Location Data Could Unlock a Less Car-Centric Future

A report from the Brookings Institution shows how planners can use new types of anonymized data to inform mobility planning decisions.

2 minute read

October 22, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery

Mobile Phones

tommaso79 / Shutterstock

A recently published Brookings Institution report, titled "Connecting people and places: Exploring new measures of travel behavior," uses data derived from geolocation sources to analyze information about patterns of travel in six U.S. metropolitan areas.  

Thanks to such sources as cell phone data and shared bike platforms, planners now have access to data that could be used to shed light on mobility, reports Bill Lucia. The researchers responsible for the Brookings report assert that the use of this data in planning practice is not only beneficial on the individual level, but also to society at large. 

Lucia writes:

The ideas raised in the report tie back to longstanding, and sometimes contentious, policy issues in areas like housing affordability, racial and income inequality, transit, and the legacy of how America has built and reworked cities and suburbs over decades of time.

But the way the researchers tap into the geolocation data to provide a foundation for their analysis underscores how state and local agencies might use this type of information in similar ways to inform policy decisions and discussions surrounding these issues. 

The data used in the report was collected and anonymized by the company Replica. Researchers at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program fellow Adie Tomer is quoted in the article saying that the research reveals the power of location data to inform new choices for mobility planning.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020 in Route Fifty

Chicago Intercity Rail

Amtrak Ramping Up Infrastructure Projects

Thanks to federal funding from the 2021 infrastructure act, the agency plans to triple its investment in infrastructure improvements and new routes in the next two years.

September 25, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

View of Interstate 205 bridge over Columbia River with Mt. Hood in background.

The Unceremonious Death of a Freeway Expansion Project

The end of an Oregon freeway project didn't get much fanfare, but the victory is worth celebrating.

September 19, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

Google maps street view of San Francisco alleyway.

Ending Downtown San Francisco’s ‘Doom Loop’

A new public space project offers an ambitious vision—so why is the city implementing it at such a small scale?

September 26, 2023 - Fast Company

Aerial view of coastal development and bright blue ocean in Kaua'i, Hawai'i.

Kaua’i County Uses Long-Range Models to Mandate Resiliency Standards

The county requires builders to assess potential flood risks using models that account for sea level rise projected as far out as 2100.

3 hours ago - Smart Cities Dive

Semi truck driving down freeway with twilight sky in background.

California Governor Vetoes Autonomous Truck Ban

Gov. Newsom called the new law unnecessary, citing existing efforts by state regulators to develop new rules around autonomous trucking.

4 hours ago - Wired

Roadside motel with turquoise room doors in Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Low-Barrier Motel Shelter Is a Success—But Not an Easy One

Many guests at Motels4Now are on their second or third stays—but staff say that's doesn't equal failure, and the numbers bear that out.

5 hours ago - Shelterforce Magazine

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.