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Brail, Vinodrai talk about mobility data at UTM Data Digest event

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Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay
January 31, 2023

Professors Shauna Brail and Tara Vinodrai of the UTM Institute for Management & Innovation (IMI) presented "The Black Box of Mobility Data: Cities, COVID-19, and Counting" on January 18, 2023 at UTM as part of the series Responsible Data Science, DSI@UTM: Data Digests presented by the UTM Data Sciences Institute.

The seminar was reported on by The Medium, the University of Toronto Mississauga student newspaper.

Professor Brail and Vinodrai’s presentation focused on data regarding recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic in Canadian cities. Professor Brail noted a deviation in transit ridership recovery between cities, with Brampton exceeding pre-Covid-19 ridership, Mississauga reaching pre-pandemic levels, and Toronto trailing in recoveries. Spillover effects onto office occupancy was also observed, as downtown Toronto’s office occupancy rate plummeted while its vacancy rate skyrocketed.

When we first went into [the] pandemic, there was great fear of an overall economic collapse—and that’s not what happened,” said Professor Brail in her presentation. She noted that the Covid-19 pandemic created opportunities for some and challenges for others, and such effects varied at different times throughout the pandemic. She mentioned Shopify as an example—which grew significantly at the pandemic’s onset, but lost market capitalization in recent times. 

Even if we’re uncertain about exactly what a single piece of data is telling us, when we look at multiple sources, we’re able to triangulate and understand the picture of it better,” stated Professor Brail. Though, finding data sources can be difficult. Professor Vinodrai pointed out that public data tends to have slower releases, while private data can be expensive or unavailable. The reliability of data must be examined, and its comparability is also an issue. For example, different sources may use varying definitions of city boundaries, which limits the consistency of data comparison.

Excerpted from "Changing the world with data sciences," Larry Lau, The Medium, January 23, 2023.

Upcoming events in this series

See the full list of events in the "Data Digests, Responsible Data Science DSI@UTM" series.

 About the speakers

head shot of Dr. Shauna Brail

Shauna Brail is Associate Professor, Institute for Management & Innovation (IMI), UTM.

head shot of Dr. Tara Vinodrai

Tara Vinodrai is Director, Master of Urban Innovation (MUI) program, and Associate Professor, Institute for Management & Innovation (IMI), UTM. She received a UTM Mobility Network grant in June 2022, and part of those funds supported the research presented at this event.

About the Data Sciences Institute

The Data Sciences Institute (DSI) is a multi-divisional, tri-campus, multidisciplinary hub for data science activity at the University of Toronto. The DSI facilitates research connections, fosters innovation, and enhances teaching and learning in data sciences, including in emerging data-driven disciplines with a highly collaborative, inclusive approach.

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