How Seattle Transformed a Dangerous Intersection Through Data

There’s an intersection in Seattle located in the Madison Park lakeside neighborhood where a ½ mile hill leads right into a populated business district. There sits Seattle’s busiest Starbucks location and a Wells Fargo Bank. This arterial connection is both the neighborhood’s busiest intersection for pedestrians and a city-designated school crossing location. Due to the rampant speeding and sight-line problems with this location, people walking often have difficulty crossing the street without trepidation.

Busy intersection at East Madison Street and McGilvra Boulevard East in Seattle

It took a serious collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian to force the city to try and fix the problems with the intersection. That’s where Bob Edmiston, his team from Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, and volunteers from Tableau saw an opportunity to make difference.

Their success would all depend on the data.

The Long and Winding Road to Funding

The plan for Seattle Neighborhood Greenways was to conceptualize and implement a safer intersection strategy for pedestrians. First, the team secured a $90,000 grant through Madison Park Community Council to enable the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to redesign the intersection.

However, to secure the addition $390,000 necessary to implement the changes, they would need to prove that the redesigned intersection would actually solve a problem. On top of that, there is a competitive pitching process for allocating grants in Seattle divided by district. Edmiston and his team were competing for the top spot against 15 other grant projects from the area. After initially failing to convince the decision makers of the value of the project by using an emotional appeal, a more persuasive approach was desperately needed.

If the team didn’t win the grant right now, their project would be dead.

Answering the Call with Data

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways sensed that they needed quantifiable proof of the improved safety of their solution. To collect the evidence necessary for a persuasive argument, Edmiston built a traffic counter that could record gaps in traffic with millisecond precision and conducted a gap analysis of the intersection. Seattle Neighborhood Greenways volunteer Troy Heerwagen worked with Edmiston to visualize the data using Tableau Public for ease of understanding.

Edmiston made some key observations:

  • During the critical 15-minute period before the morning school bell, there were only two opportunities with gaps long enough to walk across the street.
  • Crossing distance reductions provided by the curb extensions would reduce the crossing time enough to triple the number of safe crossing opportunities for pedestrians during the critical 30 minutes before the morning school bell, without requiring any changes to driver behavior or roadway function.
Intersection Video Data

Bob’s Visualized Data

After presenting the new data and logic to the East District Neighborhood Council, the people responsible for funding decisions were convinced that the project would, in fact, produce the safety outcomes it promised. They reversed their earlier decision to not fund the project and chose to make it their top priority for 2017 funding.

Don’t Underestimate the Data

Edmiston reminds us to not underestimate the data, when he says,

“data matters, counts matter, gap analysis matters. We would have been dead in the water without it. But it’s about being able to show data in a way people can understand and relate to. That’s an equally important part of the problem.”

If it weren’t for the data collected, Seattle’s busiest intersection would still be dangerous for pedestrians. More so, it was the way team presented the data through visualization that made it digestible and accessible to everyone.

Miovision is passionate about enabling other change-minded individuals to use data to justify their road safety solutions.

Want to learn more how we can help you leverage meaningful data? Contact us today.

Traffic Signals: The Perfect Smart City Tool

At their most basic level, traffic signals are infrastructure assets that control vehicular and pedestrian traffic. But what if we could look at the humble traffic signal in a whole new way? What if we looked at this piece of infrastructure as the perfect foundation for a smart city? As the easiest and least expensive way to build a smart city? If you’re a transportation engineer, you have access to one of the most powerful data collection tools in your city.

Traffic signals can do much more than manage traffic flow. They can be the starting point for acquiring massive amounts of data.

#1: It’s Easy and Inexpensive to Integrate Smart Technology

Traffic signals can easily integrate smart technology. The brains that control signals are housed in one location – that traffic cabinet. An Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), like Miovision’s Spectrum, can be installed in the traffic cabinet to acquire and communicate data from each traffic device back to the Traffic Management Center (TMC). Gone are the days of needing to rip out and replace legacy traffic infrastructure or lay expensive fiber optic cables just to gain connectivity. Traffic signal data can be connected to cellular LTE communications in 20 minutes or less.

