(Image: Denvergov.org)

Denver’s Transportation Data Survey Aims to Reduce Pedestrian Deaths

Denver’s crowdsourced data platform asking people to indicate traffic hazards has garnered more than 2,200 responses since its March 6 launch.

Pedestrian deaths are a chief concern for the city, according to Rachael Bronson, transportation planner with Denver’s Department of Public Works. Sixty-one people were killed in traffic-related deaths on the streets of Denver in 2016. Almost half of these people were either walking or biking.

To redress the issue, Denver is participating in Vision Zero, a program where cities use data analytics to prevent transportation-related injuries. Vision Zero began in Sweden in 1997, but has spread to American cities, such as Los Angeles and New York. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock formally established Denver’s foray into Vision Zero in February 2016.

“The principle is that traffic crashes are unacceptable and preventable,” Bronson said in an exclusive interview with 21st Century State & Local. “The idea behind Vision Zero is we can reach the goal of zero deaths.”

To supplement their data sets for Vision Zero, Bronson and her team created a survey that asks people where they encountered transportation issues and whether they were walking, biking, or driving. It asks people what time of day they encountered a problem and whether they were heading to work, school, or home.

Through the survey, people can drop pins where they encountered certain problems, such as if there are lots of speeding cars in an area or if it takes an excessively long time to cross a certain street. People can also drop an “other” pin and describe issues that are not available through the survey. Bronson said speeding is the most popular pin, followed by the “other” option.

“It’s really a broad cross-section asking about issues and good areas that we can replicate,” Bronson said. “We’ve received a lot more bad than good so far. Most people are responding with the speeding pin.”

Bronson and her team will begin to collect the survey’s data on April 30. Denver’s technology advisory committee, a group of 20 different agencies and community groups, will use the data to identify what needs to go into the action plan.

“It’s just going to be another data layer,” Bronson said. “In the long term, we hope to use the information to inform where we’re doing work.”

The Vision Zero survey is one of several sources of data that will shape the city’s Vision Zero action plan. In addition to police crash data, planners also use information from the city’s sole Emergency Medical Services team. Because some accidents are not reported to the police and still involve emergency teams, the rescue data will also be incorporated into the action plan.

“We’ve been doing really thorough analysis from that data,” Bronson said. “We have data from several angles. Crash data only tells us part of it.”

Citizens of Denver have learned about the transportation survey, which was created with Esri’s Survey123 tool, from a variety of sources. The city’s water service provider sent a notice heralding the survey in the mail. Bronson said every council office in the city has also disseminated information about the survey.

“We have a really strong network with community organizations and we’re pretty regularly peppering them with word about the survey,” Bronson said.

The action plan itself will consist of compiling data and determining what Vision Zero, an international platform, means for Denver. Bronson said her team will probably follow the example of Los Angeles and create a list of recommendations that will come to fruition over the next 10 years.

Bronson said she and her team will try to finish the action plan by this summer. She said their recommendations will galvanize the city’s pedestrian safety practices.

“The meat is the action,” Bronson said. “We’ll have very action-oriented recommendations.”

Eleanor Lamb
About Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Big Data, FITARA, Homeland Security, Education, Workforce Issues, and Civilian Agencies.
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