Open Street Map (OSM): Getting the most out of your TDM software

Rob Ludwig is RideAmigos’ backend developer. He shares some insight into how powerful a tool Open Street Map (OSM) can be, and how to maintain its high quality.


What Does it Do?

  • Free, open map of the planet with metadata.
  • Essentially a “Wikipedia” for geodata.
  • Uses the open database license.
  • Users can edit map info with streets, sidewalks, trails, and other features.
  • Provides local, on-the-ground knowledge.
  • Really available for use in commercial and noncommercial products.
  • Allows hundreds of different public transportation tags, along with roads and ways tags.


How to Maintain High Quality Data

  • Look at underlying OSM data when routing is counter-intuitive.
  • Participate in shaping data formats: new tags.
  • Encourage community participation, even if it’s armchair mapping.
  • Participate in and sponsor “Mapathons.”


The Benefits of Good OSM Data

  • Thousands of small, medium, and large apps use it.
  • Heavily used in academic settings.
  • A “Wikipedia” for most landmarks and cities.
  • Many humanitarian organizations use OSM after natural disasters occur to get the most accurate form of geodata on the area affected. (example: nepal 2015 earthquake)



TDM is about routing and showing your commuter options, so with better data from Open Street Map we’re able to provide better options.

Exploring New Technologies in Transportation


Ben Dalton is CTO and co-founder at RideAmigos. Through his experience, Ben has developed a passion for finding new ways to utilize technology to facilitate cultural improvements. He shares some insight on the multiple intersections of new transportation technologies.

Over the last 10 years, the world has experienced significant growth in the technology sector. Smartphones are changing the way we interact with the world through apps like Airbnb, Uber, Car2Go, etc., by making us think about common shareable resources. Companies like Tesla and Nissan are working to make electric vehicles attractive and viable because there is an existing and increasing demand for this service. Open Street Map (OSM) and other open data initiatives, together with open source projects, are serving as a foundation for all of the future’s advancements.

Ben highlights that a bright future is possible for the commuter. Useful technologies have already been developed, but there’s still a lot of work ahead.

  • Electric Vehicle Technology
  • Autonomous Vehicles
  • iBeacons
  • Wearables
  • GPS
  • Cellular Data
  • Open Source
  • Open Data
  • Dynamic Dispatching
  • Interconnected Transit Operations

Watch Ben’s video for a look into the future and how collaboration between these technologies can easily reduce traffic congestion, our carbon footprint, and every day transportation struggles!

“Technology isn’t about any one given killer app; It’s about combining these open source projects, open data, new technology, new interfaces, and new modes. So as you go out into the world… start looking at the things around you and saying what can we do that would be different and exciting?”

It’s Not Just Software That Makes the Difference – It’s the Process


The Process

“It’s not just software that makes the difference – it’s the process too.” It takes a long time for organizations to leverage the greatest of technologies because it’s difficult to adapt, and there’s is a big opportunity cost attached to this process.


So what can you do to smooth things along, streamline this process, and sometimes get rid of those barriers that can make it hard to achieve our goals?


Public vs. Private

There is a vast difference between how fast things move in the public and private sectors. RideAmigos is interested in how we might close this gap. According to Evan, we need to “realize that if we are going to make change, we need to come together and think outside the box on what we can do to share all of this information, to get best practices, and to disseminate it to all the people that are working together.”


The RideAmigos Academy Knowledge Base

The RideAmigos Academy is used to give our clients the information they need – product documentation, release notes, feature seminars, and community forums. Because most of the problems that our clients find are similar, the RideAmigos Academy creates a space to come together as a community to work towards solving them together.


Our focus at RideAmigos is on sharing and streamlining process – not just providing technology.

“What is it that you can do to make things easier for your organization so that you can use technology quicker in a way that’s more adaptable. What is it that you can do to help move things along quicker and create operational efficiency?”



Creating Operational Efficiency Through TDM & Compliance Surveys


Lauren Nuttall is the manager of Worldwide Workplace Experience Programs at Hulu. One of her responsibilities is to manage operational efficiency within the core corporate business. To do this successfully, Lauren turns towards tech solutions to automate more traditional, manual tasks. She recalls how valuable the RideAmigos platform is for people in her position that are tasked with maintaining compliance for large organizations. “RideAmigos was so helpful in providing tools that I needed in order to make sure that we were up to speed and submitting on time.”


