Skip to content

Posts from the "Transit Data" Category

14 Comments

The Science (and Maps) Behind Finding Available Citi Bikes and Docks

Columbia University researchers have turned their attention to how Citi Bike can improve the availability of bikes and open docks.

Columbia University researchers have turned their attention to how Citi Bike can improve the availability of bikes and open docks. Image: GSAPP Spatial Information Design Lab

Coming across an empty bike-share station when you need a bike — or a full one, when you need a dock — is a disappointing experience, to say the least. While Citi Bike’s rebalancing efforts try to keep up by shuttling bikes around town, the company is working against a tide that shifts demand unevenly across its service area.

Juan Francisco Saldarriaga, a researcher at Columbia University’s Spatial Information Design Lab, mapped those demand imbalances as part of a project the lab is working on. ”Origins and destinations of Citi Bike trips are not necessarily symmetrical during the day,” he wrote. To untangle the patterns of bike-share riders, the team used weekday data from last October to create a matrix showing imbalances at every station by hour of day.

There are predictable patterns: Between 10 a.m. and midnight, stations around Union Square act as the center of much of the system’s activity. Not surprisingly, Penn Station and Grand Central become hotspots during peak hours. The worst imbalances occur from 6 to 10 a.m. and again from 4 to 8 p.m., though there a handful of outlier stations that either don’t experience major imbalances or see capacity problems outside those hours.

Read more…

5 Comments

Using Citi Bike Data to Figure Out Where Cyclists Ride

A new map shows likely routes taken by Citi Bike riders. Map: Oliver O'Brien

A new map shows likely routes taken by Citi Bike riders. Map: Oliver O’Brien

It’s been a week since Citi Bike released a trove of data on bike-share trips, and the public is already using the information to pick out patterns in ridership and glean new details about the demographics of Citi Bike riders.

In addition to identifying the busiest late-night stations to map nightlife hotspots, statistician Ben Wellington at I Quant NY used a neat feature in the data to show which stations attract different types of Citi Bike riders.

Riders in Midtown, for example, tend to be slightly older and overwhelmingly male. The share of female riders is highest in the Lower East Side and Chinatown. When it comes to age, however, those neighborhoods are split: The East Village has some of the system’s youngest average ridership, while users of stations near public housing and co-ops near the Williamsburg Bridge are, on average, among the system’s oldest.

Wellington also used the data to verify what many New Yorkers could tell you by intuition: Casual users who purchase day or week passes are concentrated near popular tourist destinations in Midtown, the Financial District, and along the Hudson River Greenway.

While DOT said before Citi Bike’s launch that the system would map each rider’s route, that data was not included in last week’s release. Instead of tracking actual routes, London-based geographer Oliver O’Brien created an estimate by combining Citi Bike ridership data with a map of bike lanes from OpenStreetMap. O’Brien used starting and ending locations for 5.5 million bike-share trips over eight months to map direct routes for each trip, weighting the route choice towards bike lanes and paths.

Read more…

7 Comments

New Citi Bike Data on Individual Trips Shows How Bike-Share Links to Transit

Today, Citi Bike opened up a treasure trove of data on how people are using the system, giving the public access to details of individual trips, featuring information such as starting point, ending point, trip time, bike identification number, and anonymous information about the bike user, including gender, age, and whether the rider was  using a day, week or annual pass.

With today’s news, Citi Bike has joined sister systems in Washington, Boston, and San Francisco in releasing data about individual bike-share trips, not just aggregate data on the total number of trips and members.

The data, from July 2013 to February 2014, gives the public an opportunity to look for patterns in how New Yorkers and tourists use bike-share. To prepare its release, Citi Bike worked with NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, which got a head-start on analyzing the data.

“We got it about three weeks ago,” said Sarah Kaufman of the Rudin Center. “September seemed to be the most interesting [month of data],” she said. “Everyone is going to work and school and the temperature is still temperate enough that people are still interested in biking.”

Kaufman, along with Jeff Ferzoco of linepointpath and data visualization specialist Juan Francisco Saldarriaga, sorted through the data to create maps and animations.

Some patterns jumped out as the group began its work. First was the difference between annual members and riders using day or weekly passes. “The casual riders, they’re clearly tourists,” Kaufman said. “They’re concentrated around the Brooklyn Bridge, the World Trade Center site, the bottom of Central Park.”

Another pattern that emerged: Late-night bike-share rides, especially on weekends and holidays, often involve pairs of riders going from the same starting place to the same destination within a minute or two of each other. “People are biking together,” Kaufman said. “It’s interesting to see these Citi Bike couples.”

