Portland has burned its bridges with Replica, a transit data firm, as tensions exploded over data-sharing issues and frustrations on agreed tasks.

In 2019, Portland Metro, the city’s regional government agency, along with 23 other cities, inked a pilot deal with Replica to use de-identified movement data to get in-depth insights about the transit riders’ details, where they may be heading to and the safe paths these bikers take.

After about two years of working together, the partnership failed to get the project running, where the client and tech vendor both agreed to end the partnership for their “mutual best interests.”

Reports claimed Metro seems to be a demanding client. In the process, the agency’s project lead showed distrust in the partner company. Replica cited Metro sought classified data that was not feasible and far from the firm’s privacy standards.

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Portland, Oregon’s regional government agency Metro pulled the plug on the project. Records obtained via freedom of information requests as well as direct communications with Metro and Replica reveal project roadblocks at every turn, along with a series of he-said-she-said disputes over data quality and transparency, access, privacy, and equity.

“Replica’s conduct has not only prevented us from having the transparency that we need to rely on Replica’s data; it’s damaged our trust in the project and Replica as a partner,” wrote Metro Technology Strategist Eliot Rose in an October 2020 email sent to Replica CEO Nick Bowden and Caroline Ahern, the firm’s customer success manager.

Replica is software created to help city governments understand how people move around a given region. It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to build a synthetic populous that can be tracked and analyzed. The idea is to replace old-school, relatively expensive approaches like surveys to gauge people’s travel behavior in a way that’s intended to protect privacy.