The newest disagreement revolves around the data these companies collect in cities. Cities want access to this data to better understand how and where these services are operating, but the companies don’t want to provide it due to concerns about how disclosing it may affect their business. Again, cities pushed back. Demands have been made, legislation drafted, lawsuits filed. The two sides have been at loggerheads for years.
Transportation data, and urban data more broadly, are becoming understood as a flow that can be quantified, processed and analyzed to improve the overall system. The data, regardless of its source, can benefit everyone equally. But as cities and transportation companies are finding, turning private data into public good is not as simple as it seems.
“To make good policy, you need to know what’s happening,” says Bruce Schaller, a transportation consultant and former Deputy Commissioner for Traffic and Planning at the New York City Department of Transportation. Traffic flows, modes of transportation, geographical densities, demographics – this is information that can paint a picture of a city’s transportation processes and problems. Such data points are collected in the millions by new mobility companies daily. “These data are a big part of understanding what’s happening,” Schaller says.