Launching OpenTraffic

By Kevin Webb 08 Jun 2015

At Conveyal, all of our work is built on open data. With the growth of GTFS and OpenStreetMap, we’re now able to build sophisticated, multi-modal models for transportation networks all over the world, all using freely available data.

However, traffic speed data remains conspicuously absent from the catalog of open transportation data sets. This is a critical missing link, as many routing and analysis applications depend on knowing both current and average travel speeds.

Today, traffic data is both expensive and fragmented. Where available for purchase from commercial providers, this data can be cost prohibitive and may not be compatible with specific basemap data sets. More importantly, in much of the world traffic data isn’t available at all given a lack local data sources or limited commercial potential in rural areas.

This lack of data is holding back innovation and limiting our potential to better utilize and improve transportation networks. To address this problem, we are forming OpenTraffic, a collaboration with our colleagues at the World Bank, Mapzen and Mapbox to process and aggregate a global, freely available traffic speed data linked to OpenStreetMap.

OpenTraffic allows anyone with GPS location data to generate and share anonymized traffic statistics. The project is building a suite of open source tools that process and distribute traffic data, and data exchange formats that can be linked to OpenStreetMap, or any other basemap.

With the support of the World Bank, we have adapted OpenTripPlanner to consume traffic statistics to support travel time estimation based on actual roadway conditions and are developing analysis and visualization interfaces for use by government and traffic management organization.

The project is now in a pilot phase and will be launching this summer with historical and real-time data traffic data generated from connected vehicle fleets in cities around the globe. If you’re interested in how you can contribute to or utilize data from OpenTraffic, drop us a line!

A bit of history

At Conveyal, the inspiration for the global OpenTraffic effort began in 2011 as a World Bank-sponsored collaboration with the Cebu City Government in the Philippines to develop open source tools for traffic monitoring. The project, led by Holly Krambeck and the CITOM team in Cebu City, utilized a network of inexpensive Android phones deployed in taxis.

The project successfully demonstrated the potential for creating traffic data using GPS location data from mobile devices. However, the cost of purchasing and maintaining of task-specific Android devices limited this to a pilot project. Getting the devices into the field and keeping them connected to the mobile device network took an enormous effort by the CITOM staff and our project implementation partners at ITP Ltd.

Since 2011, we’ve seen growth both in the number of GPS-enabled smartphones in use around the world, and an explosion of location-based services that are collecting GPS data in real-time. OpenTraffic builds on this rapidly evolving data landscape, connecting new and existing sources of GPS trace data with open source software and shared storage architecture for producing traffic statistics.