Open Traffic

Open Traffic is a new initiative to make GPS traffic data open and available to the public and others, by linking it with OpenStreetMap. It is organized by Conveyal, MapBox, and MapZen with support from the World Bank. The Code is of course open source as well.

OpenTraffic is a free, global traffic speed data set linked to OpenStreetMap built with open source software.

Traffic speed data is a critical input to many transportation related applications. Fortunately many users who need speed data also produce the inputs necessary to create annonmyized traffic statistics.

OpenTraffic provides the space and tools to share traffic statistics from connected vehicles and mobile services. We support the development of analysis and routing tools that enable cities, businesses, and individuals to make use of this data.

How it Works

OpenTraffic connects anyone with real-time or archived GPS location data to processing technology, data storage, and routing and analysis applications.

Location data privacy is paramount. We allow contributors to share anonymized traffic speed statistcs from derived GPS data without disclosing individuals’ location information. In return, data contributors help build a global traffic speed data set that can be used in routing and analysis applications.

The OpenTraffic platform is comprised of several components to make it easy to share and use traffic data:

GPS Probes

GPS probe data can be generated from a variety of sources, including mobile applications or fixed GPS hardware. GPS data can be processed in real-time or archived and transmitted for batch analysis. The OpenTraffic platform has a variety of open source tools to help you load your GPS data from existing sources or connect to Amazon AWS Kinesis streams to manage real-time flows of any size.

Traffic Engine

GPS data is linked to the OpenStreetMap network via Traffic Engine. Data is converted from GPS locations to roadway speed observations and anonymized before being aggregated. As open source software, you control where Traffic Engine is deployed, allowing full control over GPS trace data. Simply install Traffic Engine and load your GPS data to start generating traffic data.

Data Pool

Once anonymized, traffic statistics are added to the global OpenTraffic data pool. By pooling data many different data sources are merged together to provide a seamless global data set, free for use by any application.

Get Involved

We are working with vehicle fleet operators, app developers, and governments to develop and operate the OpenTraffic platform. Learn how you can contribute and benefit: Contact Us

Simulating Cities with OpenStreetMap and OpenTripPlanner Analyst

From State of the Map 2014, a Video by Kevin Webb of Conveyal

In this session I will discuss transport accessibility modeling using OpenStreetMap and OpenTripPlanner Analyst.

Accessibility analysis techniques are one of a suite of tools used by transport planners to understand the efficiency of a city authority’s transportation system, and to inform decision-making about transport service planning.

The goal of the OTPA project is to produce quantitative indicators that inform debate and decision-making processes by revealing hidden dimensions of the relationship between transportation and land use.

We are using and extending OTP as part of the Accessibility Observatory.

Racial Dot Map

Cross-posted at Racial Dot Map . Every person is a dot.

Racial Dot Map


The Racial Dot Map shows at the level of one dot per person the racial makeup of every census block in the US. This map was created by Dustin Cable of the Cooper Center.  Below is a zoom on Minneapolis.

Cable writes:

“While Minneapolis and St. Paul may appear purple and racially integrated when zoomed out at the state level, a closer look reveals a greater degree of segregation between different neighborhoods in both cities. While some areas remain relatively integrated, there are clear delineations between Asian, black, and white neighborhoods.”



Dustin Cable's Racial Dot Map

Twittering Twin Citizens |

Cross-posted from Twittering Twin Citizens

Twittering Twin Citizens

A map of where Twin Citizens use Twitter to tweet by mobile telephone. Lots of amateur sociology can make hay of the red/green split. Click on the image for the interactive map.

Twitter Use by Mobile Phone platform, for Twin Cities region

Time Evolution of Twin Cities

Google Earth Engine lets you see the evolution of Landsat photos.
We did this for the Twin Cities. Go here:
Timelapse of Minneapolis – Saint Paul
Andrew notes:

I think the most amazing thing is seeing the path of the Minneapolis tornado appear in 2011

Cross-posted at Streets.MN

Forcing a round object into a square map

The earth is approximately a sphere, yet we try to force this round object into a square grid through the use of latitude and longitude and Ordinance Surveys. Why?
The rationale for use of grids depends on scale. We have naturally come to think of the earth rotating on an axis with a prime meridian reflecting that access on the surface, intersecting the axis at the north and south poles, complemented by an equator belting it. The equator has a natural physical meaning, but the prime meridian is arbitrary. Greenwich, England is no more the start of time than any other place. But longitude, if not latitude is arbitrary. The idea of longitude lines running north-south does have convenience in that it tends to align with the magnetic poles, and benefitting navigation.


Geodesic domes, developed by Buckminster Fuller (who did not invent soccer, but whose name was given to the Fullerene) enclose spherical areas with a mesh of triangles, forming many hexagons and 12 pentagons.
We could remap the earth using geodesic principles. Fuller did this with his Dymaxion Map. The triangular cut marks do not align with latitude and longitude. However, one should be able to align the triangles with either latitude (the equator) or longitude (a prime meridian), though that might cut land masses, which dilutes the political point Fuller was trying to make.

There are many ways to skin the earth, and stretch it out like a tanner stretches leather. The way we present this 3D object in 2D affects how we perceive it. We expect (in western countries) north to be up, and are disoriented when maps are presented otherwise. Yet we don’t expect our environment to clue us in very often, we don’t typically see compass marks in the pavement to show us which direction is north, to help us reorient (meaning turn to the east, oddly we never reoccident and turn to the west).
The map is the user interface to the environment, and we need to give it more consideration. We should also better embed navigation clues into our environment. Some cities post wayfinding systems around, especially near transit stops. Even (especially?) in the age of the almost ubiquitous smart phone, this still seems wise, so people can keep their eyes looking ahead, focused on the real environment, rather than face down in a phone, or staring into an imaginary distance with glasses.

