Uber is about to make some cities very happy. (Or at least happier.) The ride-hailing company has begun sharing tranportation data through a website called Uber Movement.
The data, which is aggregated and anonymized, displays travel times between standard analysis units within cities, such a census tracts and traffic analysis zone. The initial list of cities includes Sydney, Manila, Washington (DC), and Boston (MA); Uber expects to add statistics for dozens more. And while Movement can help planners visualize traffic congestion, the website does not show passenger volumes or origin-destination information.
Why is Uber doing this? “Over the past six and a half years, we’ve learned a lot about the future of urban mobility and what it means for cities and the people who live in them,” Uber writes on the Movement website. “We’ve gotten consistent feedback from cities we partner with that access to our aggregated data will inform decisions about how to adapt existing infrastructure and invest in future solutions to make our cities more efficient. We hope Uber Movement can play a role in helping cities grow in a way that works for everyone.”
Others are a little more cynical about the motivation, suggesting that sharing data could help Uber build goodwill in some of the cities where the relationship between the ride-hailing giant and urban officials has been prickly. The Washington Post reminds readers that Uber is currently battling the eforts of New York City officials to collect drop-off times and locations from its drivers.
The National Association of City Transportation Officials also expressed concerns. “One of the things that has been frustrating to cities is that they see this as a service that’s making use of public right of way, public facilities, and isn’t necessarily giving back on just basic openness,” said Linda Bailey, NACTO executive director. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but there’s still a ways to go for cities to feel like they’re getting more than basic information.”
To help cities, NACTO just released a set of data-sharing principles to help cities work with transportation network companies. “Without data, cities are driving blind,” said Janette Sadik-Khan, NACTO chair and transportation principal at Bloomberg Associates, in a statement. “Governments need new standards and ride companies like Uber need to read the data written on the wall.” Link to full story in The Washington Post.
Image source: Uber