Traffic Operations

The Evolution of Data-Driven Traffic Operations

This is part 1 of 4 in our blog series on Traffic Insights. Stay tuned for more!

How do you operate a modern traffic system? It requires more than the ability to manage the asphalt, concrete, steel, and electronics that make up road infrastructure. It’s also about understanding the data being produced by this infrastructure.

As a provider of intelligent traffic signal management solutions, Miovision knows first-hand how traffic teams can leverage the power of traffic data to improve congestion, safety, and operating efficiency.

In this blog series, we’ll describe the current state of city-deployed traffic operations. We’ll also forecast on a future state using traffic insights, made possible by Miovision’s Spectrum solution.

Traffic Operations

A transformational change is now happening in public sector traffic agencies. Cities are awakening to the power of traffic data as a foundational element of how they plan, build, and operate their road networks. Enabling technologies – remote connectivity, vehicle detection, and software tools – are at the heart of this change. But another key driver is public pressure—taxpayers demand accountability in how public dollars are spent.

Traffic teams are already realizing significant benefits from being more data-driven in their operations and decision-making. Teams are now empowered by data to respond more quickly to public safety issues, optimize existing infrastructure to reduce congestion, and more effectively deploy limited budget dollars. However, this transformation is by no means complete, as agencies continue to face challenges in making the shift.

What are the Obstacles to Data-Driven Traffic Operations?

Despite the recognized benefits of agencies moving to a more data-driven framework, three main obstacles are hindering the transition.

  1. Supporting Infrastructure: Historically, two pieces of supporting infrastructure are needed to generate signal performance measures: a controller capable of producing high-resolution data and remote connectivity. Traffic controllers yielding hi-res data are limited to only the latest generation of devices, and remote connectivity is lacking in 55% of North America’s traffic cabinets. The lack of this pre-requisite technology and connectivity has limited the rollout of data-driven practices in many agencies.
  2. Data Analysis Tools: Generating actionable insights from large volumes of traffic data requires analytical software tools. The ATMS or central software systems in place in most agencies today aren’t equipped to perform sophisticated analysis of traffic data. The software systems that do support advanced data analysis are typically limited to modeling signal performance data, without the ability to analyze network-level trends, arterial performance, or maintenance metrics.
  3. Technical Expertise: Leveraging data-driven tools for traffic operations has historically been complex, and required expertise in two areas: the technical IT skills to maintain sophisticated server systems for data processing, and the engineering skills to interpret and understand the resulting data metrics. Many small and medium sized traffic agencies have continued to struggle to deploy traffic data analysis systems due to a lack of expertise in these areas.

Traffic Operations

What Are the Benefits of Enhanced Traffic Operations?

Spectrum’s Traffic Insights tools are helping agencies solve these obstacles by utilizing performance measures and data analysis to enhance traffic operations. Agencies that can effectively collect, understand, and utilize data, have shown the ability to enhance traffic operations in four main ways.

  1. Network Monitoring: Agencies are able to leverage real-time data to understand when congestion is occurring, and if these events are normal or indicate an issue in the traffic network. This is helping operations teams develop traffic plans using accurate and timely traffic data, as opposed to approximate models based on sporadic and potentially out-dated engineering studies.
  2. Optimizing Intersection Performance: Agencies are able to leverage signal performance metrics that quantify and analyze intersection flow from a number of perspectives. These tools are helping engineers to not only identify coordination or configuration issues but also significantly reduce the time that it takes to diagnose and solve traffic issues.
  3. Measuring Impact and ROI: Assessing the impact of a change to road design, a timing plan or a traffic policy has historically been challenging, time-consuming, and expensive. Data-driven traffic agencies are able to leverage the power of “before/after” analysis immediately after making a change so that the true impact and return-on-investment of an initiative can be determined.
  4. Data-Driven Decision Making: Agencies are not only using data to optimize traffic flow; they are using data to optimize strategic decision-making. Capital and operating investment decisions are areas of traffic strategy becoming increasingly justified by data-driven objectives. Agencies can report on their fiduciary responsibility to a council and the public with assurance that tax dollars and resources are being optimally allocated.

Traffic Operations

Ask Yourself the Following Questions

Are you struggling to answer the questions below? If so, your traffic agency is likely a good candidate for increasing the use of data-driven operations.

  • Based on complaints we’ve re-timed and coordinated a major corridor – is it working?
  • I know my signals need to be re-timed, but how can I prove the need with hard data?
  • How can I make a stronger argument for support in my funding applications, backed up by real performance data?
  • Is my signal green-time being optimally allocated?
  • Our staff and budget are decreasing, so how can we maintain our service level with fewer resources?
  • I’m not sure that our maintenance contractor is meeting our agreed on service standards – how can I know for certain?

