The San Francisco-based data company will build out its products and features to accommodate fast-changing transportation dynamics, as cities and DOTs deal with uncertain schedules and funding.
The data analytics company StreetLight Data has announced $15 million in new funding, which it will use to continue building out its mobility data platform at a time when a global pandemic has made mass transit and citizen movements difficult to predict.
According to a news release today, the lead investors were the Australian investment banking firm Macquarie Capital and the industrial-focused Activate Capital, along with prior investors Osage University Partners and Ajax Investment Strategies.
StreetLight Vice President of Marketing Martin Morzynski told Government Technology that the new funding will go toward building out StreetLight’s products and features, which expanded in October 2019 to include the measurement of bike and pedestrian travel patterns. Morzynski said several factors have made the need for mobility data — measuring where people are going, so departments of transportation and other public agencies can plan accordingly — increasingly urgent in the past three to five years. Before COVID-19, he said, StreetLight saw accelerated congestion in urban areas, a lack of adequate funding for new infrastructure, and the popularization of Uber, Lyft, bike-sharing and other mobility options that affected people’s commute routes and schedules.
It was a confluence of variables that gave mobility platforms such as StreetLight InSight their value proposition. And since COVID-19 dramatically cut traffic in April, traffic patterns haven’t been the same since, Morzynski said, making the future hard to predict — and up-to-date mobility data more valuable.
“With COVID, you have people working remotely, fewer people working, with DOTs having to conserve cash to meet tightening budgets … and you have significant mode-switching, where people are not taking mobile transportation and instead are looking to bicycles and buying more cars,” he said. “All the stuff that’s happening already is putting strain on this notion that we need to be informed sufficiently to spend money to support these changing patterns. With COVID … we think that moving forward, it’s difficult for anybody to predict how fast people get back to transit, for example; and to what extent limited schedules for the New York City subway and San Francisco’s BART system will come back to normal. Because you can’t predict it, you have to measure it.”
Morzynski added that, while COVID-19 has made some people averse to mass transit, health care workers and other essential employees still count on it.
“The thing that’s even more counterintuitive is that (mass transit use) is going up in some places and going down in other places, and the only way to get at that is to have granular data,” he said. “Otherwise you’re only working with averages.”
With new funding, the kinds of citizen movements that StreetLight measures will continue to evolve with trends. Where the company used to focus on commercial and private vehicle data, Morzynski said, the new availability of multimodal data — bikes, pedestrians, ride-hailing — has brought DOTs closer to seeing movements of citizens across an entire city. Another trend has been the growing availability of metrics other than volume that are critical to the transportation industry but difficult to calculate, such as origin destination or number of mode switches. Morzynski said StreetLight’s handle on those things is why the company has seen, in his words, “so much success over the last 12 months as we’ve been focused on multimodal measurement.”
According to the news release, StreetLight’s algorithms have processed more than 4 trillion spatial data points to date and power more than 6,000 projects per month worldwide.
Looking for the latest gov tech news as it happens? Subscribe to GT newsletters.