Using traffic data to change public perception about congestion

We have some pretty strong views on how to build a smart city, and we’ve shared them many times on this blog. The term “smart city” can come across as an abstract concept mainly because there are so many different interpretations of what a smart city really is. But, fundamentally, smart cities are about using technology and data to inform processes, uncover efficiencies, and better connect citizens with public infrastructure and services.

Unlike most of our other posts, this story isn’t about a network-wide deployment of technology. It’s about different disciplines working together to apply their expertise toward solving a city-wide problem: congestion. And, it’s all held together with data gathered using our portable data collection device, Miovision Scout.

 

The Design City LX Festival

Every two years, the Museum of Modern Art curates the Design City LX Festival in the City of Luxembourg. Last fall, Sensity – a design firm focused on innovation – was invited to participate in the festival, which features a display of exhibitions, urban interventions, and more. Sensity was tasked with applying their social design expertise to help address the city’s growing congestion problem.

While its geographical footprint is comparatively small, the City of Luxembourg finds itself dealing with many of the same traffic congestion issues as its big-city neighbors, including Paris and London – all thanks to its unique location. Situated inside the small European country of Luxembourg, surrounded by Belgium, France, and Germany, the City of Luxembourg faces an uncommon challenge in that almost 45 percent of its workforce is made up of cross-border workers who commute from outside the country every single day. The City of Luxembourg has completed extensive multimodal infrastructure updates in an effort to lessen the stress on roadways, but a good transit plan is only helpful if it’s used.

 

The Tragedy of the Commons

Not unlike most major cities around the world, the City of Luxembourg is dealing with an overwhelming reliance on single passenger vehicles. As described in a recent Forbes article, this situation is resulting in a phenomenon known as the Tragedy of the Commons. This term is used in environmental science to describe a situation where individual people guided by their own interests behave in a certain way that goes against the common good of the larger population. When you apply this principle to road capacity, you can see how individual choices in modes of transportation can contribute greatly to congestion.

 

A smart city awareness campaign would help encourage the use of public transportation

The Ministry of Mobility wanted to generate awareness about the ways in which commuters both inside and outside the city could play a part in reducing congestion. They partnered with Sensity to create a unique digital installation for citizens traveling along a major arterial to visually demonstrate how many square meters are taken up by citizens traveling along this route. Their goal was to help commuters be aware of how their personal choices regarding modes of transportation contribute to the congestion problem.

The teams needed reliable traffic data to show the number of cars, buses, trams, and bicycles moving through the roadway, as well as the direction in which they traveled, in order to make the digital installation a reality. That’s where Miovision came in. They chose Miovision Scout to collect the count data, and combined it with manually-captured data showing how many people were sitting in the different vehicles, which gave them the information they needed to create their awareness campaign.

“We often talk about multidisciplinary design – I imagine a world where traffic jams will be transformed into quality time. We need to talk about traffic consequences: environment, air quality, well-being.” Anja Engelke, Senior Consultant, Digital Strategy, Sensity

With the data in hand, they were able to create a digital installation to demonstrate how many square meters a person takes up as they move through the city. The installation was meant to show citizens that by using public transportation, traffic congestion would decrease, resulting in more space on roadways throughout the city, which ultimately leads to a better overall experience for citizens. The visualization showed that moving with the tram is much more ‘space-efficient’ than moving with a car.

The installation of an interactive panel was positioned along a roadway which connects commuters entering the City of Luxembourg from the Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge. It grabbed the attention of citizens and visitors alike, capturing more than 3.5 million views, over four weeks. This unique approach to using smart city data allowed Sensity to share information gathered by Miovision Scout directly with citizens to ultimately guide a change in public behavior.

 

The team at Sensity wasn’t made up of traffic engineers

Collecting traffic data was a new process for the team at Sensity. To add to the complexity, they only had about two weeks to complete the project, so they needed a quick, easy, and accurate data collection solution. They chose Miovision Scout because it was easy to find information online, and the Miovision sales and support teams were eager to help them by walking through the entire process of how to deploy the camera, retrieve data, and analyze the data for their project.

Thanks in part to the success of the art installation, the Ministry will continue to use Miovision Scout to collect traffic data to inform future smart city strategies.

“Today we talk a lot about smart cities, about using digital and telecommunication technologies to improve the services and infrastructure of a city. Mobility is a very complex topic. By using intelligent digital software and hardware we are able to visualize flows and detect chaos in public transportation. Design could support the civil services with a deep look into user research and with handling the different aspects of stakeholder needs.”
– Anja Engelke

We recently held a webinar to discuss the project in more detail, alongside Sensity’s Senior Consultant of Digital Strategy, Anja Engelke. You can watch the webinar here to learn more.

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