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Big Data Visualization and Society - Riyadh


The project is part of a multi-year collaboration between MIT and KACST in Riyadh, bringing together multi-disciplinary teams, combining designers, planners, engineers, physicists, and computer scientists. On its Phase III, the current iteration of the project focuses on the development research for the construction of an “Integrated Transportation System” for Riyadh. The project is overseen at MIT by Sarah Williams (DUSP), and Marta Gonzalez (CEE), and at KACST by Dr. Mansour Alsaleh and Dr. Areej Alwabil. The overall project is an attempt to theorize about the implications of the dramatic changes Riyadh’s transit infrastructure will experience after the introduction of the upcoming metro and bus system.

Motivated by the rapidly growing population demand (e.g. Riyadh’s population has doubled in the last 15 years), the upcoming transportation system introduces the largest public transit system implemented from scratch in a city with no form of public transportation. The transportation system is the largest urban public transportation project in the world, with the rapid integration of 6 metro lines (87 stations), 24 bus routes (nearly 4,000 bus stops), and 20 parking stations. In a city dominated by cars, with no pedestrian infrastructure and where women cannot drive, the introduction of the public transportation system will transform the urban and social dynamics of Riyadh.

Current Research

• How would commuters use the transit system in the city?

Through modeling the transit system as a multiplex network, different layers of the transportation network can be interconnected to each other, speculating about their interactions. A coupled network connects the public transit system to an extensive road network, evaluates the transit system using travel times for existing demands, and examines the effects of various coupling strategies

• How will public transit be adopted by Riyadh’s population?

Exploration of the role of demographics in metro usage to speculate which parts of the population will use the metro, and what parts of the city are they going to. A comprehensive transportation model for the city of Riyadh that models the upcoming public transit system which can help us to understand the effects on the existing road network, perform detailed simulations that examine the interactions between existing traffic and public transit, and estimate how the public transit system could fulfill existing demand based on the current movement patterns.

• How will public transit affect traffic and congestion?

Modeling of urban dynamics through the use of alternative data sources, CDR and GIS data to identify the potential future demand for public transit.

Interfaces & Visualizations

As part of the overall project, the development of interfaces for open and accessible data visualization aims to serve as a pedagogical tool for urban issues, diminishing the barriers between citizens and stakeholders. The web-based interactive platform combines several layers of different datasets to help transportation planners un

derstand existing metro project (e.g., adoption, and effects on the existing road network), analyze the relationship between these layers, and integrate and examine different scenarios (e.g., calculate travel times by performing coupling mechanisms for road and transit trips).