Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Chief Information Officer
City of Boston
The City of Boston faces a tremendous number of transportation-related operational challenges on a day to day basis, with considerable impact on people who live, work, and travel in the city—from double-parked commercial vehicles during rush hour to construction on roadways. The city is also tackling a host of high-impact strategic initiatives, seeking to transform what transportation looks like over the long term, considering safety, the environment, the economy, and livability.
Boston has tackled these numerous operational and strategic transportation challenges in agile ways, both leveraging novel data sources and better utilizing data it already collects. A key data sharing partnership with traffic and navigation app Waze through its Connected Citizens Program allowed the city to ingest and analyze a real-time stream of alerts and traffic jam data, which it used to enhance daily operations and better measure congestion over time. The Vision Zero Task Force also took a data-driven approach to identify high-risk sites for the siting of speed calming measures, using unsupervised learning techniques on crash data and constituent concerns to do so.
The City of Boston’s data-sharing partnership with Waze has had a practical impact not just on operations but also more broadly on its ability to conduct and evaluate experiments quantitatively over large temporal and spatial scales. It can conduct analyses that would have been otherwise infeasible—such as looking at the entire Seaport over the span of a year to quantify the impact of its rapid development ex post facto. In general, more rigorous experimental evaluation and data-driven initiatives mean an expansion in the kinds of work the city does and the ability to identify what does work. Moving forward, Boston is growing the reach of this approach to multiple fronts within transportation beyond congestion in motor vehicle traffic, including safety, sustainability, and equity.