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IBM to Pittsburgh: Use data to help motorists get around

Tribune-Review
| Thursday, March 14, 2013 6:54 p.m.

Technology giant IBM on Thursday urged Western Pennsylvania government and transit agencies to turn their data into information that motorists can use to get around faster.

The company sent eight analysts to Pittsburgh last year to recommend technology-based solutions to the city’s transportation woes. Pittsburgh got an estimated $400,000 worth of free help through the company’s Smarter Cities Challenge program.

“IBM is saying, ‘Look, you guys have a lot of good data. You have a lot of good partnerships. You just have to develop applications so that data can be shared and get it out to people who are using the system,’” said Stan Caldwell, deputy executive director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Traffic 21 program and T-Set University Transportation Centers.

Entities such as PennDOT, Port Authority of Allegheny County and the city of Pittsburgh know when the Parkway West is backing up, buses are running late and streets are closed, but they need to develop a simple way to get that information to drivers, IBM said.

It suggested the city partner with transportation agencies and universities for high-tech solutions that the public could access from computers or mobile devices.

“If you’re sitting in your car or office and you can’t make a decision before you get in your car to go to Greenfield, it’s no good to you,” Caldwell said.

Patrick Roberts, Pittsburgh’s principal transportation planner, said the city is starting to follow IBM’s advice, having the University of Pittsburgh collect enormous amounts of data for CMU to analyze.

“They’re not saying, ‘You should tear down the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.’ … They’re saying, ‘You’ve got data here to make you smarter, but you’re not using it,’” Roberts said.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at 412-765-2312.

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