Toronto traffic King and Yonge streets circa 1912
Toronto traffic King and Yonge streets circa 1912

Toronto is looking to hire a data expert to lead a big data team that will be tasked to solve the city’s traffic problems.

The city has also posted a request for information (RFI) for vendors that have proven products for monitoring and measuring travel and traffic in urban environments.Interested vendors will take part in an event on April 14 to April 15 to showcase their technology.

Earlier this week, Mayor John Tory announced that he is creating a big data team. The team is expected to come up with strategies on how to use the flood of data the city collects in a way that will ease traffic congestion along city streets.

“The availability of travel data has improved dramatically over the past few years and is at a point where the city can – and should – be using it to better understand travel patterns, evaluate the city’s investments and monitor performance. With this information, we can get Toronto moving smarter,” said Tory said. “This will be a game changer and will establish Toronto as a leader in running a truly smart city.”

Toronto is Canada’s largest city and the fourth-largest in North American. It has a population of about 8.2 million people. The move to use big data to battle traffic congestion comes at a time when the city is just about a few months away from hosting the 2015 Pan Am Games in July.

The team will be spending the first few months developing a strategy for how the city can and should use travel data to improve travel by all modes. The city is also holding a hackathon in September that will allow people to view the data the city has and perhaps find ways that the information can be used.

“Learning about how we can better use travel data – by all modes – is a huge step forward,” said Councillor Jaye Robinson (Ward 25 Don Valley West), chair of the city’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. ”

The annual traffic congestion index released recently by Dutch global positioning systems (GPS) company, TomTom, ranked Toronto traffic as the second worst in Canada (Vancouver is number one). The same report ranked Toronto ninth internationally.

The team will be spending the first few months developing a strategy for how the Toronto can and should use travel data to improve travel by all modes.

The team will be building on some of the current big data work of Transportation Services, including:

• Partnering with McMaster University to analyze historical travel data on city expressways and streets
• Working with the Toronto Transit Commission to closely analyze surface transit data to identify operational improvements to further improve streetcar service
• Releasing a report from the Cycling Unit of Transportation Services evaluating cycling travel patterns based on data collected from its cycling tracking app — showing the impacts of Cycle Tracks bike lane program
• Developing a Big Travel Data strategy for Transportation Services to determine ways to make this type of information available, and
• Vetting products and services that might be useful in assisting the city in better decision-making and investments.



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