Data Gives Breathing Space in Clogged Cities

Photo credit: iStockphoto/ElcovaLana

One item which is not at the top of many shopping lists is historic traffic flows from over 2,000 Australian suburbs for the four years from 2016.

Even so, this data is now on sale and available for online purchase from Melbourne-based technology company Intelematics. It represents a significant move forward in using data in the transport industry and for planning traffic infrastructure.

Intelematics has its own business, based around providing traffic data and connected vehicle services, helping clients track and connect their vehicle fleets, and delivering 24/7 emergency system response.

The company is now entering the new field of traffic data as a service, making it available to third-party developers who can innovate with alternative solutions as the transport industry embraces Mobility as a Service (MaaS).

Seeing traffic flows in new light
The data traffic flows—and the sharing of it—can help make Australian cities safer, less congested, more sustainable and ultimately smarter.

The company expects the key market for the data to be civil engineers. They can use the traffic flow information to better understand the best times for road upgrades, to minimize disruption.

Take the recently completed Hoddle Street Streamlining project as an example. It looked at improving the travel experience for 330,000 people who use Hoddle Street, in Melbourne, every day. An independent before and after analysis of the afternoon peak-hour congestion using Intelematics' data showed a 14%-improvement because of the upgrade.

After the massive upgrade, the data modeling and monitoring continued. The data showed that motorists were driving at an average 4km faster.

The data was collected from a diverse number of sources, from GPS data on phones and in cars to sensors in the street.

This is a major step forward from traditional methods for collecting road data, from pneumatic pipes installed onto road surfaces.

Traffic management gets real and real-time

Another big difference is that today, data is delivered in real time and gives the ability to measure the impact of projects and changes immediately. Previous assessments used historic data which could be several months or years old.

John Cardoso, the senior product manager for Intelematics, believes there is a market for decoded traffic data delivered straight to customers’ inboxes.

“The data clearly shows traffic flow, speed, speed limits and delays by correlations between suburbs and street names, kilometers per hour, geographic co-ordinates and time of day, which can be viewed at the click of a button,” says Cardoso.

“We have also split the time series into a manageable size, allowing people without expert data knowledge to be able to use the data in regular business applications such as Microsoft Excel.”

Up to date traffic flow data is available for purchase now. Traffic volume data showing vehicle counts in all directions in 15-minute intervals will be available from April, and will be rolled out by state, starting with New South Wales.

“We capture data through thousands of sensors located on roads, in vehicles and infrastructure,” says Cardoso.

“The data we capture provides context around traffic trends, accident black spots, the most congested areas, the most dangerous roads and more.”

Beyond roads

Data is key in travel demand forecasting, which helps predict the level of usage of a particular piece of transport infrastructure. The information can be used in areas such as urban freight planning and management, emissions modeling, congestion charging and road pricing and environmental impact assessments.

Still in Melbourne, the Swinburne University of Technology’s Smart Cities Research Institute is trialing automatic passenger counting for public transport, building on new sensing technologies, AI and data analytics to develop accurate and cost-effective solutions.

Turning on city planning

The Tasmanian capital of Hobart is another example. It recently announced a AUD 363,000 contract for WSP Australia to gather data on how its residents travel, so it can better predict future demand and improve the city’s traffic flow.

The work includes updating input data sources on the road network and public transport networks to increase the forward forecasting length of existing planning models.

The city first created a travel demand model in 2011. It was updated in 2016, but Hobart is a fast-growing city and one of Australia’s hottest real estate markets.

Without accurate data and modeling, poor planning could potentially undermine one of Australia’s most livable cities and increased congestion.

Emerging technologies in data analytics, plus the idea of data as a service, has a key role in Australian infrastructure to deliver better planned projects which are more cost-effective and efficient.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/ElcovaLana