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Digging Deep into Data — How cell phone activity data enhances transportation planning

December 19, 2017

By Cynthia Albright, FAICP CUD, GISP and Graeme Masterton

Cynthia Albright and Graeme Masterton discuss how they used cell phone data to understand the seasonal activity, develop annual counts, and identify the most popular destinations in Lake Tahoe

Oftentimes traditional counting methods and traffic models create a reliable baseline of the travel trips within a region, allowing for a project team to create a transportation master plan that quantifies needs and projects to fulfill those needs. However, there are some regions—such as resort destinations that experience seasonal fluctuations in traffic patterns—where traditional methods cannot capture an accurate picture of transportation activity.

This was the situation in Lake Tahoe. Mobility in the region is extremely challenging and travel around the 72-mile shoreline is primarily by two-lane roadways, private shuttles and transit services for local employees. Significant environmental constraints make expanding roadway capacity impossible and with increasing peak season congestion, policymakers needed a more progressive approach to encourage transit use to comply with federal air quality regulations. Since the existing traffic data was limited, the project team used cell phone data to provide a robust understanding of the magnitude of total trips and number of visitors traveling to the Lake Tahoe basin.

During this webinar, our speakers, Cynthia Albright and Graeme Masterton, discuss how they used cell phone to understand the seasonal activity, develop annual counts, and identify the most popular destinations in the Lake Tahoe region. They will discuss how the data was obtained, the methods used to analyze the data, and what insights came about. They will then discuss how these insights shaped their multimodal transportation plan—including a comprehensive transit plan, and six individual corridor plans the numerous agencies could implement. 

  • Cynthia Albright, FAICP CUD, GISP

    Cynthia is a certified land planner with experience in community and regional planning, site planning, urban design, and securing entitlements for land development activities.

    Contact Cynthia
  • Graeme Masterton

    For the past 26 years, Graeme has focused on building an in-depth understanding of community transit needs and the psychology of using transit.

    Contact Graeme
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