In 2010 the Met Council hired a consultant team led by Cambridge Systematics to conduct a new Travel Behavior Inventory. This is a $4 million effort to pin down travel patterns within the Minneapolis/St. Paul region, which are then used to calibrate the region's transportation model.
I believe using the AirSage tools would have cut that budget by more than 50% and provided more refined data for calibrating the region's transportation model.
How does AirSage work?
AirSage has developed partnerships with two cell phone carriers that allow them to get 60 second snaphots (scrubbed for anonymity) of cell phone locations in the U.S. The locations are given with sub 50 meter accuracy and are given whether or not the person has turned off their location. So you can basically set up your filters to track phone locations through and within a defined study area, broken up by zones.
Bill King at Air Sage shared this very informative presentation with me related to the Origin-Destination study they did for the Raleigh, NC regional planning organization (CAMPO). Download Raleigh Winter 2011 Presentation v12 Final
There are other tools out there that can give more refined traffic data, but the amazing part of this solution is that there is ZERO hardware to deploy. All you're doing is working within software that's tracking beacons that motorists have chosen to put in their cars (they're cell phones).
Transportation models are improved by calibrating. The Met Council's Travel Behavior Inventory study may still be justified every ten years, but calibrating the regional transportation model every couple of years with a system like Air Sage's may be a better investment.
p.s. I agree with Nate in our office who said this is the intersecting part of a Venn Diagram showing way cool vs. creepy.