The Challenge

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative invited the public explore anonymous vehicle-use data and discover insights that can help the Commonwealth build a more efficient and sustainable transportation system.

What We Were Looking For

Visualizations, analysis, maps, animations, infographics, interactive web tools, games, and any other data-driven medium that reveals patterns and helps inform action.

Answers to driving questions related to transportation, energy, land use, and policy, such as:

    • What makes a neighborhood more likely to have high car ownership and mileage?
    • How much are households spending on gas? Where does driving place the biggest burden on family budgets?
    • Where might investments in walking, biking and transit have the biggest impact in reducing how much people drive?
    • What is the best way for communities to measure greenhouse gas emissions and set goals for reducing them?
    • Do minimum parking requirements for new developments match up with vehicle ownership rates in different communities?

Who Entered?

Whether researchers, analysts, designers, and developers submitted analysis tools, visualizations, infographics, and more.

To learn about working with the data, check out the Datathon Hackpad.


The most compelling Data Challenge entries won $1,000 cash, pre-loaded Charlie Cards, Zipcar memberships, Hubway memberships, souvenir license plates, and more.

The Data

The Massachusetts Vehicle Census contains:

  • anonymized information about the age, model, estimated mileage, fuel efficiency, and zip code of passenger and commercial vehicles registered in the state from 2008 to 2011
  • a spatial dataset of 250 meter grid cells with statistics on vehicles per household, mileage per vehicle, and greenhouse gas emissions
  • a companion package including a wide range of spatial data, including population, businesses, property statistics, and the built environment, for each grid cell (available in the Datathon Treat)

Primary Dataset

Sign in above and confirm an email address to download the primary dataset.

Datathon Treat

The Datathon Treat is a collection of supplementary data about demographics, transit lines, Zipcar membership, and more. This is not a curated collection, and contains only as much metadata as we recieved.

Download the Datathon Treat

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council created the Vehicle Census of Massachusetts, on which the Challenge is based, in partnership with MassDOT and with support from the Barr Foundation. To learn more about the data, download the field list or read the documentation about how it was created.


On Saturday, March 22nd, we held a day of skill-building and data analysis. Participants learned new skills and reinforced existing ones in the morning, then formed teams and worked on their data challenge submissions in the afternoon. The Datathon was an inclusive event, like a hackathon but welcoming all skill sets.

To read notes from the skill-building sessions and more, visit the Datathon Hackpad.

Data Challenge Schedule

  • March 10th: Teams and individuals may register for the challenge, and gained access to the public data set.
  • March 22nd: The Datathon was held at District Hall, 9 am - 6 pm.
  • April 19th: The Challenge officially closes.
    • Online entries must be submitted by 11:59 pm on Saturday April 19th.
    • In-person submissions must be received by 5 pm on Friday April 18 at the MAPC offices, 60 Temple Place, Boston MA 02111.
  • May 1st: Awards ceremony and reception 7:30-9:30 pm at District Hall, 75 Northern Ave., Boston. RSVP for the Awards Reception

The Judges

Dan Curtin

Dan Curtin is Vice President of New Markets at Zipcar where he is helping to lead Zipcar’s expansion to a wider range of urban areas and major airports. He joined Zipcar in 2004 as the Boston Market General Manager and since those early days he has held multiple positions including Regional Vice President with oversight of 8 major markets in North America and the UK, and Vice President of Operations and Service Quality for all of Zipcar. Dan moved closer to the city a few years ago, finding that quality of life went up as commute times went down, and is a big Zagster fan.

Secretary Richard Davey

Richard A. Davey is the Secretary of Transportation for Massachusetts. He is the recent recipient of the prestigious Silk Scarf award from the National Business Aviation Association. He rides the Green Line to work, doesn’t own a car, and lives in Boston with his wife and two cats, Benny and Spago.

Gabriel Florit, Boston Globe

Gabriel Florit makes data visualizations for the Boston Globe. Previously, he wrote software to keep track of trains, fell 200 feet off a mountain, and got lost in Alaska for two years.

Jon Follett, Involution Studios

Jon Follett is a principal at Involution Studios where he is a designer and an internationally published author on the topics of user experience and information design. He has created data visualizations for AstraZeneca, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Survey Sampling International, and many other clients. He is a father of two boys, and a classically trained pianist who dreams of one day having a family rock band.

Dietmar Offenhuber, Northeastern University

Dietmar Offenhuber is an Assistant Professor at Northeastern University interested in how data shapes the realities and governance of urban landscapes and infrastructures.  He was key researcher at the Ars Electronica Futurelab and the Austrian Ludwig Boltzmann Institute as well as Professor in the Interface Cultures program at the Art University Linz. Offenhuber's work has been exhibited internationally and won numerous awards, he has recently published three books on the subjects of data-driven urbanism and infrastructure legibility.

Stephanie Pollack, Northeastern University

Stephanie Pollack is the Associate Director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, where her current research focuses on the intersection of transportation, sustainability and equity.   Her family of five licensed drivers shares two cars, one Zipcar membership, many bicycles, and a love of the webcomic xkcd.

Tim Reardon, MAPC

Tim Reardon is the Deputy Director of Data Services at MAPC, where he oversees research activities, development of new datasets, and new data applications for local and regional planning. He lives in zip code 02119 where his family’s vehicles include four bicycles and a 2005 Toyota Matrix that had an odometer reading of 41,086 miles when inspected in 2010.

Christopher Scranton, MassTech

Christopher Scranton is the Senior Manager for Big Data & Technology Initiatives at MassTech’s Innovation Institute and the lead project manager for the Massachusetts Big Data Initiative. Since 2006, he has supported and led technology-based, cluster-focused economic development initiatives in support of high-tech, emerging, and innovation-rich industries including nanotech, advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and digital games. Christopher is also an avid cyclist.

Mary Skelton-Roberts, Barr Foundation

Mary Skelton Roberts is a Senior Program Officer for the Environment at the Barr Foundation, where she focuses on transportation and land use — two critical levers for reducing green house gas emissions. She also leans on prior experience in dispute resolution, both for mediating complex public policy issues, but also when, running late for meetings, she must negotiate for that last available Hubway bike.


You can help choose the winners! Sign in to rate submissions when they start rolling in.