work of many MassDOT team members, we were able to provide participants open access to several new transportation data sets. The mission of the hackathon was open; we simply invited teams to explore the data to create compelling visualizations that convey new insights within a variety of areas, with special interest in travel behavior, highway congestion, road-rail comparisons, as well as around the energy, environmental, and social impacts of choosing certain transportation modes.

Hackathon, Governor Patrick, December 14, 2013Despite the stormy weather, we had over 125 registrants and twelve enthusiastic teams made up of data scientists, local college students, researchers, and busy professionals committed to helping support our state’s transportation system. These teams worked around the clock to visualize their novel analysis of this initial release of open transportation data.

Governor Patrick and I joined the hackathon Saturday evening via Skype from the Massachusetts-Singapore Innovation Partnership Mission, and we had the privilege of announcing the winning teams.  The winners include:

·         Best Use of Data: MassTravel

Team MassTravel worked to determine historical travel times, represent that data visually, integrate this visualization in to a web application, and predict future travel times based on historical data. The framework MassTravel created supports trip-planning efforts and is flexible; it will allow follow-on integration of travel information from other modes (transit, bicycle) in to the interface.


·         Best Visualization: KNO

Team KNO developed a smartphone app to support real-time trip planning, integrating data from the MBTA developer’s page and other sources to help the customer determine if he/she should take the train or drive. Their app calculates the difference between train time and drive time, in real time, to tell the customer which mode is best at any given moment.  The interface integrates real-time transit vehicle positioning and traffic camera information, and provides text to speech updates on traffic volumes and average speeds of road segments along chosen routes, allowing commuters to remain hands-free. The team expects to continue development toward a public release in 2014.  


·        Crowd Favorite (and most appropriate team name): StormHackers

StormHackers completed an analysis and visualization of rails and road traffic density, seeking to predict the usage of commuter train lines based on historical trends and weather conditions. Users are able to view the average passenger density both on the road and the commuter rail for any date and time. In addition, a predictor function extrapolates from weather, traffic conditions, and historic event reports to provide a prediction on the potential for severe accidents on state highways that would contribute to increased congestion and impact trip planning.


Event link:

Across Massachusetts, “open data”-driven technologies already enable the “Where’s My Bus?” mobile apps, real-time traffic signs and other elements that improve the experience of travelers. Activities like last weekend’s hackathon demonstrate the potential for further innovation through partnerships driven by the Mass Big Data community, helping our current and future customers get to where they need to be. 

I’m grateful to the MassDOT professionals and hackathon participants who made the Visualizing Transportation hackathon a success and I’m excited for the potential ahead as we continue to engage with the Mass Big Data community.  We look forward to announcing more hackathons in the months ahead in 2014!

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