NYC Taxis: How Data Tells the Story

As our semester winds down, it’s intriguing to see in current media where data analysis and storytelling intersect. One such project where data is being used to tell an interesting story is NYC Taxis: A Day in the Life.

According to Adam Clark Estes of Gizmodo, NYC Taxis: A Day in the Life is, “24 hour’s worth of data from 30 different cabs in New York City. That includes not only information about where the passengers get picked up and dropped off but also stats on money collected broken down into fares, taxes and surcharges.” The data is then used to create a visualized look at these NYC taxicab trips on a map of the city.

Bloomberg.com’s Tom Randall gives more information about exactly how the data was captured explaining that a GPS tracking system records all the raw data, which includes trip, fare and passenger information. The project was the brainchild of Chris Whong, “a self-described mapmaker, data junkie and civic hacker,” states the Bloomberg.com article. Whong works with other “civic technologists” to turn public data into projects according to his personal blog.

The result is a fascinating and even mesmerizing look at just how Taxi cabs in, arguably, the largest taxi cab market in the world, travel throughout a single day. It’s incredible to see a cab travel back and forth from Manhattan to Brooklyn to Queens and back, while also recognizing a trip’s start and end point and the route taken to get there.

Photo credit: NYC TLC 2013 taxi tripsheet data

Photo credit: NYC TLC 2013 taxi tripsheet data

The above chart comes directly from the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, which they posted to their Twitter accounts as they try to get into the data game as well, according to Bloomberg.com. It shows what’s probably obvious to native New Yorkers – it’s extremely difficult to find a taxi during the afternoon rush hour. Author Randall explains, “The green line shows the number of taxis at any given time; the black line shows the average occupancy rate.”

Randall continues with the warning, “Big data doesn’t always turn into big solutions. Taxi rush hour is still a problem.”

That maybe true, but if I learned anything from this course over this summer, it’s that the first step of correcting any problem is identifying the problem itself. Sure, the data doesn’t always provide a clear solution, but it does tell a story. In the case of NYC Taxis: A Day in the Life, it’s the story of how Taxis in New York City travel, which is intriguing. Sure, not all data is as fun to look at like the above chart provided by the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission.

But a data set shown via a digital storytelling technique such as a visualized, animated map and a website could be something special. As Randall concludes, “Sometimes there’s value – or at least a little fun – just in seeing how the world moves.” And I could not agree more.

References
Estes, A. C. (2014). See how much of NYC a taxi driver sees in a single day. Retrieved, 2014, Retrieved from http://gizmodo.com/how-much-of-nyc-a-taxi-driver-sees-in-a-single-day-1604813865

Randall, T. (2014). A mesmerizing look at 24 hours in a new york city taxi. Retrieved, 2014, Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-14/let-me-out-here-one-taxi-24-hours-of-data.html

Whong, C. (2014). FOILing NYC’s taxi trip data. Retrieved, 2014, Retrieved from http://chriswhong.com/open-data/foil_nyc_taxi/

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2 thoughts on “NYC Taxis: How Data Tells the Story

  1. This is fascinating work right here. Definitely could see how such could be extrapolated not only to make taxi cab services more efficient but also it could improve urban traffic and the likes. Big data is proving integral to every facet of life.

    Like

  2. This is really cool to see. I would love to see something like this in Chicago, and to see this data used to improved driving conditions in big cities as mentioned above. Great use of data analysis! Perfect posting.

    Like

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