Partnership with Seattle Department of Transportation Yields Cruising Traffic Analysis

Vehicles that have arrived at their destination but are driving around for a place to park, and for-hire and transportation network company vehicles that are queued in traffic, have a significant impact on congestion. The Cruising Traffic Analysis Project at the University of Washington’s eScience Institute developed algorithms to quantify aggregated levels of vehicle traffic cruising in the summer of 2017.

Data Science for Social Good (DSSG) fellows Brett Bejcek, Anamol Pundle, Orysya Stus and Michael Vlah worked with Stephen Barham, a data scientist at the City of Seattle’s Department of Transportation, who served as the project lead; and with UW data scientists Valentina Staneva and Vaughn Iverson to complete the project. They found that more than one-third of drivers in downtown Seattle are searching for parking or, for ride-share drivers, waiting for their next passengers.

The research applied data science techniques to a sample of anonymous travel sensor data, paid parking transaction information, and parking occupancy surveys conducted by the City of Seattle. The team generated heat maps depicting relative prevalence of cruising and proposed measurement standards for cruising activity, or a “cruising index” that could pertain to various methods of data collection and processing.

The team worked to differentiate between the aggregated footprint of vehicles trying to find on-street parking and the amount due to trip deadheading. This research could help transportation agencies, technology companies, and car companies predict the availability of parking and more accurately direct travelers with online, mobile, and connected tools, thereby reducing congestion impacts, emissions, and fuel costs.

The collaboration was one of four projects completed through the DSSG summer program at the UW eScience Institute this year. The program complements the DSSG program launched at the University of British Columbia’s Data Science Institute this year. The Cruising Traffic Analysis Project was featured with the UBC Surrey Transportation Project in a Microsoft blog post; and on King 5 News.