Addressing commuting challenges in cities - The White House Opportunity Project

The Split team recently participated in The Opportunity Project, an open data effort launched by the White House to improve economic mobility for all Americans. The Opportunity Project puts data and tools in the hands of civic leaders, community organizations, and families to help them navigate information about critical resources such as access to jobs, housing, transportation, schools, and other neighborhood amenities.

Our team focused on addressing the following problem statement set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT): "Anthony and his neighbors would benefit from tools that make it easier to talk about how their community is disconnected from opportunity, so they can help their local officials understand the ‘whole picture’ about opportunity in his community."

We developed a mapping tool that allows you to navigate to your home town or city, and see where people are commuting to or from in your neighborhood. You can also view the transit options that are available for traveling to or from your neighborhood, and overlay the transit network (including the average number of trips each line makes per day). These commuter "flows" can also be filtered to specific income groups, allowing you to compare both how far people travel to work and how critical transit access is, as impacted by income level.

To make the tool, we utilized an open data set produced by the Census Bureau called the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics, Origin-Destination Employment Statistics (LODES) to aggregate the commuter flows by zipcode. To display transit accessibility, we obtained national GTFS feeds, which are now available on the recently released National Transit Map.

Here’s how our tool can be used to address the DOT problem statement:

  • Civic leaders can view how far their residents travel for work, and the level of transit service available to them. They may also be able to make conclusions about the dependency on transit by lower income residents.
  • Residents can see where other people in their neighborhood commute. The tool could be further developed to show the number of jobs in other neighborhoods within a particular industry, which could help residents find new jobs in their field that are transit accessible.
  • Transportation planners can use the tool to identify gaps in the transportation network -- where there is a large commuter flow but no, or limited, transit options. The map displays the volume of travelers in order to help determine what type of service would be appropriate (bus, BRT, light rail, heavy rail, etc.).

Check out the tool.