Uber signed a first-of-its-kind agreement Tuesday to provide Boston with transportation data in hopes of alleviating traffic congestion and spurring growth.
Boston hopes that getting information from Uber, which provides a taxi and ridesharing service through a mobile application, will help officials make decisions that can improve life for residents.
“Since day one, Uber’s mission has been to improve city life by connecting people with safe, reliable, hassle-free rides through the use of technology,” Justin Lee, the growth marketing manager at Uber Technologies wrote on the company’s blog. “As we have grown, so has our ability to share information that can serve a greater good. By sharing data with municipal partners we can help cities become more liveable, resilient, and innovative.”
He continued, “Today, Boston joins Uber in a first-of-its-kind partnership to help expand the city’s capability to solve problems by leveraging data provided by Uber. The data will provide new insights to help manage urban growth, relieve traffic congestion, expand public transportation, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
All of the data provided to the city will be anonymous and will include things like trip lengths, pickup and drop-off points, along with the amount of time passengers spent going from one point to another.
In signing a one-year agreement with the company, Boston leaders made a point to request only specific data that could be used for planning purposes and did not request the personal information about either the company’s drivers or its passengers.
“This is one of the sets of data tools that is going to be hugely helpful for us when looking at transportation [issues],” said Jascha Franklin-Hodge, the city’s Chief Information Officer, in an interview with Boston Magazine. “It’s really exciting.”
The data will help the city reduce congestion, monitor the flow of residents, and anticipate the impact of disaster on transportation.
Uber and Boston had discussed the idea for some time, Franklin-Hodge told the magazine, but it was really only in the last week that it fully came together. Now that the agreement is public, other major cities where Uber operates are expected to come up with data sharing agreements of their own with the company and others like it.
“In Boston, data is driving our conversations, our policy making and how we envision the future of our city,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement. “We are using data to change the way we deliver services and we welcome the opportunity to add to our resources. This will help us reach our transportation goals, improve the quality of our neighborhoods and allow us to think smarter, finding more innovative and creative solutions to some of our most pressing challenges.”