Waterfront Toronto, UofT and Concordia University work together to design new smartphone travel Apps – Oh and there’s a contest with $1,600 in prizes! – by Chris Harding


There are lots of apps currently out there that help you map your jogging routes, Yelp knows where you went for dinner, and Toronto Cycling knows what routes some cyclists running their app used. What Toronto.Datamobile and UofT-WT Travel Survey do however, is location-log in a way comparable to traditional travel surveys like the Transportation Tomorrow Survey (TTS), a regional phone-based travel survey conducted in the region every five years since 1986.

Ok… so why is it useful to make an app that does something a phone based travel survey already does? Good question! While the TTS has been a valuable tool in collecting travel information about residents of the region for nearly three decades, the fact that it is still carried out in the same way three decades later – calling people at home on their landlines-, means it needs to be complimented by new sources of data to better represent the population of Toronto; residents who do not have wired phones at home are de-facto excluded from current TTS surveys.

Toronto.Datamobile (iOS) and UofT-WT Travel Survey (Android) allow users to feed travel data directly to civil engineers and geographers, enabling them to come up with new and innovative ideas to improve transportation in the region”

  • Chris Harding

synthetic_UofTWT_screenshot[1]                                  IMG_6703[1]

In addition to this representativeness benefit of the smartphone approach, there is also an issue discussed in the travel survey literature that short trips and active transportation (walking and cycling) are typically under-reported. While this may not seem like a big deal, since these trips don’t require much in terms of hard infrastructure or overtly create much congestion, there are profound implications from a transportation engineering perspective if these are not captured. Among these is under-predicting trip-making behaviour in an area and then investing too little in infrastructure. This can lead to increased congestion, but also more strained interactions between cyclists, pedestrians and drivers, all of whom deserve a place on the road.

Toronto.Datamobile and UofT-WT Travel Survey combine GPS, Wi-Fi and cell tower location information to provide data in the least battery intensive way, while maximizing accuracy. This allows them to run in the background and collect information on trips that may be forgotten when responding to traditional travel surveys, while also reducing the burden on respondents.

Plus, apps are cool!

Both applications are available free of charge via the App Store (iOS) and Play Store (Android) and GTHA users who install them and provide their email address are automatically entered into prize draws totalling $1,200 dollars. An additional $400 dollars is also up for grabs for users who submit data through the project’s web validation tool – links will be sent to active app users after installation.

Full contest information at http://uttri.utoronto.ca/research/projects/waterfront-toronto-survey/.

Benefits to running the apps include:

  • Three weekly prize draws of $100 (GTHA residents-only)
    • Additional $100 weekly prizes for web participants (GTHA residents-only)
    • Ability to directly impact planning in the city
    • Improved Quality of Life and transportation network efficiency
    • Customizable travel visualization

To download the apps, click HERE


For further information or interview requests, please contact:

Chris Harding & Yunfei Zhang
Phone: 647.963.6950 / 647.202.1106


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s