Uber Releases Travel Data to Local Governments

Uber announced Sunday that it will make its traffic data available to local government officials, with plans to eventually make the data accessible to everyone.

The data for more than 2 billion trips will be anonymized, to ensure that no personally identifiable information can be attributed, and made available on the website Uber Movement. In the coming months, this data will be made available to the public.

Uber said that the data could help city officials mitigate situations such as the Washington, D.C., Metrorail SafeTrack program. During SafeTrack, transportation officials shut down portions of the Metro’s tracks in order to repair and rebuild its infrastructure. This led to periodic delays and crowding, which forced many commuters to resort to cars instead of public transportation.

Using Uber Movement data, officials can target specific departure points and arrival points to find average travel times around D.C. during specific times of the day. Uber found that on the first day of SafeTrack, travel times during rush hour from downtown added up to more than 20 minutes to reach Anacostia and more than 33 minutes to reach Chevy Chase and Brookland.

Uber can also compare the data to traffic patterns on an average weekday. When the Metrorail was out of service, travelers experienced about a 10 percent to 30 percent longer commute.

Uber found that the most heavily affected travelers were those driving from Northeast D.C. into Northern Virginia or Prince Georges County (Md.), who experienced a 50 percent increase in their commute.

“We’re excited to be one of the early partners with Uber on this new platform,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “We want to employ as many data sources as possible to mitigate traffic congestion, improve infrastructure, and make our streets safer for every visitor and resident in the nation’s capital.”

During SafeTrack the Federal government paid for employees to use ride-hailing services like Uber to get to and from work. This implies that Uber has access to the travel patterns of potentially high-ranking officials, which makes privacy paramount to the data sharing service.

Uber said that it will not provide information about the drivers and riders using its service, but will only provide travel times between specific points. In places where not enough data to keep people anonymous is collected, the maps will be grayed out.

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