Transit tracker app watches where you step Transit app currently watches over 200 Downtown residents: Final report late in 2015

Eric Morse –

In late 2013, Waterfront Toronto launched an on-line survey conducted by University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute (UTTRI) of how residents of Downtown travel within the core. However it is uncertain whether the results of the survey will become public, at least in the near future.

One of the aims of the project is to gather data on short trips by all modes of transportation (walk, bike, TTC, drive) within the Downtown core. According to UTTRI, the research project “aims to [build] individual activity-travel diaries over a multi-week period (4-to-6 weeks). The longest duration travel diary currently available for Toronto is one week, which is not adequate to observe the dynamic processes in individuals’ travel patterns under different circumstances.”

Waterfront Toronto’s over-arching objective, according to project manager Anna Palamarchuk, is to incorporate the data into their carbon tool analytic project “to improve the waterfront transportation model and reduce the city’s carbon footprint.” Their website notes that the use of the carbon tool in planning the West Donlands urban environment has “[reduced] carbon emissions by 29% because of the sustainability policies we have implemented such as requiring energy efficient buildings. We also learned that energy and transportation have the largest carbon impact, so now we know where to focus our carbon reduction efforts.”
Publicized through the south Downtown neighbourhood associations in early December, the survey is being conducted via two iPhone and Android apps (Toronto.Datamobile on iPhone, and UofT-WT Travel Survey on Android) developed by UTTRI. It launched on Nov. 28, and until Dec. 21 there were $100 prize draws for people who participated (a total of $1600 in prizes was given away).

On installation, the app asks a few questions about where you live, what your household income is, and what your main means of getting around town is. It then tracks your movements via Google Maps geolocation, and sends you occasional messages asking if you really made a recorded trip from X to Y (it’s not infallible, and neither in a dense urban area is Google Maps), what mode of transport you used, and what the purpose of the trip was (heading to work, heading home, pleasure, medical etc.)

UTTRI project coordinator Chris Harding noted that ‘the research team is still cleaning the data at the moment, so there are no concrete “results” to discuss as of yet (in the sense of an update to the carbon tool)”, but the apps will be re-launched in spring 2015, with the possibility of a final report to be submitted to Waterfront Toronto.

Harding commented that once incomplete results were discarded, the December round of the survey was used by 220 people and produced more than 4200 person days of usable travel data.

“We’re finding that the data collected is a big improvement over the traditional land-line-based household survey,” said Harding. “An earlier survey conducted on those lines suggested that a neighbourhood planned along the lines of the West Don Lands might expect an energy saving of about 4% from redesigned transportation, which might lead one to question whether the redesign was worth it. The new method of data-collection by apps gives more insight into alternative modes of transport like walking or cycling and suggests that the energy saving could be a good deal greater.”

Waterfront Toronto told The Bulletin that they will not be publishing hard data from the survey, but will publish a final report documenting project work and findings, probably in the last six months of 2015.

The survey continues. There are no more prizes, but you can still download the app and participate in the survey by looking up Toronto.

Datamobile at the Apple Store or UofT-WT Travel Survey on Google Play. The University of Toronto team’s website is http://www.torontoinmotion.org.

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