Agencies planning to acquire crowdsourced data to support real-time traveler information systems should clearly specify temporal and spatial coverage and sample size requirements since proprietary products will likely have limited transparency.

A synthesis of state and regional agency experience acquiring proprietary data for transportation applications.

Date Posted

Practices on Acquiring Proprietary Data for Transportation Applications

Summary Information

The primary objective of this study was to compile and review practices that state DOTs and MPOs have leveraged to acquire and use proprietary data. The focus is on those data generated by technologies such as GPS, mobile phones, or crowdsourced travel alerts.

Several approaches were used to gather information for the study. A comprehensive literature review was performed to look at past studies involving data procurement and to establish what types of data agencies have obtained and determine their uses. An online survey was designed to seek information on three major aspects of proprietary data:

  1. Data items acquired and applications
  2. Procurement method
  3. Use experience.

The survey was distributed to state DOTs via an email distribution list with the assistance of the AASHTO Data Management and Analytics Committee. For states that are not on the distribution list, the study team identified DOT personnel in the area of data management, planning, or operations through an online directory search. All 50 state DOTs were invited to participate in the survey. The survey was also distributed to 22 large MPOs with populations of more than 2.5 million. Forty-two (42) state DOTs and three MPOs responded to the survey or participated in phone interviews. Of those states that responded, 79 percent indicated that they have acquired at least one proprietary data set. The research team also interviewed state DOT staff from Ohio, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Kentucky—as well as staff from the Atlanta Regional Commission in Georgia—to gain detailed knowledge on agency practices and perspectives on procuring and using these data.

The survey respondents and interviewees identified several barriers and concerns associated with obtaining and using proprietary data and shared their perspectives and practices as they relate to these concerns.

Lack of transparency in proprietary methods used to clean, process, and aggregate crowdsource data is often cited as the main reason transportation agencies are hesitant to integrate these data into existing real-time traveler information systems.

Respondents and interviewees recommended the following:

  • Include clear data specifications in the request for proposal (RFP), including temporal and spatial coverage and sample size requirement.
  • Request sample data from vendors for evaluation.
  • Consider customer service during vendor selection.
  • Include a service-level agreement in the RFP and the contract.
  • Specify the exit strategy in the contract.
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