I’m pleased to announce a project I have been working on called TripChain.  TripChain is an open-source framework used for the derivation of trip generation rates for application in transportation planning and analysis.

Like many of us, I’ve worked with ITE trip generation rates throughout my career and at times questioned their relevancy in the context sensitive to a specific land use development.  The ITE rates are a “tried and true” source of data, however they are not always the most applicable without additional data and/or local adjustment to best plan for transportation infrastructure.  This is important both to transportation network planning and ensuring that development charges are appropriately levied.

Being an advocate of big data and open data, I believe these approaches are the best means to provide insight into real world situations.  When a larger community is engaged to contribute more data, more easily, everyone wins – especially when that data can be easily shared in a manner that also ensures its integrity.

Consider the following questions regarding the traditional trip generation rates used:

  • Why should one entity “own” the data and have sole authority over it?
  • Why not have the ability to easily dig into and examine specific data points, if you have a question/concern?
  • How can local authorities curate their own data while simultaneously sharing appropriate, new data points with other users and authorities?
  • How can a user easily filter and apply appropriate data points for their transportation study?

This is where TripChain comes in – this framework has the potential to change how the transportation industry collaborates and shares data with peers.  The true value in data is how we apply it, not who gets to hold the keys to it.

What is TripChain?

TripChain is a framework for holding trip generation data points. Using this framework, anyone in the transportation industry can contribute to or access data in the trip generation database. Trip generation data can then be approved by an authority, such as the ITE or other transportation agency, and aggregated based on context-specific criteria to better plan for land use developments using relevant trip generation data points.

The primary benefit to this approach over traditional trip generation rate sources for land use developments is that individual data points can be examined and included or excluded (with justification) by transportation industry practitioners for applicability.  Individual data points can also be held by multiple authorities for their approved use.

For example, if a municipality wants to use approved ITE data points as its basis, it can start with that data set.  It can then supplement their approved data set with local data and require it be used in their transportation impact studies for local land use developments.  In turn, local data added to the TripChain framework can be further leveraged by other users on the network to create other authoritative data sets or fed back to the ITE.  The result is a universal data set, cultivated by local authorities for use in each jurisdiction – the best of both worlds.

How Does TripChain Work?

The basis for TripChain is blockchain technology, already being developed and utilized by the emerging Financial Technology (FinTech) industry. However, the blockchain is beginning to prove itself for non-financial applications such as health care, land ownership registry, smart contracts, big data, etc.  It is time this technology is brought to the transportation industry and TripChain is but one potential use case.

The blockchain  is analogous to a ledger that cannot be altered. It is a permanent record of all transactions. In the case of TripChain, transactions are defined by the addition of data (i.e. trip generation data points) and the approval of data (i.e. from authoritative agencies). As these transactions occur linearly over time, they are stored in data “blocks” and linked together like a “chain” – hence, the blockchain.

Add TripChain Data

When a user downloads and installs the TripChain software on their computer or server that computer becomes a “node” on the TripChain network. Multiple nodes are critical to the success of TripChain as blockchain operates on a smart consensus model, which ensures data on the network is unalterable, providing a permanent data record. More nodes mean more data checks to reach consensus, increasing data security and ensuring previous data cannot be falsified.

The result of this innovation is a disaggregated trip generation database of chronologically stored data points. This allows both the ability to use the most up-to-date data and a “snapshot” of historical data, depending on the use case. Applications can then be built on top of the TripChain framework (such as the already existing OTISS application) to aggregate and present context sensitive trip generation rates for end user application in transportation planning studies.

Moving Forward

While the TripChain project is still in its early stages,  a lot of work and background research has already been completed in development.  However,  TripChain cannot work on its own and needs input and participation from the transportation planning community to move forward.  Therefore, the near-term objectives and next steps for the TripChain project include:

  • Dissemination and education of what TripChain is and how it works, to gauge interest and refine the proposed framework with the transportation industry;
  • Establishment of relationships with potential sponsors and partners within the transportation industry;
  • Creation of a technical scope and specification for the TripChain framework;
  • Researching and testing of emerging blockchain, indexing, and querying tools; and
  • Construction of a simple, proof-of-concept framework (prototype) to test the framework in action (i.e. a testnet framework).

To read more about the TripChain concept, please visit the project website at TripChain.Org to join the mailing list and receive the free TripChain whitepaper that provides more detail.

And finally, I’d like to thank industry colleagues who have reviewed and provided feedback on the TripChain whitepaper during its preview period.  We need to continue having conversations in the transportation industry as to the future of trip generation rates and technology to enable easy sharing of data.  And, a special thanks to the team at TripGeneration.Org who have spearheaded the open-source data collection front in trip generation.  I appreciate the initiative on this front as services such as this are complementary to the TripChain project.

What is your initial reaction to the TripChain framework?  Is this a potential viable solution or are there other approaches to trip generation rates the transportation industry should be pursuing? What is the best role for the ITE with respect to trip generation rates? Please leave your comments and questions below.

TripChain Framework and Whitepaper
TripGeneration.Org Open Source Data
Trics UK & Ireland Trip Generation
Florida DOT Resources