Part Two of this blog series appears in two weeks. It will cover Miovision Traffic Insights for Signal Performance Metrics. Parts three and four of this series will cover Arterial Performance Metrics and Maintenance and Infrastructure.

Bloor Street Bike Lane Cyclist

Miovision Data and the Bloor Street Bike Lanes

A huge milestone for bicycle advocacy in Toronto was celebrated on Friday, August 12. Bicycle bells rang in the official opening of the Bloor Street Bike Lanes, a pilot project that will allow the city to demonstrate and study the impacts of adding cycle tracks along a 2.6km stretch of Bloor Street.

Bloor Street Bike Lanes Map

A map of the study locations for the Bloor Street bike lanes, from Miovision Central.

For decades, bicycle advocates have been fighting for bike lanes on Bloor Street, a major urban artery with an AADT approaching 30,000 vehicles a day. Bloor Street is home to the Bloor subway line, mixed-use commercial and residential buildings, and is a lively and iconic part of Toronto. In May, Council approved the installation of the Eastbound and Westbound cycle tracks.

Data’s role in the Bloor Street Bike Lanes Pilot

Analysis for this Pilot will be the most robust measurement and evaluation of any transportation project completed before by the city. Along with multimodal traffic data provided by Miovision, the city is working with partners to measure parking utilization, economic impacts, and safety.

The Bloor Street Bike Lanes are part of Toronto’s ten-year cycling plan to double the amount of cycling routes in Toronto by 2027. The outcome of this analysis and the decision on permanently installed cycle tracks is due in a report to council in Q3 2017.

Audio Clip: Councillor Joe Cressy on the Pilot’s Data Driven Approach
Joe Cressy announces Bloor Street bike lanes

 

Traffic Data by Miovision Donated at No Cost

Multimodal traffic data for this pilot is being donated by Miovision because we believe that cycling infrastructure is an important component of a smart(er) city. The rigorous analysis of this pilot is the perfect opportunity to partner with a forward-thinking city like Toronto. The pilot also allows us to combine efforts with the University of Toronto’s Transportation Research Institute (UTTRI) for research and development into conflict analysis and cycling safety analysis.

Cyclist on the Bloor Street bike lanes

The pilot project has removed parking from one side of Bloor Street and installed either parking protected cycle tracks or painted cycle tracks between Shaw and Avenue Road.

Multimodal data will be collected at three points during the pilot:

  • Pre-install benchmark  data was collected in June, producing 16 individual datasets along the corridor.
  • Post-install traffic data will be collected in late September during ‘average’ traffic patterns.
  • Comparison data will be collected in June 2017.

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Better Data, Better Decisions

Since this pilot is contentious with not all Council members or citizens agreeing with bike lanes on Bloor, data will play a huge role in the final decision. Whatever the outcome, we’re pleased to provide the data for this important study. Better data empowers better decisions about the places we live and a data-driven city is a smarter city.


For more on creating Bikeable and Walkable Cities, check out this guide:

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Miovision Central Collaboration

Data Driven Protected Intersection Workshop

How do we get more capacity out of our urban infrastructure? Are our roads designed for all users? Could there be a more efficient use of land that gets people where they need to go safely and efficiently?

Cities and citizens are asking these questions and demanding change, but there continues to be an ongoing modern planning problem of accommodating everyone’s needs with limited budgets and infrastructure built for cars.

Enter Mobycon, a Netherlands-based engineering and consulting firm with a North American presence. Their North American mission is to apply world-leading Dutch design to our intersections. We at Miovision are excited to partner by bringing our data collection and analysis tools to a new Masterclass first delivered on Monday June 27th in Ottawa.

johan_diepens

Above: Mobycon’s Johan Diepens highlights Dutch best practices in mutlimodal design.

It’s no secret that the Dutch do multimodal well. They’re arguably the world leader in multimodal design and have been practicing the discipline since the 1970’s when Dutch citizens took to the streets to protest child deaths from motorists. Along with other factors, the resulting movement caused the Netherlands to focus on alternative transportation to make cities safer and more people-friendly.

Overview of the Rethink Living Streets Masterclass

Data, Design and the Protected Intersection

Recently, we hosted 20 engineers and planners in Ottawa from various public and private organizations for an interactive one-day masterclass. The format mixed best practice presentations with group-based design and application.

intersection_critique

Above: Participants critique an intersection and provide three good and three bad qualities for presentation to the group

Mobycon’s founder and CEO Johan Diepens led the Masterclass and shared his experiences of bringing these best practices overseas. Following each presentation, attendees were assigned an exercise to apply their learnings to retrofit a local Ottawa intersection with better multimodal design. Miovision supported these efforts by providing data, video, and visuals for each of the case study intersections via Central.

Miovision_Central_workshop

Groups consult data in Miovision Central to drive their redesign recommendations.

Dutch Design and North American Intersections

Johan facilitated each design session and focused attendees on redesigning selected Ottawa intersections to incorporate multimodal lanes, signs, and striping while:

  • Minimizing points of conflict;
  • Creating 90° intersecting paths to encourage eye contact between road users;
  • Separating modes at conflict point by time or space; and,
  • Separating modes that have a large mass / speed difference.

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Johan discusses design at the roadside

Visit to Byron and Kirkwood

Participants get out of the classroom to the roadside to analyze and critique a case study intersection

Interactive Workshopping to Creatively Apply Learning

Throughout the day, participants listened to Johan and other representatives of Mobycon explain multimodal design best practices. Following each presentation, participants had the opportunity to redesign an intersection and then submit their design for feedback and questions from Johan and other participants.

Miovision Central

Consulting Central to observe multimodal data at an intersection before embarking on redesign.

In the exercises, each group of participants were provided a large detailed drawing of a typical Ottawa intersection, along with a piece of velum paper to overlay and redesign the intersection to accommodate better multimodal design.

New Cycle Tracks

Drawing a new cycle track across the Byron and Kirkwood intersection in Ottawa

Protected Intersection redesign

Explanation of the group’s redesign recommendations.

These feedback sessions were easily the highlight of the day.

Group Critique

Group critique

Modified Turbo Roundabout

Final design of a modified turbo roundabout at Carling and Kirkwood in Ottawa

Final Intersection Designs on Display

Drawings from the final group design session on display for Jeff Leiper, Ward 15 Councillor

What’s next for the Protected Intersection Masterclass?

Based on feedback and our own positive experience of the day, we want to take this class further with Mobycon and provide this curriculum to more municipalities across North America. The format of the workshop is fun and dynamic and provides planners and engineers with tangible learnings that can be immediately applied to today’s intersections.

Connected Traffic Signals: Do You Care? You Should.

Spectrum_ConnectedSignal_Intersection

Dave Bullock, Managing Director, ITS Line of Business, Miovision

Miovision has been conducting an annual peer survey on the state of traffic signals across North America for several years now. Most recently, traffic signal connectivity was the #1 five-year goal of respondents. While 48% of intersections were reported to be connected,  respondents had a desired connectivity level of 81%.

Want to see the full results of the study?
Check out our infographic that summarizes the key findings.

 

It’s clear that cities care about traffic signal connectivity. But why? What are the forces driving this need, and what are the benefits?

Why You Should Care

Your city is demanding smart traffic signals, and your operating budget is demanding cost saving and efficiencies. Urban populations are growing, infrastructure is aging, and you are being asked to do more with less. To keep up with the demands of modern urban populations, cities need to integrate new solutions into old ways of doing things.

Traffic signals can’t deliver the valuable data they collect if they aren’t connected to the Internet as part of a network. Signal connectivity enables cities to acquire the data needed to make better operational decisions, maintain the signal network remotely, and ensure traffic and goods are moving.

Here are four ways remote connectivity helps cities, citizens and traffic engineers:

Reason #1: Minimizes Downtime

According to the 2012 National Traffic Signal Report Card, delays at traffic signals contribute to an estimated 5 to 10 percent of all traffic delay, or 295 million vehicle-hours of delay annually. Connected traffic signals help reduce traffic congestion and delays by communicating problems when they arise, so issues can be dealt with before they escalate.

Reason #2: Reduces Maintenance Costs

Connected traffic signals simplify signal retiming and automate monitoring of equipment failure so maintenance resources can work smarter. USDOT ITS for Traffic Signal Control notes that communications networks allow almost instantaneous notification of traffic signal equipment failure, without which some failures may go unnoticed for months.

Reason #3: Provides Traffic Insights

What gets measured, gets done. Real-time traffic system data allows for evaluation of traffic flow and performance, enabling immediate signal timing adjustments, long-term planning strategies and communication of route planning information to the traveling public.

Reason #4: Improves the Citizen Experience

Perhaps the biggest driving force is the fact that connectivity improves the citizen experience. Citizens like nothing better than a smooth drive with proper, uninterrupted and predictable flow from their starting point to their destination. According the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, the average urban commuter spent an extra 42 hours of travel time on roads than if the travel was done in low-volume conditions and used 19 extra gallons of fuel, which amounted to an average cost of $960 per commuter.

The benefits of connected traffic lights provides motorists with recognizable improvements in travel time, lower vehicle operating costs, and reduced vehicle emissions. This translates into less stress for citizens (an actual measure in the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard).

Dave Bullock is a serial entrepreneur who has built successful companies in the mobile, gaming, and telecommunications industries.  He joined Miovision in 2015 and spearheads Miovision’s Intelligent Transportation efforts.

Learn More About Connecting Traffic Signals

If these benefits sound like big enough reasons to explore traffic signal connectivity, learn more about Miovision’s Spectrum. It’s the fastest, easiest and least expensive way to connect and understand your traffic signals.

