Next Generation Traffic Management

 

What are potential next generation road system management innovations to address ever increasing demands on major urban road networks with more and more data becoming available?

Australian road owners and operators in major urban areas, both public and private, are facing ever increasing traffic volumes and more pervasive traffic congestion, constrained funding for new infrastructure, and political hesitancy in moving towards comprehensive road user charging.

Traffic management typically has a primary focus on peak periods, which results in a bias towards single occupant vehicle commuters, hence is largely homogeneous with an emphasis on vehicles. But there are examples of transit priority initiatives in Australian cities.

Urban traffic networks are not able to continue to provide adequate levels of service in the face of this growth in traffic, and as a result major urban roads operate at or above rated capacity during peak periods.

What next generation innovations should traffic managers be thinking about to make better use of the masses of data becoming available? 

WHAT DOES THE COMMUNITY WANT?

Transport is about delivering outcomes of effective and efficient movement of people and goods to support economic activity, address social outcomes and reduce environmental impacts.

To deliver the desired outcomes the focus I believe needs to be providing priority for high value transport, that is making optimum use of road infrastructure assets, by giving priority to high occupancy vehicles, transit and freight vehicles.

BIG DATA AND TRAFFIC

Data collection traditionally has been an expensive process. While there are masses of data from vehicle detectors and permanent traffic counters, many of the data components for managing traffic have been based on ad hoc and/or sampling collection activities. For example speed surveys may be a sample of the network conducted annually using a floating car approach.

What we are now seeing is Big Data – masses of data becoming available from multiple sources such as Bluetooth, toll tags, mobile phones, GPS, and social media – which can be collected on a 24/7 basis for very little cost. How can traffic managers make best use of this data for planning, resourcing, operations and reporting performance?

The concern is that there is currently limited analysis and reporting capability available, so even though considerable data is being collected, it is not in a form that road network managers can readily use. Also modal data is often limited to modal managers – traffic data for traffic managers and transit data for transit managers, but not necessarily all road based data being available to both.

CASE STUDY netBI

An Australian commercial software as a service provider is netBI who provide a comprehensive Business Intelligence web-based service, designed and developed specifically for the transit industry. It turns masses of data into operational and management information for transit managers, identifying opportunities for improvements and greater efficiencies, and both standard and user specified analysis and reporting.

The beauty of this approach is there is no software or hardware requirements or support by users – the service is accessed by a web browser. All of the data is collated and quality checked by netBI before being published on a daily basis. The data includes ticketing, service scheduling, actual performance, spatial networks. Analysis is only limited by the granularity of the data collated and the creativity of the user. It is a very impressive system, with very quick response online, and any possible ‘what if’ analysis can be undertaken in seconds.

This system enables a Pareto analysis (ie 80:20) of issues and hence where to focus interventions to gain maximum benefit for the time and resources invested. It also simplifies and enables reporting on specific requirements on a regular basis with minimal effort.

What is missing for transit planners and managers is cross referenced traffic data. For example when analysing on-time running of a bus service, it would be useful to match traffic data such as traffic volumes, travel times, speeds, lane availability, incidents etc.

Traffic information is available in systems, such as the Australian ITS platform STREAMS, but it doesn’t have transit data. There would be of mutual benefit for traffic and transit managers to be able to access both traffic and transit data.

Next generation road system management innovations to address ever increasing demands on major urban road networks will make better use of diverse data sources becoming available.

Article first appeared on http://thinkinghighways.com/

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