Why do we need a transportation data repository?

In their mission to achieve accessibility through mobility, public transportation agencies and private service providers face a collective action problem. The rational coordination of services amongst metropolitan transportation agencies and private firms, such as Uber and Lyft, can lower cost and increase the reliability and convenience of the transport of people and cargo by making the most of existing multi-modal infrastructure and dramatically reducing the need to drive alone or to own a car.  To realize this vision, however, agencies and firms must share data with one another, and that data must be integrated in a manner that respects a complex network of data use agreements.

Public and private transportation service providers acquire and manage large quantities of data, some as real-time data streams. Despite the myriad benefits to congestion, parking, transit ridership, and planning and management that arise from sharing data, the data remain isolated within individual transportation providers’ information systems.  For metropolitan areas around the globe, barriers to data sharing include:

·       The need for policies to govern data sharing, ownership, access, security, and privacy;

·       A shortfall of capacity (both human and computational) in the public sector for data analytics, visualization, privacy, and cybersecurity;

·       Interoperability challenges between information systems, including schema, format, and structure;

·       The potential for non-uniform coverage and biases in individual datasets that can lead to misinterpretation or misuse of shared results; and

·       Laws and regulations which place transportation data at risk of disclosure to any interested party.

These barriers create a strategic problem for every city around the world. While the public benefits are obvious, the private cost to any one of these organizations appears insurmountable. Individually, they lack the institutions, domain knowledge, wherewithal, and trust necessary to share their data and deliver solutions.