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Sidewalk Labs' transit platform offers APIs for parking, tolls data

As data from transportation infrastructure --  think toll booths, ride-hailing services and traffic sensors --  explodes, it's becoming increasingly difficult to integrate that data with traditional transportation rules governing street use and parking. Bridging that gap will be essential for the real-time information sharing required for next-generation transportation services.

Sidewalk Labs has stepped in to make that connection with Coord, a cloud-based platform that integrates and aggregates data from curb signage, parking lots and toll gates, then provides standardized application programming interfaces for transportation data.

Coord aims to serve as "the coordination layer for new mobility services, navigation tools, and urban infrastructure," Coord CEO Stephen Smyth said in a Medium post.

Coord grew out of Sidewalk Labs' Flow, a platform the company designed with the Department of Transportation and its seven Smart City finalists. It was developed to offer "unprecedented city-wide transportation analytics to help cities understand congestion and identify areas underserved by transit, using aggregated, anonymized data from billions of miles of trips," DOT said at the time.

The service launched with a handful of APIs:

The curb search API provides read-only data on what kind of activity is permitted on a specific curb, what vehicle types are associated with that curb and at what times those rules apply.  With that information, app developers can find the rules for all of the curbs nearby and return their rules by the time of day and day of the week. The API can also return data on all the places that it is possible to perform a given action, so developers, for example, can find all the loading zones in a particular area or identify everywhere there is two-hour parking.

The tollways read-only API delivers data about toll roads, so developers can calculate the cost of any route given an origin, destination and departure time. Developers can also get the full payment details of all toll locations in an area as well as the payment details of a single toll location. Besides the location and basic toll, the API also takes into consideration factors like vehicle type, occupancy and payment method.

The parking search API is still in beta, but it too is a read-only service, which answers questions about where and when a person can park in lots and garages.  Developers can get all locations within a given area where parking is allowed, the rules and pricing information for those lots and -- if live data is available --  the likelihood of finding empty spaces. It can also return parking details on a specific location.

The users API, meanwhile, allows developers to create a user, attach identifying information to that object, modify the attached information and retrieve the information for later reference.

Coord said it is also building an API for in-app bike share transactions that could also be used when incorporating biking in a multi-modal trip.

The curb-related data Coord uses to populate the platform comes from an internal app it developed called Surveyor that uses images and augmented reality to digitize and record data about curb space – the signs, street markings and parking meters --  in much less time than it would take using traditional methods, the company said. It has conducted surveys with the app in parts of New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.

Toll data has been aggregated and standardized from various tolling agencies. Coord is launching with updated prices for 85 percent of all U.S. tollways, the company said.

The Coord data and APIs are standardized so they can be widely used by mobility companies, fleet operators and autonomous vehicle developers. But the detailed digital street inventory has a number of benefits to cities as well, according to a Medium post by Willa Ng, Sidewalk Labs mobility lead.

It can help with coordinating street closures and maintenance and help cities fairly allocate street space among public transit vehicles, delivery trucks and resident parking. Real-time data about asset conditions and travel volumes can help prioritize capital investments.

Developers can get free access to Coord's API Sandbox, where they can experiment with a live test environment containing real tolls and street regulations in Seattle.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA from West Chester University and an MA in English from the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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