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Boston Gets Green Light for Big Data Projects
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Re: Boston and beyond - NP
  • 7/7/2015 7:18:27 PM
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I too am a bit sceptical about just how soon and how useful the analysis might be in solving most of the urban transport problems. And maybe a bit more so when a commercial outfit provide the data "free." It may very well just be a one-sided benefit or maybe you get what you pay for?

Re: Green lights for Buses
  • 6/19/2015 11:42:29 PM
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..

Broadway writes


The city's central traffic management center taps into local Waze data to help them know when to, it appears literally, change green lights to red lights, and vice versa, depending on traffic flows. For instance, when a public transit bus is approaching a light, technicians in the bunker (traffic centers are in bunkers, no doubt) hold the green light for it. Commute times for the buses have dropped by as much as 20 percent, according to a city spokesman cited in Fortune.


 

And Predictable writes


With the number of buses in Boston, is it even possible that a person could be pushing buttons for them to have green lights? You'd need almost as many button pushers as bus drivers.


 

The basic system for preempting traffic signal cycles to give priority to transit movements (bus or light rail) is automated and has been in deployment worldwide for decades. I'd strongly suspect that's the case in Boston, and the technicians in the bunkers are probably there to tweak the software on occasion as needed and troubleshoot problems rather than to actually push buttons to control the traffic lights. With a large-scale traffic network like Boston's, this would involve a fairly hefty volume of data and clever analytics.

Incidentally, I'm pretty sure traffic signal prioritization is a feature of the "bus rapid transit" system in the Washington St. corridor, which has been operating for about a decade in reserved curbside lanes and is designated as one leg of the Silver Line.

 

Re: Boston and beyond
  • 6/14/2015 4:16:35 PM
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@Seth   Great observation.  I could not agree more.   Instead of thinking of solutions - the problem has been turned into a revenue stream for them.  

 

City government is an ugly beast.

Re: Boston and beyond - NP
  • 6/14/2015 4:08:09 PM
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And lets be honest when we do get funding for these types of projects, the labor employed is not the most enthusiastic of the workforce. 

Taking years to complete projects is unacceptable and I dare say it happens in every city.

Re: Boston and beyond - NP
  • 6/14/2015 4:05:34 PM
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@Broadway   I share your hope, but how many new areas are being created ?   It is more of an issue of upgrading the 1950's infrastructure we have now, which would cause analytics to be used in a reactive sense - i.e.  How do we deal with traffic flow while major retrofitting is being carried out ?  

 

But more to your point, if urban planners do not use a sensible analytical approach to building new communities they should be relieved of their roles quickly.

Re: Boston and beyond - NP
  • 6/12/2015 10:54:35 PM
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Louis, I would hope that urban planners would start to use predictive models to design tomorrow's roads. Knowing how many lanes to build, how many arteries to pass through certain parts of the city, and fighting the corruption and inertia to get these proper roads built, would go a long way to build the cities that we will need,

Re: Boston and beyond
  • 6/11/2015 6:14:45 PM
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I find this interesting becomes some cities have an incenntive to have traffic and parking problems due to all the fines and ticket revenue.  In San Francisco, for example, where parking might as well be illegal, earns $130 million a year from its parking tickets. 

Some people get trapped in fines because they can't pay them right away, getting swamped in fees for being late, fee's for paying on line or via the phone, fee's for automatic payment and on and on.  For some cities fines can be the number one source of revenue. 

Re: Boston and beyond
  • 6/9/2015 10:48:33 PM
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Traffic. Something near and dear to my heart. I really love the idea of using analytics to combat endless jams - but in some major cities it seems the sheer number of cars out pace any model employed.  Though to be fair, I have seen improvement but our roads could be smarter.

Practical Real-time adjustment must be the norm, but is it  ?  Well the last time I had to stop for "phantom traffic" makes me think we still have some distance to go in this area. 

So here is hoping Boston has success with their efforts because those of us in LA could use some help.

Boston and beyond
  • 6/8/2015 12:01:35 PM
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@Matt. While it sounds like the city is doing good things with data, one of the challenges in managing Boston traffic is jurisdictional. The city itself has its share of traffic jams, and some of them are brutal. However, the bulk of the traffic issues involve getting into the city in the morning, getting out at the end of the day, or navigating the metro area without actually going into the city proper. Relatively few Boston workers both live and work within the city. That means that a lot of the problems are in adjoining cities and towns or on state managed roads.

The same types of solutions have to be applied across the whole traffic grid and have some level of central coordination. Otherwise the solutions are piecemeal. It won't be easy, considering that Boston probably is an exception when it comes to big city geographies. The downtown and business districts are relatively small. Then when you extend the view even 10 miles from downtown there probably are 15 other cities and towns that handle some of the boston commute. That isn't something you will find in New York or Dallas.

Plus much of the business sector and the population base actually are outside of the city itself. As with many analytics initiatives there are some significant "silo" problems. Those probably require the state to take more of a lead role in managing traffic at both the big picture and granular levels. However, that also means getting those 15 or so different jurisdictions to advance in lockstep. It's sort of like getting marketing, manufacturing, and distribution all on the same page in the business world. 

You buried the lede
  • 6/6/2015 1:58:05 PM
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Wait a minute! Did you say Google data was actually good for something?

Stop the presses!

;-P

 

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