Participatory Paradigms: Promises and Challenges for Urban Transportation

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Conference Proceeding

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Participatory paradigms such as online social networks and crowdsourced platforms count on riders of urban transportation systems to provide information that can be of value to transportation agencies, while alleviating the cost and reliability challenges of traditional, physical, sensor-based solutions in obtaining such information. This paper presents a novel methodology to mine online social network updates to obtain this data from the citizens and riders of a city’s urban transportation system. The authors illustrate how the methodology can extract information from Twitter posts across New York City that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) can utilize to improve its service. Having demonstrated the promise of using online social networks as a way to harvest participatory data in the transportation arena, the paper concludes with a discussion of outstanding challenges that must be resolved before participatory paradigms can become a viable alternative to traditional solutions.


Presented at the 93rd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, Washington, DC, January 12-16, 2014.

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