Introducing Miovision Central – Better Data, Smarter Decisions

Transportation data projects can get complicated. I know this because in my time at Miovision, we’ve delivered data to over 10,000 municipalities worldwide and counted almost 3 billion cars. That’s all of the cars on earth … three times. In the process, we have helped to set a new standard for the quality and trustworthiness of traffic data used to make significant planning and engineering decisions that shape the places we live. Enter Miovision Central.

What is Miovision Central?

screenshots-miovision-central

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traffic

How Fast Can You Count Traffic?

Miovision’s traffic data technology combines Computer Vision and proprietary Quality Assurance Software to provide accurate traffic counts. Instead of spending precious time counting cars on video, our technology does all the work for you.

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Scout Faceplates

Five Reasons that Scout is more expensive than other data collection cameras

An inevitable factor whenever purchasing technology – whether for business or personal – is price. But what is price? Price is the perceived risk that you’re willing to invest into a product hoping that it will meet your expectations.

Different products carry different expectations: If printer paper fails, you get a paper jam. If a critical business tool fails, it can have a catastrophic impact to business, relationships, and reputation.

So how does this relate to traffic data collection?

Our Scout camera is the most expensive portable data collection camera on the market. When Scout gets compared with other cameras, as it often does, the price-gap between us and the other guys is obvious.

So, why don’t we just drop our price to compete? The truth is, we can’t afford to; but neither can you. Scout is not a garage-built data collection camera for bargain hunters – it’s a purpose-built piece of data collection equipment with nearly a decade of customer feedback, engineering, and quality assurance under its hood. Read more

The City of Edmonton

Customer Perspective: City of Edmonton Improving Traffic Flow

Eyes on Intersections: Improving Traffic Flow

Author:
Matthew Fleet
Communications Officer at City of Edmonton
matthew.flores@edmonton.ca
November 26, 2014

Republished from City of Edmonton Communications Department

Remember the days when City staff in parked cars counted traffic movements in person, or used mechanical counters connected to rubber hoses stretching across the road?

setupThat was then, and this is now… and the comparison is like the difference between the horse-and-buggy and the hybrid car.

Five years ago, Transportation Services’ traffic monitoring group was an early adopter of a new video traffic monitoring technology called Miovision. The department’s eight-person traffic monitoring group is supervised by strategic traffic analyst Sharon Gorton and managed by Thareesh Kariyawasam.

Since then, the traffic monitoring group has boosted the amount of valuable traffic movement data it supplies its internal customers by more than 300%, and done so with an cost savings averaging 15% annually vs previous methods.

“It’s incredible what Miovision has done for our ability to help supply the traffic signals and road maintenance people with detailed information that helps them move traffic more quickly and keep roads in better physical shape,” says Thareesh Kariyawasam, Transportation’s general supervisor of Strategic Monitoring.

Miovision involves the temporary (12 to 72 hours) location at an intersection of a small video camera atop a long pole. Below is a battery and a computer which records real-time video of traffic movement.
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Cyclist image

Making American Cities Safer for Pedestrians and Cyclists

Americans are walking or cycling to their destinations with renewed enthusiasm and frequency.

Today, approximately 50% of all trips under one mile and 10% of all trips of any length are made on foot or on bike.

However, with this increase in interest has come corresponding risk: pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities have climbed steadily every year since 2009. In fact, in 2012, bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities were over 16% of all traffic-related fatalities, highly disproportionate to their numbers, and primarily in urban areas.

USDOT Calls for Safer People, Safer Streets

The rise in popularity and challenges in walking and cycling are among the key trends identified by Anthony R. Foxx, Secretary of the US Department of Traffic, in his forward-looking vision of an improved transportation system for. In the DOT’s draft of Beyond Traffic 2045, they predict a significant growth in walking and cycling in the next 30 years.

They note that metropolitan areas will burgeon and be higher density. That, combined with the Millennials’ lifestyle preferences for healthier and more environmentally sound activities, raises both opportunities and alarm.

Accommodating this simple form of transportation, and doing so safely, must become “an increasingly pressing issue for policymakers, particularly in urban areas,” the document urges.

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Towson Roundabout Data Collection by JMT Engineering

Note: This blog has been guest submitted by Clyde Munz of Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson, Inc. (JMT).

Traffic Count Project Details

JMT was assigned with collecting traffic counts for 36 signalized intersections and one five–legged oblong roundabout – the Towson Roundabout. Of the 37 intersections, 32 of the counts had to be for a 24 hour period.

The Challenge of Roundabout Data Collection at the Towson Roundabout

towson roundabout map

The Towson Roundabout is an oblong five-legged traffic circle that brings five busy roadways together. The roundabout is approximately 200 feet along the East – West orientation and approximately 80 feet in the North – South direction.

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