Going Underground

Prior to the advent of the steam railway, London was a metropolis of just over 1 million people. It was well Figure_c8-f3bFigure_c8-f3cFigure_c8-f3dserved by both canals and turnpikes connecting to other parts of Great Britain. Internally, there were omnibus services. The London & Greenwich Railway was the first of many railways to reach London, with the first section opening in 1836 and being completed in 1838, making it possible to reach Greenwich in twelve minutes instead of the hour required by horse-drawn omnibus or steamboat. Famously built on a viaduct, the route was initially paralleled by a tree-lined boulevard that operated as a toll road, serving those unwilling to pay rail fares. However, the toll road was disbanded when the viaduct was widened to enable more frequent services to the densely populated urban core, ultimately growing from two tracks to eleven.
Soon many other railways sought to connect to London. To avoid disruption in the core, a Royal Commission on Railway Termini, appointed in 1846, drew a box around central London and decreed no line shall enter the cordon. [This box resembles the congestion charging zone adopted in the early 21st century, which aimed to reduce cars, rather than prohibit trains]. The result was railway terminals locating on the edges of the central region. London, like many cities, has no unified railway station, as the North, South, East, and West lines have no common intersection. The problem is worse though in London, as even lines from the north run by different organizations would be build adjacent (St. Pancras/ Kings Cross), or nearly adjacent (Euston), stations without convenient interchange. Later (between 1858-60) some penetrations of the box were permitted by Parliament, but most of the City of London (the original walled city where the financial district still lies) remained untouched. While preventing railways from severing the most densely populated part of the city, which would have been expensive for both the railways and the city, it created a need for a connection between the termini to allow transfers. The Metropolitan Railway, a private concern like all railways of the era but with some support from the Corporation of the City of London, was approved by Parliament in 1854. It aimed to connect the northern termini (Paddington, Euston, St. Pancras, King’s Cross, and Farringdon, which was later added to the plan) to ease movement for through travelers.
The trends in the City of London were quite different from the rest of London. The City of London has seen a long trend of depopulation from 1851 (prior to the first Underground line) and for many years saw increasing employment, lending support to the notion that the railways, especially the Underground, enabled decentralization of residences and concentration of employment.
The Metropolitan Railway opened in January 1863, and was extremely successful. Clearly the market was much larger than inter-line transfers. The firm paid dividends throughout its life. Accounting in the early years of the Metropolitan Railway, especially prior to the Regulation of Railways Act of 1868, was a bit dodgy, and dividends were reportedly paid out of capital. To quote Jackson (1986) p. 38, describing the era of 1865, “It was . . . a house of cards, a precarious game in which the level of dividend was kept up at all costs, by finding money from somewhere, with no regard to sound accounting or financial rectitude.”. Emulation is the proof of success. Many new railway lines were proposed, the 219 London-area railway bills brought before Parliament during the period 1860-1869 totaled 1420 km (882 miles).
Some of those lines were proposed prior to the opening of the Metropolitan, indicating the smell of success was in the air, though the peak years were between 1863 and 1866, following closely on the heels of the Metropolitan’s opening. The most important of these was the Metropolitan District Railway (later called the District line), which ran just north of the River Thames, but south of the Metropolitan, connecting a number of the southern railway termini (Victoria, Charing Cross, Blackfriars, Cannon Street). Proposals for what became the Circle Line service linking the Metropolitan and District (roughly inscribing the box described above) were quickly proposed, but the two lines were not connected on both ends until 1884. Both the Metropolitan and District lines were constructed using cut and cover techniques. Later lines, from the City and South London Railway (first section opened in 1890) onwards, generally used deep-level tunneling techniques to avoid disruption of city streets, existing railway lines, and public utilities when they needed to be below grade. Outside the Circle Line however, the railways could emerge above ground and competed fiercely in some markets, while operating unfettered in others, to provide suburban services. In some cases this involved building new lines, in others it involved acquiring running rights on (or ownership of) existing lines. The development of suburbs was a way to develop traffic for lines that in the city, though profitable, were operating below maximum capacity, and thus maximum profitability.
Adapted from

Also see:

Comprehensive LRT System Plan for Hennepin County


From the archives, we see that proposals for LRT in Hennepin County are not new, This 1988 document (PDF) has maps of the  Comprehensive LRT System Plan for Hennepin County

. The debate about the location of the Southwest and Northwest corridors as they approach downtown remains alive. [This mostly about whether to speed the commute of suburbanites or serve the needs of local Minneapolis residents.] The South corridor has become Freeway BRT. The priorities of which gets done first and second have changed, but the main part of the corridors are unchanged. Of course only a the Hiawatha line was done within the 20 year life of the plan. Some more discussion at City Pages.
I am still looking for a digital version of 1970s “Regional Fixed Guideway Study” proposing a 37 mile transit system for Twin Cities. Anyone have scan/map?
(Other cool documents here). Also AJ Froggie’s site.

How memory load leaves us ‘blind’ to new visual information


KurzweilAI: How memory load leaves us ‘blind’ to new visual information

“Professor Nilli Lavie from UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, who led the study, explains: ‘An example of where this is relevant in the real world is when people are following directions on a sat nav [GPS receiver] while driving.
‘Our research would suggest that focusing on remembering the directions we’ve just seen on the screen means that we’re more likely to fail to observe other hazards around us on the road, for example an approaching motorbike or a pedestrian on a crossing, even though we may be ‘looking’ at where we’re going.’”