Mobility Lab’s multiple traffic congestion fixes

The Mobility Lab Transit Tech Initiative, funded through a demonstration grant by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, is currently in the first phase of development. The initiative is on track to launch at the end of summer 2014.

By Jacqueline Lampert  –  Social Engagement Manager, Washington Business JournalFeb 12, 2014, 5:32pm EST

Mobility Lab, a research and development arm of Arlington County Commuter Services, is on a mission to reduce D.C. area traffic congestion, decrease parking demand and help people make use of all the public transportation options the area has to offer.

Arlington Department of Transportation commuter services bureau chief Chris Hamilton says the county’s residential population is expected to increase by 20 to 30 percent in the next 30 years, despite the fact that Arlington is the smallest county in the United States and has most of its land developed. The county has no room for road expansion, Hamilton says, and must now look to building new infrastructure, like new bike and bus lanes.

Despite the population increase, Hamilton says that traffic congestion has been stagnant in the last two decades. In fact, many of Arlington’s major arterial streets are decreasing in use, according to the Arlington County Division of Transportation’s 2012 fiscal year annual report.

Mobility Lab has been trying to combat congestion and car dependency since 1989. Most recently, its working with over 800 Arlington businesses on a number of transportation initiatives, including employee commuter benefits, Capital Bikeshare accounts and carpool accounts.

Mobility Lab is also working to make data more accessible with the launch of its transit tech initiative. Many companies, including D.C.-startup app CapitolHop, have run into problems with data interruptions that have impacted operations. Not only do companies like CapitolHop aggregate API data from several places, they have to worry about interruptions.

“We have to rely on [Metro]’s data,” CapitolHop co-founder Scott Simpson said. Earlier this month, Metro’s service went out, directly impacting CapitolHop’s app.

Mobility Lab is working to create an open data-clearing house where application developers like CapitolHop can access data. Virginia has decided to open this service up for the entire D.C. area thanks to a $500,000 state-sponsored grant.

Mobility Lab is also building tools to help customers visually see what their transportation options are.

“It’s showing a typical home-to-work trip and letting the customer know what the bike options are and what the bus options are,” Hamilton said. The tool would also show the time and cost and how it might effect a persons life.

The transit tech initiative is currently in the first phase of development with the expected launch date scheduled for the end of summer. The project costs $500,000, with 80 percent of the money coming from the previously-mentioned state-sponsored grant.

In the coming year, Hamilton hopes to apply for another grant to begin the next phase of the initiative. Mobility Lab hopes to use the data coming through the API’s to help locals with their planning.

“We will use the data to micro-target our marketing efforts,” Hamilton said.

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