Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How Technology Transforms Planning

Tech is transforming everything, and urban planning hasn’t been overlooked.

Uber recently offered to share its private trip data starting with the city of Boston, and this, as well as other private data, has some big implications for traffic planning. Private car data can be lifted from phones, taxis, sensors, and cameras. It can elucidate real-time traffic patterns and has the potential to help planners drastically improve street networks and remedy traffic congestion. It does have some downsides however with the data coming from certain demographics and geography limitations. 

Tech has also introduced some really useful tools that have the potential to make planning far more efficient, simple, and transparent. Transitmix was created as a fantasy bus route tool, where users could create bus routes, see their costs, plan their stops, and even overlay Census data such as income. It soon became apparent that a tool like this could be invaluable to professionals--it’s almost difficult to imagine that transit planners went so long without a specialized tool to quickly map out transit possibilities.

Social media opens up a channel of communication between transit agencies and their constituencies. In December, New Jersey Transit decided to take a much more proactive stance to their Facebook and Twitter pages, and it’s allowed them gauge rider opinions as well as provide updates to users. Social media is also being used as a means of promoting California’s extensive but struggling state park system. A new app, called CaliParks, pulls images from Instagram and Flickr to allow users to get a dynamic and appealing view of over 12,000 green spaces in California.

Technology has proved to be a disruptive force in planning, and many of the innovations it brings forth forces us to upgrade some of our archaic and inefficient practices, as well as rethink some of the incorrect perceptions we based our planning decisions on.

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