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DOT turns to you with Data Innovation Challenge

DOT turns to you with Data Innovation Challenge

You've seen the apps. The commuter at the bus stop is using one. The father shopping for a safe car is using one. The student booking spring break bus travel is using one. I'm not talking about Plants vs. Zombies or Candy Crush 2; I'm talking about the apps that put useful transportation information --real-time transit arrivals, 5-star car safety ratings, motorcoach safety records-- in the palms of our hands.

Although good transportation apps have been created, we also know that a nation like ours can do more.

That's why, today, we're launching our Data Innovation Challenge.

Here at DOT, we think it's time to take transportation data to the next level, and we need your help to do it. If you have an idea for an innovative tool to help meet transportation challenges, this is your opportunity. If you're ready to revolutionize our transportation system, this is your opportunity. From now until April 30, it's time to show us what you can do!

Graphic advertising DOT data challenge

It's all part of a balanced and responsible approach to improving our transportation system. Yes, we need to continue investing in infrastructure, but we also need to make better use of the resources we already have, and one of the most valuable resources we have is data.

Over the last few years, there has been a tremendous change in government at all levels--rather than sitting on their datasets, from city to county to state and across the agencies that make up our federal government, organizations are making their data publicly available in formats that make it easier for innovators to convert that data into information and useful tools for the public, urban planners, policymakers, journalists, and others.

Even with thousands of datasets open to the public, we still need innovators like you with the vision to develop tools that help people use data to make decisions.

What kinds of decisions are we talking about? For DOT's Data Innovation Challenge, we're specifically looking at three categories:

  • Safety: how can we address safety concerns and challenges? What communities have the safest roads and transit, and why?
  • Transportation Access: how can planners improve the way transportation connects people to jobs, school, housing, and community resources?
  • Traffic Management and Congestion: how can we better understand and reduce traffic, congestion, and emissions?

A trove of data is out there, free for public use, and our challenge website can get you pointed in the right direction. All it takes now is a little creativity and ingenuity on your part. So, if you can think up an idea or two for web-based tools, data visualizations, mobile apps, or other innovative technologies to address these categories, this challenge is for you.

Even if you don't know how to build an app, you probably know what works for you. If you share your favorite transportation apps with us, then others will be able to learn about them as well. All you have to do is add a comment to this blog post, write on our Facebook wall using #dotdatachallenge, or send a tweet with that hashtag.

Collage of several travel apps

And since spring break is coming up, and many college students, younger students, and their parents will be traveling soon, let's start by hitting us with your favorite travel apps. Next month, we'll follow up with a different category.

Learn more about the challenge at www.transportation.gov/datachallenge today! And don't forget to share your favorite travel apps with us by commenting below or using social media with the #dotdatachallenge hashtag.

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Two apps ideas that would benefit the mobility of people with disabilities: 1. An app that takes One-Click, One-Call center concept to a higher level by dynamically dispatching coordinated transit, human service and private sector vehicles to provide a new generation of responsive, efficient, and more cost-effective paratransit, and 2. A tool that enables a person with mobility challenges to find accessible pathways of travel around their city. Linking with municipal data about sidewalks, perhaps crowdsourced data about construction, or other disruptions to the built environment, that would let a person identify a path of travel that is accessible given their unique needs (identifying max slope, distance issues, barriers in the path, etc.)

An app that compares different modes of travel, be it auto, bus, train, or whatever, and computes cost (including gas and tolls or fares) and time to travel between two points in real time, taking into account time of day, traffic, and weather conditions.

A brighter paint for the directive lines on the asphalt, which remains for a longer period of time.

-Google Maps is very useful for providing directions by car, walking, public transit, and even bicycling no matter what city you in globally. -"Waze" is a very useful gps navigation app that provides users with driving directions that are updated throughout the route and offers alternative routes should there be congestion or an accident reported ahead. Waze also provides warnings of other driving hazards in the area to keep drivers alert. It should be noted that Waze should give more forewarning that the app shouldn't be operated while in motion. -For public transit I have found that each local city has a good app with up to date schedules of all their services. I personally use the "Embark BOS" app for updated MBTA sheduling in Boston as well as the "MBTA" app itself which allows for the mobile purchase of commuter rail tickets. In Philadelphia I use the "SEPTA" app for updated regional rail scheduling. It even provides up to the minute info on where a train is located for train station pickup duty purposes. I believe there should be an initiative to create a user friendly way for passengers to buy mobile subway and bus fares to expedite the ticket purchase process. Some type of code conformation that allows a pin be entered at a subway gate or a cell signal could be used. This would be especially beneficial in places like Philadelphia where single fares still require tokens to be purchased. -Many airlines have their own mobile application for smartphone and some, like Jet Blue, allow for mobile flight check in. Some Jet Blue flights even have mobile ticketing where a TSA agent simply scans a passengers phone instead of an ordinary paper ticket. Encouraging mobile ticketing could speed lines up at the airport and save paper printed by passengers at home or airline ticketing stations. -The "Uber" and "Lyft" applications offer a taxi cab alternatives in large cities. Users can look up which cars in service are nearby and order to be picked up. Both these services tend to be cheaper than city cabs and frequently offer users coupons and deals unlike cabs. -For members who use the car sharing service Zipcar there is an app available to Zip riders that allows them to make reservations through their smartphone and points out the available zipcars that are closeby. These are some of the useful transportation applications I have come across living in the city of Boston and used while in my hometown of Philadelphia.

Favorite travel app? TrailLink.com, a project of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. The desktop version features a searchable data base providing access to interactive maps of 25,000 miles of walking and biking trails. The site was frequented by five million unique visitors in 2013, demonstrating high public demand for tools to find safe places to walk and bike. A mobile app for iPhone was recently released that permits users to take the information with them on the trail.

A favorite travel app. TeleNav GPS Navigator, is excellent.
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