Massachusetts Organizations Announce Competition for Best Insights Discovered in New Transportation Data

Monday, March 10, 2014



Data Geeks, Start Your Engines: ‘37 Billion Mile’ Data Challenge is ON

Massachusetts Organizations Announce Competition for Best Insights Discovered in New Transportation Data

BOSTON – The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech) today opened a public competition, The 37Billion Mile Data Challenge, designed to inspire the technical community to delve into a new trove of anonymous vehicle-use data and discover insights that can inform policy and help the Commonwealth build a more efficient and sustainable transportation system.

Individuals or teams are invited to join the competition, which opens today and ends on April 19th, at There is no fee to participate. Awards will be given to entries that are exceptionally insightful, interactive or actionable. All entries will be posted online, where the general public will have the ability to select an additional People’s Choice Award winner. Prizes include cash, pre-loaded Charlie Cards, souvenir license plates, and more. An awards ceremony will be held on May 1st from 7-9 at District Hall in the Boston Innovation District.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council created the Vehicle Census of Massachusetts, on which the Challenge is based, in partnership with MassDOT and with support from the Barr Foundation. MassTech is sponsoring the awards event as part of their leadership of the Mass Big Data Initiative, which is helping drive awareness and growth of the Mass Big Data ecosystem across the Commonwealth. Code for Boston and Hack/Reduce are sponsoring the Challenge’s day-long skill-building and team-assembling Datathon on Saturday, March 22.

The Vehicle Census includes anonymous information about vehicle characteristics and yearly mileage, as well as a spatial dataset with aggregate statistics at the neighborhood level. The data release is the first such in the nation, giving the Challenge national significance. Organizers hope the Challenge will stimulate programmers, designers, data analysts and enthusiasts, and transportation stakeholders to share the insights they find in the data, and create tools to put those insights into action. To that end, high profile judges will include MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey, Boston Globe data viz master Gabriel Florit, Jon Follett from Involution Studios, MassArt Professor of Design Brian Lucid, Northeastern University transportation expert Stephanie Pollack, MAPC’s Tim Reardon, Christopher Scranton of MassTech, and Mary Skelton-Roberts of the Barr Foundation.

Key Dates:

  • March 10, 2014:  Teams and individuals may register for the challenge, gain access to the public data set and sign up for the Datathon at;
  • March 22, 2014: The Challenge Datathon, a daylong event focused on building programming, design and data analysis skills, where participants will have the opportunity to create multidisciplinary teams and get advice from experts. The event will take place at District Hall, 75 Northern Ave., Boston, Mass., 02210;
  • April 18, 2014: 5 pm - Deadline for in-person submissions. Entries should be received at the MAPC offices, 60 Temple Place, Boston, Mass., 02111;
  • April 19, 2014:  The Challenge officially closes; 11:59 pm – Deadline for entries submitted online at the event website:;
  • May 1st, 2014:  Awards ceremony and reception will take place 7-9 pm at District Hall, 75 Northern Ave., Boston, MA, 02210.

Challenge Questions

Vehicles registered in Massachusetts traveled a collective 37 billion miles in 2010, putting a heavy burden on the Commonwealth’s transportation system, the environment, and family finances. MassDOT, MAPC, and local communities across the Commonwealth have made it a priority to reduce vehicle miles traveled. The 37 Billion Mile Data Challenge seeks to leverage data on yearly vehicle characteristics and mileage, using a first of its kind anonymized data set from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, coupled with additional data sets, to find patterns, insights and solutions that can inform policy and help the Commonwealth build a more efficient and sustainable transportation system.

Participants are free to explore all aspects of the dataset, and encouraged to consider these challenge questions:

  • What factors make a neighborhood more likely to have high car ownership and mileage?
  • How much does the average household spend on gas, and where does driving place the biggest burden on family budgets?
  • Where might investments in walking, biking and transit have the biggest impact in reducing how much people drive?
  • What is the best way for communities to measure GHG emissions and set goals for reducing them?
  • Do minimum parking requirements for new developments match up with vehicle ownership rates in different communities?

Additional Information

The outcomes of the event will not only have significance for those involved with the Challenge, but also for researchers and policy makers across the United States. Data sets for the 37 Billion Mile Data Challenge are available today via:

The Challenge builds upon previous efforts to analyze and increase access to state transportation data, including the launch of the MassDOT “Developers Pages” online data resource, MAPC’s Hubway Data Visualization Challenge, and the December 2013 Visualizing Transportation Hackathon run by MassDOT, MassTech, and hack/reduce.  Each of these efforts showcased the potential of open government data and collaboration to drive innovative public benefits. 


For more information contact:

Tim Reardon, Assistant Director of Data Services
Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)
(617) 933-0718,


Amanda Linehan, Communications Manager
Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)
(617) 933-0705,   

MassDOT Press Office

Brian Noyes, Communications Manager, MassTech
(508) 870-0312 X: 293,


About the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC):

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) is a regional planning agency serving the people who live and work in the 101 cities and towns of Metro Boston. Our mission is to promote smart growth and regional collaboration. We work toward sound municipal management, sustainable land use, protection of natural resources, efficient and affordable transportation, a diverse housing stock, public safety, economic development, an informed public, equity and opportunity – and the democratization of information to achieve those goals. For more information, visit our website, blog:, or follow us on Twitter at (#37BillionMiles) and Facebook at

About the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT):

In 2009, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) was created to unify the state’s various transportation agencies. MassDOT now includes the Highway division, the MBTA and Mass Transit, Aeronautics, and the Registry of Motor Vehicles. MassDOT is committed to providing a safe and reliable transportation system to all those who travel in the Commonwealth and works to deliver excellent customer service. MassDOT has been nationally recognized for its innovative approach to transportation, including the Accelerated Bridge Program, the “Where’s My Bus and Train?” apps and “Fast 14” work. For more information, visit MassDOT at our website:, blog:, or follow MassDOT on Twitter at and Facebook at

About the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and the Innovation Institute:

The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative is an innovative public agency working to enhance economic growth, accelerate technology use and adoption, and harness the value of research by engaging in meaningful collaborations across academia, industry, and government.  From improving our health care systems and expanding high-speed internet across the state to fostering emerging industry clusters, MassTech is driving innovation and supporting a vibrant economy across the Commonwealth. The Innovation Institute at MassTech was created in 2003 to improve conditions for growth in the innovation economy by enhancing industry competitiveness, promoting conditions which enable growth; and providing data and analysis to stakeholders in the Massachusetts innovation economy that promotes understanding and informs policy development. 

About the Massachusetts Big Data Initiative:

In response to industry insights gained through Secretary Bialecki and MassTech’s technology roundtable series, Governor Patrick announced the Massachusetts Big Data Initiative (Mass Big Data) at MIT in May of 2012. The Massachusetts Big Data Initiative is designed to leverage and expand the Commonwealth’s position as a global leader in the rapidly growing big data sector.

Through the Massachusetts Big Data Initiative, the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative has initiated efforts aimed at expanding the region’s global leadership and fully exploiting the Mass Big Data sector’s economic potential over the next three to five years. The Massachusetts Big Data Initiative supports efforts to drive growth in the regional big data ecosystem through four strategic imperatives: raising awareness, enhancing the skilled workforce, fueling collaborative innovation, and advancing open access to public data. Additional information available at: