The Louisville Metro Government has taken lessons learned from a Waze partnership and built an open source tool that other local governments can use to spot traffic problems.
Louisville was one of the first cities to share data on road closure and accident info with Waze, so residents who use the app can be easily alerted to changes in their routes and city officials can gain insights into traffic patterns. Now other cities are following the Louisville Metro Government’s lead and working to improve their understanding of local traffic from their data.
Louisville is sharing what it learned from the initial project with Waze with over 60 governments around the world through the Open Government Coalition, a network of government agencies working together on open source projects.
The Louisville open source traffic project has four components: putting the Waze data into a database that can be queried and analyzed, replacing traffic studies with data visualizations, building out an application programming interface to allow integration with existing systems, and allowing cities to create real-time and historic online maps of their data.
Eight cities have already downloaded the city’s code to create a database of traffic data.
“We decided to open source the development of the Waze code because it is very difficult to work with even though Waze gives cities the data,” Louisville Chief Data Officer Michael Schnuerle told GCN. “By working in the open and developing this collaboratively, we’ve been able to develop such a broad range of support from all of these governments that would be interested in the final product.”
The city collaborated with local developer Slingshot to build the open source database and is in the process of moving it into an Amazon Web Services cloud to maximize the speed and functionality and improve its ability to scale.
The Waze collaboration also allows Louisville to share summary information and derivative works with the public.
“We want to create an approved extraction of the data that can be pushed onto the open data site,” Schnuerle said. “I feel that this project can get us the necessary buy in and approval from Waze to share some version of the actual traffic congestion data information with the public.”
Waze data is already helping Louisville to reduce traffic congestion within city limits. In a four-month test completed in February 2017, the city's Department of Public Works and Transportation retimed traffic signals in a busy corridor. In a review of the retiming 14 months later using the Waze data, the department was able to show a 30 percent reduction in congestion, Edward Blayney, innovation project manager in the Louisville Office of Performance Improvement and Innovation, said.
Blayney is now working with the department on a systemwide analysis to find other opportunities to reduce traffic congestion. The Waze data is also helping the city to develop a system that will send emails directly to the department when traffic signals go down.
The Waze database is the first step in a larger initiative to change how Louisville manages its data operations.
“Transportation is the baseball of the smart city data revolution,” Blayney said, meaning it is the early adopter in showing how advanced analytics can inform strategy. “There is already tons of private activity and data available so we want to figure out how configure these complex datasets … to better configure our city.”
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