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.

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.

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