Making the city better through data

By: Smart Oxford

A consortium including our County Council, Oxford Brookes University and the Oxford Internet Institute is working with Google to help find innovative ways to address transport issues for the City and county.

Utilising data collected by Google via android phones and mobile devices, the city partners are analysing mobility data for the city and county (the same data that marks congested areas in amber or red on Google maps).

The Oxford Internet Institute’s TRANSNET (Forecasting and Understanding Transport Network Resilience and Anomalies with Data Science) project aims to use using data science to forecast and understand transport network resilience and anomalies in the city. This two-year project will make use of Google’s anonymised mobile phone trace data to understand more about the flow of traffic around transport networks.

The work is grounded in an ongoing partnership with Oxford County Council, and will make use of several stores of big data to which the Council has access.

These data sources enable the project to work at high spatial and temporal resolution and to overcome many of the problems associated with estimating traffic flows from lower-resolution/sparse data.

As a medieval city with a historic, unplanned centre, Oxford faces a number of infrastructure challenges as its 160,000 residents and nearly 50,000 inward commuters move around the city.

In the last few years Oxford has opened a new rail station (Oxford Parkway), engaged in one of the largest commercial redevelopment currently taking place in Europe (demolition and redevelopment of the Westgate Shopping Centre in Oxford’s city centre at a cost of approximately £400m, producing retail space of over 74,000 sq. metres) and experienced multiple instances of severe flooding.

The historic transport data available will allow the city partners to examine many natural experiments where parts of the road infrastructure were closed either with advanced notice (events/fairs, road works) or suddenly without notice (traffic accidents, “jams”, and flooding).