Survey Tool

Lauren notes that the survey tools are particularly useful to Hulu. Her group is accustomed to interfacing with additional landscapes, so the RideAmigos survey tools are beneficial because they’re already used to getting and sending information online. She adds that the tool also “eliminates that human error element.” As an administrator, Lauren is able to generate her own surveys, select a date and time for them to be sent out, and decide who will receive them.


Cluster Tool

Using the cluster tool, administrators can easily see where targeted population clusters reside, and their transportation modes, based on survey results. Lauren has leveraged this tool to offer transportation options like ridesharing and carpooling to interns or new hires who might be nervous about commuting. Administrators can match up people who live in the same area to facilitate a more efficient and organizational transportation system.



The information that Lauren has available to her as an administrator is confidential – so she can preserve trust with her coworkers.


Environmental Component

Hulu is a huge proponent of green practices and being conscious of its footprint. “Being able to partner with RideAmigos has been hugely valuable for us because we are able to not only remain compliant, but we are able to do it in a way in keeping with our methods.” The RideAmigos platform has revolutionized Hulu’s TDM strategies, and diminished the presence single occupancy vehicles on the road.


Google Analytics: Reading your Users’ Stories


Brandon Pfeiffer is the Director of User Experience at RideAmigos. He manages front end development, and in order to enhance user experience, he must have access user demographics and behavior. Using Google Analytics, Brandon has been able to gather raw data to “understand what users are doing or what kind of story they are bringing to the site when they visit.”


Google Analytics – Audience Overview

Audience Overview is a tool that splits up raw data into users, sessions and pageviews. This information helps to identify the demographics of the audience – including the geographic location from which users access the website or application. Audience Overview also allows the administrator to see when users are most active. From this information, Brandon is able to identify that most users visit the site during weekdays. Therefore, he can conclude that most people using the application are concerned about their work commute, rather than traveling recreationally during the weekend.


Google Analytics – Behavior Flow

Using the Behavior Flow feature, we can see the starting pages that users view first. Then, the administrator can see the interactions they make on the website by viewing the subsequent pages they visit.


Google Analytics – Goals Tool

The Goals feature helps the administrator to track a specific metric. “We can break down and begin to see when these people are actually viewing their itinerary results, and how many people are actually following through and achieving these sorts of things.” The administrator can easily breakdown the data by viewing how many clicks are on the itinerary, and which ones users are most interested in. For example, Brandon found that people are interested in carpool and biking as their primary modes of itineraries. By examining the raw information closely, he was able to gain valuable insight into user activity. This data includes:

  • The number of people looking for carpool itineraries is greater than the people looking for carpools in general.
  • More people are looking at bike information than carpool information.
  • The carpoolers are reviewing a lot more information than the bike users are.

Contact us to talk about how we can incorporate analytics for TDM and event tracking data to suit your individual needs.



Mapping as a Planning and Outreach Tool. Empower Administration, Staff, & Commuters to Leverage Open Trip Planner (OTP) Routing


Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) has served at Denver’s Metropolitan Planning Organization since 1977. The organization is dedicated to finding the most efficient, safe, and effective method of transportation planning for the region. DRCOG developed the Way to Go program for Denver, using federal funding, to help citizens find a better commute from all of their ridesharing, walking, and biking options.

Way to Go Platform
TDM provider for Denver region of Colorado
Works with local TMA’s to provide non-SOV options
Federally funded to reduce congestion and improve air quality

Open Street Map (OSM)
All the information in the map is provided by users.
Presents an opportunity for community engagement and growth.
Positive reception at the local level – especially with bicycle advocacy groups.
Helps groups host “mapping parties”, in which attendees meet and focus on a specific map area.
Groups can bring significant value to neighborhoods and communities.

Open Trip Planner (OTP)
“The special sauce that transforms OSM data into walking and biking routes in our system.”
Different ways to calculate a route, but mostly based on the information from OSM.
Information like streets, paths, trails, are labeled in the system.
Ride the City Bike Riding application
Uses OTP to develop safe routes and more direct routes.
Trimet Trip Planner
Lead the way in developing OTP as an algorithm that lets users select their route based on their own comfort level and to combine it with transit options.

