Research project


More livable cities

Project description

Our cities are faced with numerous challenges, including population growth, pollution and unsustainable operations such as transport. Local governments are increasingly trying to promote the use of active modes and transit oriented development. Cities that are ranked as the most livable (e.g. Copenhagen, Zurich, Toronto) typically have some of the highest shares of active transport as well as a high-quality public transport systems. In that context, walking has become an important aspect of urban planning, as it enables healthier and more sustainable lifestyles, but also more livable cities. The BostonWalks study aims to collect data on walking behavior of the population. The study uses a smartphone tracking app to uncover how and where you move through the city. Your data and those of around 2,000 other participants help us to better understand the walking behavior of the population and to derive important policy changes to make your cities more livable.



Questions and answers related to the study

What is the runtime of the project?


Who is carrying out this project?

This is a joint project of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Northeastern University.

Who is funding this project?

The project is funded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Northeastern University.

What are the goals of the project?

The aim of the project is to gain knowledge about the mobility behavior of residents in Boston. The findings should contribute to the promotion of more walkable and sustainable urban development.

Will I get compensated for participating in the smartphone study?

Yes. You will receive a $25 USD Dunkin Donuts gift card for your full participation. Full participation is defined as taking part in the online survey and having your mobility recorded for the entire duration of the study. We will send out the gift card electronically by e-mail.

Questions and answers related to study participation

What are the inclusion criteria for participating in the smartphone study?

To participate in the smartphone study, you must:

  1. be at least 21 years old.
  2. be able to walk at least 1/4 mile without pain.
  3. live in the Boston Metro Area (inner core MAPC).
  4. use a smartphone on which you can install our app (Android or iOS).
  5. not be employed as professional driver.
  6. accept the declaration of consent.
In which languages can I fill in the survey?

The survey is available in English, Spanish and Portugese.

How long is the survey?

The first online survey takes about 5 minutes. Afterwards, you may be invited to the smartphone study and will receive more information about the further course of the study.

Can I participate in the smartphone study, but not in the survey?

No. To participate in the smartphone study, you first have to fill in the survey. Thereafter you will be automatically forwarded to the registration for the smartphone study, if you fulfil the inclusion criteria.

What are the tasks when participating in the smartphone study?
  1. Completion of the online survey with subsequent registration
  2. Downloading and activating the app
  3. Reading the weekly study progress emails
  4. Validate your recorded trips in the app
What is the workload associated with participating in the smartphone study?
  1. Filling out the first online survey with subsequent registration: approx. 5 min.
  2. Downloading and activating the app: approx. 5 min.
  3. Reading the weekly study progress emails: approx. 5 min. per week

In total approx. 1 hour.

How long is the smartphone study?

The smartphone study lasts 2 weeks.

When does the smartphone study start?

The smartphone study starts for you when your first journey is recorded by the app.

Is there a deadline for starting the smartphone study?

No. A start is possible until the target number of participants is reached.

Can I turn off the tracking during the smartphone study?

We recommend that you keep your smartphone switched on and tracking active throughout the duration of the study.

Deactivating the tracking, logging out of the app or switching off the smartphone may negatively affect the quality of the study results.

The impact of the app on your smartphone's performance depends heavily on the exact phone model and operating system. Unfortunately, this is out of our control. We recommend that you charge your smartphone when you are not on the move, e.g. at home or at work, rather than switching it off. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

What is the participant ID for?

The participant ID breaks the link between data and study participants. The researchers directly involved in the study can link participants to their participant ID, however, this is not possible for third parties. This pseudonymisation makes it possible for the study to link responses from the surveys with the data from the smartphone tracking, which would not be possible with complete anonymisation.

What data are collected by the app?

The app collects your mobility behaviour based on GPS tracks. These mobility data are used to analyse transport. These analyses allow for the identification key mobility indicators (e.g. mode choice). Further, trip purposes are derived based on multi-day travel patterns, and spatial analyses are conducted..

What are the data being collected for?

All data collected during the study will be treated strictly confidentially and used exclusively for research purposes. The evaluation of the data is pseudonymised and the results are published in aggregated form, so that no conclusions can be drawn from the publications about individual persons. Only aggregated results will be published to guarantee anonymity.

What is the content of the emails that I will receive?

You will receive emails that inform you about the current state of the survey. If we detect that you have been in an area of high air-pollution, you might receive e-mails where we ask you if you were affected by that air-pollution.

How do you get the air quality data?

Air quality data is collected from PurpleAir sensors installed around the Boston Metropolitan Area. We process this data according to existing literature and provide PM2.5 readings as close as possible to real conditions.

Why should we care about PM2.5?

Particulate matters smaller than 2.5µm in size have the greatest impact on respiratory health. For this reason, this has been the focus of many studies related to air quality and its health impacts.

What is considered unsafe air quality?

EPA regulations suggest that daily averages of PM2.5 over 35µm are considered unhealthy for the population. In this study we want to observe responses for a wider range, therefore you will get notifications if you are in areas with the highest readings on a given day.

Why is air quality monitoring and/or measurement important?

Poor air quality can contribute to asthma and lung cancer and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases like strokes and heart disease. However, the effects of air pollution are cumulative. It matters how extreme the pollution is and how much time the person experiences it.

Questions and answers related to using the app

What steps do I need to complete in order to use the app?
  1. Install the app on your smartphone
  2. Create an account
  3. Activate your account
  4. Log into the app

For a detailed explanation on how to use app, please read these instructions.

What is the name of the app?

«Catch My Day»

Where can I download the app?

The Catch My Day app can be downloaded using the following links:

  1. Apple Store
  2. Google Play
Is the app also available for Windows?


How do I create my Catch My Day account?

UOnce you have installed the app, open it and click REGISTER to create an account. Then enter:

  1. Your email address,
  2. a password of your choice (at least 6 characters), and
  3. Your participant ID that you received at the end of the online survey.
Why is my registration code (participant ID) invalid?

This usually happens if you have already created your account but you try to register again. Please make sure your account is activated and then log in to your account.

How do I activate my account?

You will receive a confirmation email from after having successfully created your account. Please click on the link in this email to activate your account.

Why did I not receive the confirmation email?

It is possible that the confirmation email was sent to your spam folder. Please check there first.
Otherwise, it is also possible that you made a small typo when entering your email address. We regularly try to detect and fix such cases. If you have not received the confirmation email and have not heard anything from us after a few days of creating your account, please write us an email and we will help solve the issue.

How do I log into my account?

Once you have clicked on the activation link in the confirmation email, your account will be activated. Then open the app, click on the LOGIN button and enter the email address and password you chose when creating your account. Please note that it may take a few days before your recorded tracks appear in the app. We thank you for your patience.

Why are my tracks not appearing in the app?

For technical reasons, your last trips may only appear in the app after some time. If your trips do not appear for several days, please make sure that your settings are correctly set.

How should I correctly set my phone settings?

In the app settings, the "Tracking active" toggle must be activated.
In your smartphone settings, you must give the Catch My Day app permission to access your location.
However, different smartphone models and mobile operating systems may require additional settings.
We highly recommend you read the app instructions for more details.

Do I need to validate my tracks?

You may have noticed that the app does not always measure your traffic behaviour quite correctly. Automatic detection of mobility behaviour is technically challenging. Even the best programmes for detecting the chosen mode of transport usually only achieve 80% accuracy. We would therefore appreciate it if you could occasionally validate your stages to improve the quality of the study results. Usually, even a few validations can significantly improve the accuracy of the app. For more information on validating your stages with the app, see this guide.


Contact us by e-mail:

A research project by

Massachusets Institute of Technology - Logo

Massachusets Institute of Technology

City Form Lab

Northeastern University - Logo

Northeastern University

Ryan Wang Lab