Last September, spikes in unplanned MTA service disruptions coincided with increases in bike-share use. Image: Rudin Center

Last September, spikes in unplanned MTA service disruptions coincided with increases in bike-share usage. Image: Rudin Center

Read more…

No Comments

What Did UCLA Really Discover About Millennials’ Reasons for Driving Less?

Tony Dutzik is senior policy analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of a recent report on shifting transportation habits.

Members of the Millennial generation drive less than they did a decade ago. That much is clear. But are Millennials driving less simply because of the economy? Or are they driving less by choice, because of changing values or changing technologies?

A recent UCLA report may be underestimating the enormity of the influence mobile internet has on our daily lives -- including our transportation behavior. Photo: SF Gate

The answer to that question matters. If the factors driving the Millennials to drive less are lasting, then America can probably afford to spend far less on new highway capacity in the years to come, freeing up resources for other long-neglected transportation priorities.

A 2012 study [PDF] by researchers at UCLA that is just now making it into broader discussion (see this piece from the Atlantic Cities last week) sheds some light on the subject — though not necessarily for the reasons that are gaining the most attention.

The UCLA study analyzes data from the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) — which was last conducted in 2009 — to investigate how various economic, demographic and other factors influenced people’s travel behavior.

The most important finding, perhaps, is that younger Americans are indeed driving less than previous generations. “All things equal,” the study found, “younger generations appear to (a) travel fewer miles and (b) make fewer trips than was the case for previous generations at the same stage in their lives.” Specifically, they found that young people born in the 1990s traveled 18 percent fewer miles and took 4 percent fewer trips than those born in previous decades. And the data show that while the economy is one important factor, it’s not the only factor.

That finding should be interpreted with caution since it is based on only a few years’ worth of information about drivers born in the 1990s. Even with that caveat, however, the UCLA study might provide the most direct evidence to date for a generational shift in travel patterns.

The other results of the study, however, are attracting more attention — especially its conclusion that there is no link between reductions in driving among Millennials and the use of “information and communications technologies.”

That’s unfortunate, because the UCLA study uses only one metric — daily use of the Internet — to assess how technology use affected travel behavior in 2009. For young people especially, it’s a very limited and possibly outmoded measure.

Read more…

No Comments

Notorious Patent Troll Forced to Stop Targeting Transit Agencies

A patent troll who persistently sued transit agencies for using technology that gives passengers real-time arrival information won’t harass any more transit providers under the terms of a settlement reached in federal court yesterday.

Boston's MBTA was one of the agencies sued by patent troll Martin Kelly Jones. Image: MBTA

The firm known as ArrivalStar — led by a patent holder named Martin Kelley Jones — had sued 11 local transit agencies claiming intellectual property rights over systems that provide real-time arrival information. Many transit agencies chose simply to settle with Arrival Star rather than undergo the expensive and time consuming process of litigation.

In June, the American Public Transit Association filed a counter-suit on behalf of local transit agencies, claiming “ArrivalStar’s patents … were invalid and unenforceable.”

Yesterday, transit agencies prevailed in federal court, reaching a settlement with ArrivalStar in which the company “agreed not to make any future patent infringement claims against any of APTA’s public transportation agency members or any vendors providing goods and services to APTA public transportation agency members,” according to a statement from APTA.

“This is a good day for the public transportation industry and now public transportation agencies and businesses can move forward with innovative technology without threat of baseless litigation,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy.

Jones is one of the top 25 filers of patent infringement suits, having brought more than 100 against various entities. The city of Fairfax, Virginia; Boston’s MBTA; New York City’s MTA; Chicago’s Metra, and the Maryland Transit Authority are among the agencies that have reached settlements with him.

No Comments

Cuomo’s Office Opens Up Transpo Data, But Not Crash Locations

On Wednesday, Governor Cuomo announced a new raft of publicly-accessible data on the state’s data transparency website, data.NY.gov. Some of the data sets include information that was already accessible in different forms, while other sets are newly available to the public. The release also includes detailed information about individual crashes from the Department of Motor Vehicles, but it falls short by failing to say where crashes occur.

Good news: Detailed DMV crash data is more easily accessible. Bad news: The data doesn't show where crashes occur. Image: Open NY

In addition to the DMV, the data comes from the MTA, Port Authority, state DOT, and Thruway Authority. Among other things, the data sets include: PATH and ferry ridership; MTA and Thruway Authority capital projects and bids; freight and passenger counts at Port Authority facilities; vehicle registrations; estimates of vehicle miles traveled; subway entrance and exit locations; incident, construction, and event information reported to 511 by agencies; and traffic counts on state roads, MTA and Port Authority crossings.