It’s not just the ease of connectivity that’s helpful. Traffic lights are elevated and provide a great view of intersections. Attaching video cameras and sensors to the light or to traffic poles allow for optimal data collection. The location and simplicity of connection make traffic signals an ideal, inexpensive and simple foundation for data collection.

#2: They’re Everywhere

There are more than 340,000 traffic signals in the North America alone. That’s about one traffic signal per 1,000 people. Because they are so ubiquitous, they provide a large number of data collection points. A city of one million people houses thousands of intersections capable of collecting millions of data points each year. Smart cities start with big data, and traffic lights deliver.

#3: Intersections Collect a Lot of Data

Intersections collect a myriad of data points, including vehicle, bike and pedestrian counts, traffic speed, intersection approach volume, congestion reports, accident surveillance, WiFi or Bluetooth MAC address identification, public transportation monitoring, and traffic signal timing to name but a few. Pooling this data in one accessible location opens the doors for unlimited analysis, evaluation, and optimization. More data provides more insights, and more opportunity to build a smarter city.

#4: Generates Immediate Impact

Integrating smart technologies into traffic signals opens the door to immediate impact. Signal timing alone can pay back at a ratio of 40:1. The ripple effect of better signal timing is significant: diminished traffic congestion, lower fuel costs, improved air quality, increased productivity and citizen satisfaction. In the longer run, traffic agency maintenance and labor costs shrink. Intersections are a perfect spot to generate returns.

Large and expensive smart city projects can be hard to justify. But integrating simple and inexpensive smart technologies at traffic intersections will show an immediate ROI. The resulting savings are available to forge ahead with a bigger smart city vision.

#5: More than Traffic

Smarter traffic signals don’t just optimize traffic. Connectivity provides the opportunity to integrate with other data points. Signals can connect to vehicles through Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) communications. In the future, smart signals and sensors will deliver data like weather, crash reports and road conditions. Think of your city as a network of arteries providing check-in points to help you navigate the city most efficiently. Once ‘smart’ traffic signals have been deployed, data integration points are only limited by the imagination.

A Wireless Traffic Network Doesn’t Need to Be Scary

Security Resize1

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

Cities are at the forefront of the next wave of the Internet of Things.  Combining digital technologies with existing physical infrastructure to gather useful data – this is the promise of the future city; streamlining communication, optimizing efficiency and improving the lives of citizens. At the heart of the smart city are wireless networks, connecting physical infrastructure and technology via the cloud.

Traffic signals are no exception to the IoT revolution. A connected traffic network provides a whole host of benefits for cities, citizens and transportation professionals. Traffic engineers can access data to make more informed operational decisions, maintain the signal network remotely, and ensure traffic and goods are moving. Remote access provides the flexibility to access signal data anytime and anywhere. But extending access to signal data outside the walls of a traffic management center (TMC) can cause city officials to have security concerns, some real, some perceived. Will my data be secure? What about hackers? What if the cloud is down?  But a wireless network doesn’t need to be scary. If the CIA can trust the cloud, so can you.

Want to read our security whitepaper?
Get deeper insights into wireless security.

 

Here are the common security concerns we hear from traffic professionals and city office. If your solution can address these issues, you can rest assured that your wireless traffic network and the underlying data will be secure.

Concern #1: Will I have less control over my data?

A good solution will allow you to maintain full control of your data via the cloud. You’ll be able to manage and monitor who gets access and when. All access should be managed by secure authentication. If you can’t manage and control access securely, then we’d suggest finding another solution.

Concern #2: Will my data be secure?

