Modeling Travel Demand: Introducing StreetLight InSight® Metrics for PTV Visum

We’re excited to share that StreetLight Data and PTV Group have taken the next step in our partnership: Our first integration of StreetLight Data’s transportation analytics into PTV Visum, one of PTV Group’s flagship software platforms for travel demand modeling. For the first time, transportation professionals can use up-to-date, comprehensive Big Data analytics in their models in just a few mouse clicks.

Our new feature means that modelers do not have to manually process .CSV files or write custom code to use our origin-destination matrices in their Visum models. Instead, they can install the StreetLight Add-In to Visum, then pull in the data they need in a flash. In this article, we’ll explain why we decided to build an integrated data solution for modelers, how it works, and the next steps for our partnership.

Why Our New Feature Matters

First, let’s dive into the motivations behind this product. Travel demand models are the foundation of most planning initiatives, especially when it comes to transportation. Models tell us where people go, how they get there, and why – and they help us build forecasts of how these travel patterns will change in the future.

Without models, it is not possible for transportation planners and engineers to build the infrastructure our communities need, from bridges to roads to highways and airports. They also help us zone appropriately for residential areas, employment centers, and industrial parks, and they can even tell us where commercial and recreational centers are needed the most.

It’s no secret that planners today are facing tremendous change in their communities, which makes building good models even more important. Because of trends such as urban population growth, the rise of smartphones, increased tansit ridership, and the rise of transportation network companies (e.g.: Uber, Lyft) and shared use mobility – just to name just a few – citizens today have greater expectations for their civic leaders and public servants. But that’s not all. The needs of populations today are different from their predecessors, too.

All this change means that the status quo for data collection simply doesn’t work for building models anymore. Planners need models that are populated with up-to-date information, not stale information from five years ago or even last year. The travel data that they use must also reflect a broad cross-section of society. Given that response rates to household travel and vehicle intercept surveys are lower than ever, it’s not sufficient to extrapolate population-level insights from a shrinking fraction of citizens.

With StreetLight InSight® Metrics, which are derived from trillions of anonymous locations records created by mobile devices, modelers can quickly and easily access travel pattern data that is truly comprehensive. The analytics reveal the full story of travel behavior from trip origin to destination. They reflect the aggregated real-world travel behavior of tens of millions of people anonymously and precisely.

Since StreetLight updates its analytics with new geospatial data on a monthly basis, the information provided describes up-to-date travel behavior. Once the data is imported into Visum, it is possible for travel demand modelers to tune, calibrate and validate trip attraction / destination size equations by time of day as well as trip length distributions for which Visum has built in support tools. It’s exactly what modelers, planners, and engineers need to meet the needs of citizens in today’s fast-changing world.

The Advantages of Big Data

The key advantages of using StreetLight InSight Metrics for travel demand modeling are that you can empirically:

  • Measure behavior seasonally and temporally, so you can see how behavior changes from month to month, weekend to weekday, and at different times of day.
  • Measure “average” behavior using a full year of data. This provides a more comprehensive understanding of typical travel patterns than extrapolation from a few days of data collection.
  • Measure travel patterns across a large geography in fine resolution. For example, you can run O-D matrices for thousands of transportation analysis zones (TAZs) in cities, metropolitan regions, and more.
  • Measure commercial and personal vehicle behavior separately, so you can isolate the impact of trucks from other types of travel.
  • Measure trips with up to 5-meter spatial precision, so you can zero in on individual off-ramps and corridors. The spatial precision of StreetLight InSight Metrics is between 5m and 25m depending on the Big Data resource selected.
  • Integrate census demographic data with travel patterns, so you can understand the impact of projects on different members of your community, which can be useful in addressing Title VI requirements in the US.

How It Works

The beauty of our new add-in feature for PTV Visum is that it’s incredibly simple. You can see exactly how it works in our recorded webinar. Click here to watch now.

For current PTV users who have used add-ins, you will find that the process is very intuitive. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

  1. Download and Install PTV Visum’s StreetLight Add-in (You Only Have to Do this Once!)
  2. Load Your Version File with Desired Polygons – or Draw Your Polygons Manually
  3. Start Running the StreetLight User Set-Up File in Visum
  4. Set Your Coordinate System to Match StreetLight InSight
  5. Log Into StreetLight InSight Using Visum’s Network Settings
  6. Run the StreetLight InSight Interface to Set Up Your O-D Project, then Click Confirm
  7. Your O-D Metrics Will Begin Processing in the Background, and Visum Will Notify You When the Project is Complete.

That’s it – in seven easy steps, you can use StreetLight’s Big Data analytics in your PTV Visum models. For a more detailed breakdown of the process, click here to read our tutorial.

We believe that this is a major step forward for modelers, especially for those who are writing custom scripts or copying and pasting values line-by-line into Visum. It’s a whole new way to use Big Data analytics for travel demand modeling that saves time – and that delivers better results.

Our Next Steps

Our add-in feature for using StreetLight InSight Origin-Destination Analyses in PTV Visum is the first of what we hope are many integrations across PTV Group’s software suite. In the near-term, however, our top priority is to integrate more types of StreetLight InSight Metrics into PTV Visum, such as Select Link (also known as an Origin-Destination with Middle Filter Analysis).

Are there specific StreetLight InSight Metrics that you would like to see next in PTV Visum? What other PTV platforms (e.g. Vissim, Vistro, Viswalk, Optima, MaaS Modeler) would you like for us to tackle next? Let us know by leaving a comment below!