The new data release was welcomed by good government advocates, who noted that there’s still much more to be done to make information accessible not only to the public, but also to lawmakers and even other agencies. “For years, the public has had to pry basic data out of transportation agencies,” said John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany and the NYC Transparency Working Group. “Liberating this data is part of improving transportation decision-making by giving everyone better access to basic information.”

One data set of interest provides monthly eastbound auto, bus, and truck volumes at Port Authority crossings since 2011. The website also includes the number of motor vehicle crashes at Port Authority facilities each year since 2000, but does not provide information about those crashes other than whether they caused fatalities.

Motor vehicle crash information from 2011 reported by the DMV provides much more detail, including information about victims — age, gender, type and severity of injury, and whether they were transported to a hospital. It also features information on the day of the week, type of vehicle, contributing factors, weather, lighting, and road surface conditions. Pedestrian or cyclist involvement is also noted.

But when it comes to locating these crashes, the DMV data only provides the municipality and does not allow users to locate crashes at specific coordinates, or even an address or cross-street. Streetsblog has asked the Cuomo administration why the location information is so limited, and if data from years other than 2011 will be uploaded. We’ll let you know if we get a response.

There was also a step forward for open data this week on the city level: after inquiries and pressure from advocates, the Department of City Planning is no longer charging licensing fees for access to MapPLUTO, its extensive set of tax parcel data. While not explicitly transportation-related, PLUTO is an enormous resource for information about zoning and land use.

No Comments

APTA Goes After Transit-Harassing Patent Troll

For years, transit agencies and other companies have been harassed by a patent troll seeking to extort them for “settlements” when they use real-time vehicle tracking technologies. ArrivalStar and Melvino Technologies, offshore firms led by one Martin Kelly Jones, claim to hold the rights to those ideas.

If your bus stop has a sign like this, your transit agency may be in the sights of patent troll Martin Kelly Jones -- the target of a new lawsuit by the association that represents transit agencies. Photo: U.S. DOT

Jones has been picking off agencies one by one and demanding settlement claims, usually on the order of $50,000  to $75,000 — just low enough to make it worth agencies’ while to settle rather than litigate. At least 11 agencies have paid Jones so they can use technologies that are a great benefit to transit riders.

The settlements often impose gag orders to stop transit agencies from talking to each other about his lawsuits, making it hard for them to band together to take Jones down.

But they’re beginning to do just that. The American Public Transportation Association, which represents transit agencies across the country, filed a federal lawsuit yesterday, seeking to halt ArrivalStar and Melvino Technologies’ “frivolous patent infringement claims against public transit systems.” According to a press release APTA sent out this morning:

APTA, which is being represented by the Public Patent Foundation, is asking the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, to declare that its public transportation system members cannot be sued for patent infringement by ArrivalStar. The lawsuit states that ArrivalStar’s patents are invalid and unenforceable and that the claims cover ineligible subject matter. In addition, the lawsuit asserts that the 11th amendment prohibits state and regional entities from being subject to such suits.

“Our public transit systems have been improving the customer experience by providing real-time schedule and travel information to riders,” said James LaRusch, APTA Chief Counsel. “These systems, which are operating under severe financial constraints, are being saddled with these outrageous harassment claims that are a waste of time and money. This must be stopped.”

The anti-trolling movement is picking up steam. President Obama issued several executive orders this month aiming to root out patent trolls in order “to protect innovators from frivolous litigation.” The Federal Trade Commission announced last week that it’s planning to launch an investigation into the practices of “patent assertion entities” that sue governmental agencies, including transit systems, over questionable claims of patent infringement. Yesterday, as APTA was filing its lawsuit, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), founder of the Congressional Public Transportation Caucus and a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, sent a letter to the FTC chair urging her to follow through on the promise to investigate.

All of these actions could help bolster APTA’s case. Another excellent arrow in the organization’s quiver is all the “prior art” that could overturn Jones’ patents. The Electronic Frontier Foundation set out last year to discover instances of the vehicle-tracking technologies’ existence before Jones ever applied for a patent on them. This “prior art” could invalidate the patents, because you can’t patent something that’s already in use. And EFF has found more than 30 examples of prior art, showing that Jones never should have gotten his patents in the first place — and surely has no right to claim “a 20-year monopoly.”

30 Comments

Using Citi Bike Data to Chart Trips, Miles, Membership, and Outages

Citi Bike membership (in blue), trips (in yellow), and miles traveled (in red). Image: Antonio D’souza

Citi Bike is on pace to surpass 40,000 annual members sometime today, and users had made more than 212,000 trips between the Memorial Day launch and yesterday at 5 p.m. These numbers, reported daily on the Citi Bike website, have provided a continuous source of data that Google software engineer Antonio D’souza has charted to illustrate the program’s growth.

