New multimodal trip data on the horizon

By Chris McCahill

StreetLight Data, which provides trip-making data compiled from cellphones and mobile devices, recently announced a new multimodal data initiative called “M2.” The company has offered data from personal and commercial vehicles for several years. SSTI used these data for a study of travel demand management opportunities in Northern Virginia. By incorporating additional data from location-based services, the company can now identify trips made by walking, biking, transit, and potentially other modes.

Cities across the country are beginning to use similar data from fitness apps like Strava and Ride Report to understand people’s biking patterns, including origins, destinations, and volumes. The main advantage of StreetLight Data’s multimodal initiative is that it aggregates data from many different apps and devices, including those that run location-based services in the background at all times.

This can shed light on all different kinds of trips, even short walking trips that people generally might not think to log in fitness tracking apps. SSTI, for instance, demonstrated how an earlier form of the data could be used to understand the patterns of people walking to and from light rail stations in Sacramento.

The company also sees an opportunity to understand emerging forms of transportation such as TNCs and delivery services—offering the kinds of information that transportation agencies and local governments have struggled to get.

StreetLight Data is looking for partners to participate in its M2 working group, particularly those with data that could help validate and calibrate their product before its official release later this year. Interested organizations can apply at the M2 website or contact SSTI to discuss collaborating on a project.

Chris McCahill is the Deputy Director at SSTI.