The civic tech group has already applied the model to Boston, but it is working now to build a system that can help make traffic safer across the country.
Data for Democracy, a community of volunteer technologists that create data-driven projects aimed at improving society, plans to expand an analytics model that helped Boston manage crash risks on its roads to other cities.
Dubbed the Insight Lane (formerly Boston Crash Modeling), the project is designed to standardize a city’s traffic- and crash-related data, as well as to generate traffic incident predictions. It also has the capacity to display data and predictions through a Web visualization tool. While this platform was first built specifically for Boston, technologists belonging to the group are now expanding it to include the capacity to work with any city that collects the data it needs to run.
Ben Batorsky, who now works as a data scientist for a marketing company but was previously part of Boston’s local government data analytics team, worked on the development of the crash model, and said the decision to expand it nationwide came after examining efforts to reduce traffic incidents elsewhere.
“We realized there were a bunch of different cities with a need for this,” Batorsky said, “and we were generally interested in looking at a bunch of different cities’ data.”
There are, essentially, two primary goals for the Insight Lane project: the first is to provide a view for areas on the road that are at a high risk for accidents; and the second is to create some useful insights into what’s causing those risks, said Jenny Turner-Trauring, a member of Data for Democracy. Her background in software engineering and graduate degree in natural language processing lends a unique and vital skill set for the work. A third long-term component of the project involves assessing the impact of proposed or past interventions in risky areas.
Part of team’s work in Boston involved building a way for drivers to report the places they were most concerned about crashing. In Boston, they did this through the city’s Vision Zero portal.
“We found that even the existence of a concern was indicative of a crash risk, and the existence of several concerns at a location was indicative of more risk of a crash,” Turner-Trauring said.
Although nothing has been formalized, Data for Democracy has discussed officially bringing the Insight Lane platform to several cities, including Louisville, Ky., Washington, D.C., and others. In fact, the group has already performed work to expand its program, detailing its efforts in a recent medium post. Working with open data, they added two pilot cities to their extant Boston work, with those being Washington, D.C., and Cambridge, Mass.
To accommodate the new cities and remove logistical barriers that come with using city-supplied maps, Data for Democracy is now using OpenStreetMap, which is free and open-sourced. They are also already working to collect the resident input that proved so useful in Boston via Washington, D.C.’s own Vision Zero portal.
Members of Data for Democracy said they plan to continue the work for the foreseeable future, and they encourage anyone interested in contributing to reach out, be they members of local governments, community advocates or volunteer technologists.
Data for Democracy has a contact page set up on its website.
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