Why do we need a transportation data repository?

Transportation service providers from the public and private sector such as Sound Transit, Seattle Department of Transportation, King County Metro, Uber, and Lyft possess large quantities of data, some as real-time data flows. If these data were stored and shared more widely within and across organizations in the transportation sector, the resulting analytics could be used to improve congestion, parking, public transit ridership, and other traffic planning and management conditions in Seattle and the greater Puget Sound region. Despite the expected benefits, much of the data are currently isolated within local transportation providers’ information systems. Other barriers to data sharing include:

  • The need for policies within and between agencies to govern data sharing, ownership, access, security, and privacy;

  • The Washington State Public Records Act (PRA), which places data, such as the unique traces of persons through space and time, at risk of disclosure to any interested party;

  • A shortfall of technical capacity in the public sector to address data analytics, visualization, privacy, and cybersecurity;

  • Interoperability challenges between existing information systems;

  • The potential for non-uniform coverage and other biases in individual datasets to lead to misinterpretation of shared results.

The University of Washington's (UW) Urban Infrastructure Lab, Washington State Transportation Center (TRAC),  Urbanalytics, Information School Data Lab, and the Technology are partnering with the Civic Engagement Group at Microsoft to address these challenges in the form of a Transportation Data Collaborative.