MIT CEE group utilized cell phone traces from 25mil people in 155 cities in France, Portugal, and Spain over 6 months (7+ bil records).
Through this data, González and her team deduced that one-fifth of urban movement is for social purposes.
González is currently working with the metropolitan planning office in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh to help policymakers coordinate a bus system that reflects urban travel patterns. … Building a bus system with stops and frequencies that anticipate how groups of people actually travel will hopefully encourage more passengers to use it.
This summer, González is working in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, upcoming site of the 2016 Olympic Games. The city is trying to coordinate traffic routes, as street capacity will be reduced during the events. Understanding how to encourage travelers to use fewer cars will be key. “I’m analyzing how similar people might have similar mobility patterns. Knowing how people move helps us propose solutions,” such as carpooling, González says. … By quantifying how much urban movement is social, it could be possible to pair like-minded travelers through social media apps that increase traveling efficiency. González points to ride-sharing service Uber as a company that leverages this kind of dynamic social mapping.
“The information that we generate can be captured in real time, from people using their devices, and we can actually see mobility in a city. This is the age of instant information, and it can directly affect policy. Imagine you have a set number of people traveling along a certain route, and you want to add an extra lane—this data can tell the mayor that you need it, and you can really quantify the need,” she says. “It’s hugely exciting.”