By Data-Smart City Solutions • February 26, 2016

CityLab wrote about the U.S. Census Bureau’s plans to go digital for the 2020 census. For the first time, households will be able to fill out the census online. The agency will also use aerial data and GIS to gather addresses from 75% of the 11 million census blocks, drastically cutting down on the number that will need to be surveyed in-person by census workers. These changes will save the Census Bureau enormous amounts of money and time, but CityLab suggests that they may also signal the Bureau’s return to the forefront of survey tabulation and processing innovation and could lead to new technologies and practices that can be used to improve data collection at all levels of government.

LA’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is negotiating a partnership with Lyft that would give Metro access to Lyft’s ridership data for rides that begin or end at Metro stations, according to the LA Times. The deal would allow Metro to better understand and respond to the “first mile, last mile” problem occurring when public transportation stops aren’t within walking distance of riders’ final destinations. In return, Metro would advertise Lyft to its riders and potentially add Lyft as an option in the trip-planning feature in Metro’s transit app.

Next City featured a study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health on high-tech solutions to street surveying. The researchers found that Google Street View could be used to accurately survey city intersections in a small fraction of the time of in-person surveys. They used a previously-tested model to determine where pedestrians would be, and maps and city data to predict the same for cars. CANVAS, Placemeter, and Walkscore.com are cited as similar tech solutions that are helping to make street surveying more efficient and cost-effective.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a report this week on technology and the future of cities. PCAST argues that now is the perfect time to promote tech in cities: cities’ populations are growing, residents are becoming more open to change, infrastructure is aging, and the growth in tech innovations. They point out that better information usage can help cities get more out of their limited resources and better serve residents, and that a good way for cities to begin practically is to launch innovations in a targeted small area and build out from there.

AT&T announced that it was growing its smart cities framework and adding two new locations: Chapel Hill, NC and Montgomery County, MD. Their framework helps governments integrate and use the Internet of Things to improve services for residents. Chapel Hill will revamp its downtown corridor with additions including smart lighting installations and parking sensors, and Montgomery County will implement a smart transit project. Two new companies also joined AT&T’s strategic alliance: Southern Company will work on smart utility and energy projects, and Hitachi will consult with cities on the best ways to solve quality of life problems.

MIT researchers built a new energy modeling tool for Boston that will allow the city to estimate the energy usage of every individual building in the city. Designed as part of the Boston Community Energy Survey, city officials can use the tool to see hourly gas and electricity demand for nearly 100,000 buildings. The model is the first citywide energy model that can display outputs for individual buildings, and researchers hope it will help planners to gain a better understanding of current energy usage and highlight problem areas. More detailed information will also allow planners to develop targeted policies to increase energy savings in specific areas.