US Department of Transportation Data Challenge

Cross-posted from the Smart Chicago Collaborative Blog

The US Department of Transportation has issued a data challenge for civic app developers to build apps that address public safety, access to transportation, and that help the Department of Transportation better understand and reduce traffic congestion.

Goal: Develop tools to help people make decisions about transportation.

Specifically, the Department is looking at three categories for the challenge.

  •  Safety: how can we address safety concerns and challenges? What communities have the safest roads and transit, and why?
  •  Transportation Access: how can planners improve the way transportation connects people to jobs, school, housing, and community resources?
  •  Traffic Management and Congestion: how can we better understand and reduce traffic, congestion, and emissions?

US DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx had this to say about the challenge:

    It’s all part of a balanced and responsible approach to improving our transportation system. Yes, we need to continue investing in infrastructure, but we also need to make better use of the resources we already have, and one of the most valuable resources we have is data.

    Over the last few years, there has been a tremendous change in government at all levels–rather than sitting on their datasets, from city to county to state and across the agencies that make up our federal government, organizations are making their data publicly available in formats that make it easier for innovators to convert that data into information and useful tools for the public, urban planners, policymakers, journalists, and others.

    Even with thousands of datasets open to the public, we still need innovators like you with the vision to develop tools that help people use data to make decisions.


The winning team will be invited to US DOT headquarters to take part in a special ceremony with Secretary Foxx and other senior officials.

Deadline: April 30th, 2014

Data Resources:

The US Department of Transportation has over 1600 transportation related data sets at along with several developer resources. These developer resources include:

At the local level, Chicago also has several sets of data related to transportation including:

The State of Illinois’ Department of Transportation also publishes data on transportation including:

Examples of Transportation Related Apps:

SpotHero: SpotHero is a civic startup that efficiently connects parking demand and parking supply. SpotHero allows parking spot owners to earn income by renting their spot when it’s unoccupied.

SpotHero was the winner of the Apps for Metro Chicago Challenge in 2012. Since then, they’ve graduated from TechStars/Excelerate, raised 2.5 million in VC funding, expanded to seven cities and has hired twenty people.

Chicago Bike Crash Map: Crash data for Chicago in 2005-2012 where a bicyclist or pedestrian was the first point of impact by a driver’s automobile, as collected by responding law enforcement and maintained by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

TextMyBus – Built by Code for America for the  the Detroit Department of Transportation. This app lets riders text a number to see when the next bus is.

Questions about the challenge

Q: Do I have to build something specifically for this challenge?

No, this challenge is all about highlighting the great work being done around using transportation data. So, if you’ve built a transportation app already, feel free to submit it!

Q: Do I have to have a fully completed app?

The apps need to have a working prototype, but beta versions are more than OK.

Q: Is there a place I can have my app user tested?

Yes, if you’re in Chicago and want to utilize the Civic User Testing group to test your app you can submit your app for testing here.

Q: If I win, will the Department of Transportation use my app?

Winners will be featured on the Department of Transportation website and your app will be accessible by the public through that website.

If you have other questions about the US DOT Data Challenge, you can email with your questions.

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