Open source technology allows organizations to be engaged with their community, leveraging the power of this tool to “reap the rewards of a user sourced system”. if you would like to compare how the many features of open source technology compare with our demo platform.

Fun + Urgency = Impact: The Hidden Incentivization When Air Quality, Employer Engagement & Gamification Unite


Ryan Evans is the vice president of business and community relations at Salt Lake Chamber, the state of Utah’s chamber of commerce. He manages the chamber’s relationships with other chambers as well as business associations.


Utah experiences poor air quality for about 5% of the year annually. This is one of the state’s biggest concerns; but with the help of the RideAmigos platform, Utah has taken the first steps towards solving this problem. Together, they created the Clear the Air Challenge, managed by Salt Lake City. When the state’s capital lost funding for the program, it was taken over by Salt Lake Chamber.


Clear the Air Challenge

This event is a statewide month-long challenge that happens every July. It encourages citizens to drive smarter, drive less, and reduce congestion. A statistic finds that mobile sources cause 50% of the pollution in Utah. The challenge has proven popular and successful with almost 7,000 participants in 2014. 143,000 trips were eliminated, over 2.2 million miles were saved, but most importantly, 668 emission tons were saved.


How to get people to participate:

The Clear the Air Challenge uses TDM gamification tactics and the tools offered by RideAmigos’ platform to incentivize participation. 88-90% of participants sign up as members of a team, usually dividing themselves up by their employers. The competition platform is built around this, offering 10-15 prizes a week to keep participants engaged and competitive. There are 3 criterias for winners: individuals, teams, and large v.s. small employers. This incentivizes every kind of competitor to participate. The competition ends with a large awards ceremony, attracting hundreds of supporters and lots of press coverage to the event.


This is “a fun way of engaging our community in something that really matters and at the same time we’re promoting better transportation behavior… we’re encouraging them to continue this behavior throughout the year” says Ryan. The goal is to get people involved in a focused effort and to “emphasize in a short time the individual impact that anyone can have on air quality.”


Our vision at RideAmigos is to reduce traffic congestion, promote cleaner air, and allow for a happier commute. Through our multi-modal platform we offer transportation alternatives, which include ridesharing and other transportation modes that ultimately reduce pollution and save the commuter time and money. Using features such as our gamification and incentives tools, many administrators have been able to successfully reduce their carbon footprints.



The Intersection of Marketing and Getting the Results You Want


Aaron Gaul is the Director of Urban Trans North America, a transportation planning and social marketing firm with a focus on multi-modal trip planning. He redirects the question “why can’t you sell brotherhood like you sell soap?” towards the TDM industry. This question was first asked by Gerhard Weibe, a WWII U-boat commander in 1952. It was the birth of social marketing strategies, a valuable tool that the TDM industry is just starting to utilize.

TDM Marketing


Get people to engage with the tools you provide to them. Aaron offers an example of his own success with audience acquisition. He recently started a new TMA in Playa Vista, Los Angeles. One can usually expect to acquire 2% of the potential audience for a business in the first year. Aaron exceeded expectations and acquired 11% in the first week. How did he do this? He utilized the incentives structure of the RideAmigos platform and the information provided about what individual employees were doing and what they wanted. Sending out a customized email template to every individual employee and then giving them a presentation on it is what allowed for 11% acquisition in just one week.



Send the right message. Los Angeles is notorious for its terrible commuting situation, however, it doesn’t have to be. By sending the message that this barrier can be overcome by already existing investments in its future, you can increase optimism for carpooling. Showcase how making the right decisions about commutes now can help the world now – and its future. One statistic identified that it is 3 times more likely to have a heart attack after one hour of a daily commute. This would incentivize anyone to make the healthier choice. Inform users not only of what they prevent, but what they receive. A commuter could arrive home substantially earlier by using the best transportation option, and have the opportunity to utilize time in the way that he or she wants.