Meanwhile, Citi Bike’s software problems have also provided an impetus to build new tools. By flagging stations that have not had activity for three or more daytime hours, WNYC created a map that identifies stations which may currently be inoperable. A glance at the map this afternoon indicates that very few stations are reporting a “flatline.” Of the handful that haven’t seen recent activity, almost all are at the periphery of the system, where they may simply not get much use.

Eventually, Citi Bike is scheduled to create a data portal on its website, similar to the open data page for Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC. For those looking to learn more about working with Citi Bike data, OpenPlans (Streetsblog’s parent organization) is hosting a Citi Bike data night on June 26, where developers will be able to hear from NYC DOT Director of Web and New Media Neil Freeman and demo their apps using Citi Bike data.

1 Comment

The Upside of iPhones Without Google Transit Directions

As we reported last week, the new Apple mobile operating system, iOS 6, will come with a new, Apple-designed Maps application that eschews Google’s mapping tools and comes without standard transit directions. The Apple Maps app will provide driving and walking directions, but transit riders will have to access third-party plug-ins to figure out the best way from point A to point B.

Will smaller software developers create better transit apps for iPhone than Google? Image: Headway Blog

While that could pose a hurdle for millions of iPhone and iPad users, the new system could also encourage the creation of a much richer assortment of transit apps for mobile devices, according to Kevin Webb, who develops mapping and trip planning tools at OpenPlans, Streetsblog’s parent organization.

In a recent post on the OpenPlans blog, Webb credits Google for working with transit agencies to share their data in a way that developers can easily use to build applications. But he says that Google had little incentive to devote more resources to its transit apps, and that the ubiquity of Google Maps was suffocating innovation from other developers:

One possible reason is that Google’s free tools de-incentivize others from entering the market. iPhone and Android users have had little reason to download alternate apps, especially paid ones, when the pre-installed features solve much of the need. Unlike many other Google technologies, there’s no current option to extend the functionality for transit or other directions, or incorporate this data into non-Google apps…

There’s tremendous opportunity for innovation in how we design and communicate information about personal mobility. Unfortunately the tools have not kept pace, in part due to a lack of proper incentives for new services. With iOS 6, Apple is building a market for new tools rather than offering a default solution.

Will iOS 6 result in a renaissance of innovation around transit data and improve convenience for transit riders? We’ll see.

No Comments

Patent Troll Sues Transit Agencies For Releasing Real-Time Transit Info

Martin Kelly Jones sued the MBTA for providing Boston bus riders with real-time arrival information. Photo: MBTA

Lloyd Dobbler, John Cusack’s generation-defining character in Say Anything, notably said, “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career.”

Martin Kelly Jones lives by a similar creed. He doesn’t make or sell anything. Instead he makes his living by attacking transit agencies for using real-time tracking technologies that he says he owns. It’s a practice known as “patent trolling.” Lloyd Dobbler probably wouldn’t want to be a patent troll either, but Jones has made it into his entire career.

Jones filed his first transit-related patent in 1993, securing rights to the idea of letting parents know when school buses were running late. More than 30 additional patents of similar ideas followed.

Jones doesn’t develop or sell any technology relating to real-time vehicle tracking, but that hasn’t stopped him (and his two offshore firms, ArrivalStar and Melvino Technologies) from punishing anyone who does. To date, he’s filed more than 100 lawsuits against anyone who uses such technology – everyone from Ford to Abercrombie & Fitch to American Airlines to FedEx. He’s one of the top 25 filers of patent infringement suits according to a database maintained by the patent tracking site PriorSmart.com.

Lately, Jones has focused his litigious impulse on transit agencies around the country. According to a brief by the Georgetown Climate Center, “ArrivalStar has brought suit against at least ten transit entities, and at least eight more have received demand letters.” GCC, which convenes the Transportation Climate Initiative, worries that the suits can create a chilling effect, discouraging agencies from employing vehicle tracking technologies. Providing real-time bus arrival information has been shown to increase ridership [PDF], taking cars off the road and reducing vehicle emissions.

Jones’ strategy is not to sue transit agencies for all they’re worth, but to offer them a relatively low-cost way to keep these cases out of court. In fact, not one of his lawsuits has gone all the way through trial. They always end up settling, usually for $50,000 to $75,000, though the demands can go as high as $200,000.

“That’s $75,000 of taxpayer money that’s going into ArrivalStar’s pockets without the validity of the patent ever being challenged,” said attorney Babak Siavoshy, who represents the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “If they make the settlement amount low enough, where the costs and benefits favor settling, then most municipalities are going to settle, and it costs them a lot of money, because the cost of litigation is a big stick.”

Read more…