Data in Action: Identifying Amenity Gaps

Oct 06 / 2020

How far does someone need to travel to reach an amenity? Are certain nearby amenities being bypassed in favour of others?

Those are the two questions that a group of UBC Master of Data Science Vancouver students looked at answering for their capstone project with Urban Logiq, an organization that helps governments worldwide make faster, cheaper, more accurate decisions with their data.  

The scope of the project was also about identifying under-served communities based on zip codes or neighbourhoods in a city that have poor access to amenities like primary healthcare centers, parks, grocery stores, etc.

For the city of interest that the project focused on, the students received movement data collected from connected vehicles (i.e. GPS-enabled). Connected vehicle data provides more concrete understanding on people's movement in search of an amenity which can be used to better inform the final allocation of resources to where they are most needed.

Connected vehicle data included the trip journey ID, when a trip started or ended, the latitude or longitude of the trip origin and end.

Two sets of visualization tools were created that allowed the team to undertake a spatial exploration of the data to answer the two research questions.

For the first research question, a coropleth map was created where each zip code in the city of interest is coloured by the median time it takes for someone within that area to travel to an amenity (i.e. a park).

The tool could also be used to examine what zip codes are bypassing an amenity like a park for other amenities that are further away.

With the information from the visualization tools and zip code demographic data, an urban planner can combine their domain knowledge to find common traits between the popular parks and between the parks that are passed over and to start to analyze some patterns of visits.

As well, in looking to answer the two research questions, urban planners would have informed decisions on where to build the next park or hospital or which of these amenities to improve.

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