Recognize that not all employees fit into the same category. Breakdown who they are and what market segment they fit into. Each market segment has a unique need and will respond similarly to the same market stimulus. Aaron offers an example of an Atlantic station TMA with 650+ people. Most of them were on the online tool that was offered, but not participating. To solve this, the users were broken down into categories: long-time carpoolers that had stopped reporting and current carpoolers that don’t report. The company tested two different email subject lines to survey the needs of their users:

  1. “Please activate account for carpool incentives” which had 0% open rate.
  2. “Your interest in carpooling to Atlantic station” which had 30% open rate.

By doing this, they were able to divide their users into walkers within 2 miles, and active transportation users within 5 miles based off of zipcode in infrastructure. This resulted in 37% increase of commute logging rates, 116% increase of account activation, 100% increase of Cash for Commuters, and 300% increase in GRH (Guaranteed Ride Home) applications.


“Find the right people to do the right behaviors because if you don’t, you’re going to be preaching to too many people.”




Microsoft Initiative and the Open Data project for Public Transit


Terry Bills is the Transportation Industry Manager for Esri, a privately owned company that develops GIS software applications and supplies them worldwide. As Terry stated in an interview with T-TRANS 2012, “most of the information that a public transport agency has is usually spacial and nature, so by using our technology they’re actually able to bring [it] together to integrate that information and use it to better plan their own routes, to monitor their own performance, and to ultimately give better public service to their customers.”


Introduction to the Open Data Project for Public Transit

Esri recently held a business partner conference in which Jack Dangermond had a discussion with Microsoft about the possibility of creating an open data portal for public transit information. The concept is to have an open and widely accessible portal for transit data – stops, routes, schedule information, real time data, as well any other data that transit agencies could supply or desire.



The purpose of the open data initiative would be to make data available in an open portal to all developers to build public facing applications that support public transit and other multimodal options.This initiative at Esri is derived from the concept that public transit and other transportation options are an integral part of building Smarter Cities, thereby building a future that Esri hopes to play a big role in.


Esri has demonstrated early success with this program. They note that this initiative is in line with their open data program, where they are willing to host agencies’ data if necessary to make that information widely available to the public and hence benefit the larger society.


RideAmigos and Esri share a mutual vision for a sustainable future by employing technology to advance more efficient transportation demand management strategies. Collaborations like RideAmigos’ Virtual TDM conference and Esri’s open data initiative lay the foundations for the optimal transportation system.


Click here for more information into how our platform might fit your transportation needs and click here to watch other exciting speakers from the TDM conference hosted by RideAmigos.




Teach, Don’t Tell – Client Relations in an Ever-Changing Industry


Grant Heger is the Director of Client Relations & Project Manager at RideAmigos. Grant shares some insight on how teaching can be used as a tool to enhance client relationships in the constantly changing TDM industry.


What do you mean teach, don’t tell? Aren’t they the same thing?

  • Telling = lecturing, a very one sided activity.
    • Do you prefer to be told what to do. or do you prefer being taught how to do something?
  • Teaching allows everyone involved to work together.
  • Be multi-modal!
    • Teaching involves a variety of learning methods for both the teacher and the learner: visual, aural, aesthetic.
  • How do I do this?
    • Jump on screenshare, create a video, have a question and answer session.


How will it help me?

  • Think back to college, high school, or even middle school.
    • What lessons do you really remember?
  • Think about the platforms you use most often today.
    • Could you really instruct another user how to work with it efficiently?
  • The more you are able to teach about your platform or program, the more comfortable you will be with it!


How will it help my client relations?

  • No more feeling alone, lost in the woods of a new platform or program.
  • A more personal interaction helps your client feel at ease with a new program or workflow.
  • It allows hands-on experience with someone they feel is an expert on the subject.
  • It allows your clients and users to have one specific point of contact to refer back to.
  • It gives them an easy way to ask questions in a learning environment.


Never stop learning!

  • If you stagnate, so will your users and clients. Learn to re-learn.
  • Don’t be scared to tell a client “I’m not quite sure but let me find out and get back to you.” This gives you a new learning experience and lets your client know that their question is being attended to.
  • If you learn something new, find someone to teach it to. This will help you retain the information faster and more efficiently.
  • Always remember that there is more than one way to learn: visual, aural, kinesthetic, and more.


Grant makes the point that effective learning requires total immersion into a new platform or program. If you are interested in learning about the UNITY platform and how it will fit to your transportation demand management needs, take a few moments to watch our exciting demo video.