Your data should be secured through encryption and a Virtual Private Network. For example, Miovision enables read-only access to monitoring tools, and prohibits the ability to push new timing plans from outside the city’s VPN. We recommend utilizing a vendor with a strong cloud partner, like Amazon Web Services. We consider them to be the gold standard, which is why we use them for our Spectrum solution.

Concern #3: Isn’t it more secure to have my data stored on city-owned infrastructure?

Regarding cloud computing, some cities are concerned with the fact that the solution and data live outside their walls, and not on city-owned IT infrastructure. To ease those concerns, cloud-based providers like Miovision and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have sizable security teams focused on monitoring and regularly patching systems. It’s safe to say security monitoring from cloud specialists is superior to a few security personnel on a city’s IT team. These security measures for cloud-based computing have earned the trust of government organizations like the CIA and the US Department of Homeland Security.

Concern #4: What if the network is down? What if a disaster hits?

To avoid downtime, a vendor should provide a rigorous overview of their security response process as well as real-time network status. You can find our network status here. Furthermore a reputable cloud partner should provide a very detailed security response process. This should entail their process for secure backups and disaster recovery.

Concern #5: What about hackers?

A good solution will use the highest level of encryption similar to those used for banking and government. A good standard is OpenVPN connection that uses AES-128, configured with CBC mode. Endpoint authentication is via OpenVPN pre-shared key authentication mode. This level of encryption will keep your traffic network on lockdown.

Hopefully this eases some of your concerns about wireless network security. The cloud is the new normal for businesses, governments and cities. With robust security, your city will be more effective, efficient and secure.

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 your security concerns are at ease, you can learn more about our solution; Spectrum. It’s the fastest, easiest and least expensive way to connect and understand your traffic signals.

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.

Miovision’s Traffic Signal Survey Results Infographic

Every year since 2012, Miovision has conducted a peer-driven Traffic Signal Survey. The survey measures the current state of traffic signal maintenance and operations in North America. The question categories include: traffic data collection traffic data reporting and visualization activities software and systems traffic signal connectivity

Congestion Pricing in Washington, D.C.

Congestion Charge ZoneLast week we reviewed congestion pricing in Toronto, Ontario. This is Canada’s largest city and North America’s fourth largest.

This week, we review congestion pricing in the United States, specifically in Washington, D.C. Read more

Utah DOT Celebrates 100th Anniversary of the Traffic Signal

A replica of the first electric traffic signal unveiled by UDOT Executive Director, John Njord.

On October 4, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) celebrated the 100th anniversary of the modern, electric traffic signal. It was invented by Lester Wire, a Salt Lake City police officer, back in 1912. He was looking for a way to control busy intersections as congestion was growing and could potentially be a safety issue.

Read more

Signal Timing Research Initiative Follow-up

Miovision Signal Retiming ReportIn March, we reached out to government agencies across Canada and the US to take part in Miovision’s first research initiative, which was about signal timing. Survey respondents enthusiastically shared their insights and opinions on this oft-discussed topic. The research initiative was very well received and generated much food for thought.

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National Traffic Signal Report Card 2012 from the NTOC – Part Two

In the previous blog article, National Traffic Signal Report Card 2012 from the NTOC – Part One, we reviewed previous results of NTOC Report Cards and this year’s results including two of the five criteria that attribute to the overall grade.

This week’s blog article will focus on the importance of signal operations as well as the remaining three criteria that contributed to the NTOC Report Card.

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National Traffic Signal Report Card 2012 from the NTOC – Part One

On May 16, 2012, the National Transportation Operations Coalition (NTOC) released their 2012 National Traffic Signal Report Card. This is a national traffic signal assessment where US agencies grade themselves on 5 categories related to the management and operation of traffic signals. The overall grade was 69 or a D+ based on 241 respondents, representing approximately 39 percent of all traffic signals in the United States.

 

This week’s blog we’ll review the previous results of NTOC Report Cards as well as the results from this year and two of the five criteria that attribute to the overall grade.

Read more