Rachael Weiss Riley at SXSW ’24: Climate Change and Public Transit

Two Sigma’s Director of Sustainability Science and Data Clinic spoke at South by Southwest 2024 on climate change's impact on transit systems—especially in vulnerable communities.

Two Sigma’s Director of Sustainability Science and  Data Clinic, Rachael Weiss Riley, joined Garry Harris, David Schneider, and Adrienne Schmoeker  at South by Southwest 2024 for a panel discussion on the impact of climate change—particularly in vulnerable communities—on transit systems. The talk highlighted how data science and accessible public good products can contribute to equitable climate resilience practices.

In the talk, Rachael references TREC (Transit Resilience for Essential Commuting), an open source tool Data Clinic launched in 2023 that shares data-informed insights on the intersectional impact of climate change on public transit and access to essential services. Public transit has a key role to play in the global response to climate change, as it contributes less than 50% of the greenhouse gas emissions that driving does.

An update to TREC

Earlier this year, Data Clinic launched an update to TREC, expanding coverage to over 50 of the largest metro areas in the US, including 300,000 bus stops served by nearly 900 transit agencies. Looking at the impact of climate risks including flooding, extreme heat, and wildfires, we see that on average, transit stops serving vulnerable commuters are twice as likely to be affected by high climate risks.

…on average, transit stops serving vulnerable commuters are twice as likely to be affected by high climate risks.

As Rachael notes in the SXSW talk, “With data, we can shift away from climate risk and change in a vacuum and focus on the who (what people are most impacted?), and on the where (what locations and destinations are most vulnerable?).” In this way, Data Clinic aims to generate valuable insights and help bring an environmental justice lens to climate-change resilience planning in transit.

What’s next

Data Clinic is excited to continue developing TREC to make valuable data and insights available to transit agencies, climate resiliency planners, and community organizations. By leveraging Two Sigma’s expertise working with large, high-frequency, time-series data, we hope to further understand when, where, and how bus services are impacted during extreme weather events using publicly available real-time bus feeds.

To learn more, listen to the audio recording of Rachael’s SXSW discussion, In Transit: Climate Change’s Commuter Impact Through Data.

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