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How to Achieve “Availability Certainty” Using Connected Parking Systems and Real-time Data Part 3: Building Your “Right-Fit, Right-Technology” Parking System

In today’s post we’ll look at why real-time parking data and analytics are two cornerstones of a successful parking system implementation and operation, and how the right parking guidance solution contributes to your success. Then, we’ll discuss strategies you can implement at your organization, as well as some tips you can use when evaluating and implementing a parking availability and guidance system of your own.

Parking availability & guidance solutions are oftentimes built around one technology. But what if instead of evaluating the sensor type, you were able to look at your parking systems as a total solution designed to capture the highest accuracy data and not as a “one-size-fits-all” device? In that case, you wouldn’t want to commit to one sensor type because you may find your environment—outdoor lots, garages, single paid spaces, space-by-space—requires multiple technologies.   If you have a combination of a few or all of these, you have to look at your sensors as part of an overall solution, one with a combined dashboard and set of metrics that allow you to understand your entire environment.

Sensors’ accuracy levels should be driven by matching the right technology to the problem, in order to dynamically route traffic and parkers to the right place. It might be something as simple as a puck in the pavement, a laser counter, or ALPR for all of your access control and counting, but each solution has a ‘best fit’ from a technology as well as from an environment standpoint.  Newer parking technologies can be less intrusive on infrastructure. For example, you can install an optical laser system using existing power in the garage ceiling and have your entire garage outfitted and calibrated in a day or two. The ParkTrak from All Traffic Solutions is a plug-and-play parking counting system that uses laser technology and directional logic. It installs in under one day without cutting into your infrastructure or disrupting your operations. It is easy to configure and delivers greater than 98% accuracy.

Guidance

Parking guidance systems come in many forms. To find the right one for you, you first want to understand what guidance and wayfinding should look like based on your needs.

Permanent Signage

Signage should conveniently and succinctly tell people where the available parking is, without them having to take their eyes off the road, slow down or stop. Signage should be thoughtfully placed, easy to understand and keep traffic moving.

Portable VMS

While some need permanent signs, others only need to deploy signage occasionally, such as when their visitor log shows that exiting traffic will be heavy. Others may only require a sign to direct people to visitor parking during special events, such as a conference, college graduation or sporting event.

Lot, Zone, Aisle, or Space Indicators

Many parking managers wonder if they need to have signs or if they can simply provide wayfinding with red and green lights. It’s all about the right solution for the right needs, and indicators often fit the bill.

Apps, Websites, and Social Media

These versatile parking guidance tools let people know instantly when a parking area or zone is crowded. You can use a traditional parking app, a corporate app or intranet, social networks like Twitter and Facebook, or opt-in text messaging. These tools provide empowerment and offer users a variety of information choices.

Data and Reporting

Data and reporting are relatively new to the parking industry. Parking data shouldn’t just live in your forecasting tool; you should be able to present data to your customers in the form of availability and be able to prepare for what parking may look like in days ahead, based on data trends. If you have a telecommuting policy, there may be a group of people to whom you could give a work-from-home option on heavy parking days. Data is very powerful, but only if you harness it.

You need to have goals for how to use your parking data. What’s your counting availability goal? Do you want to know how many vehicles enter or exit and when, or what the peak parking periods and days are? Do you want to be able to see your existing entries and exits before you consolidate regional offices into your corporate headquarters or before you build a new parking facility? We’ve seen corporate HQs that close down regional offices and bring everybody on to the corporate campus, only to discover that parking is untenable.

Analytics is also part of the data and reporting structure. Analytics help to break through anecdotal conversations by providing you with the facts. When you’re doing parking analysis, being able to forecast availability is kind of the holy grail, but you can get awfully close. You can make infrastructure and parking planning a priority. You can make better decisions about where to place your headcount by knowing where employees, visitors and shoppers can park. In retail, if you’re able to see that you’re losing 100 potential customers a day because parking is too difficult, you can assign a cost to that.

You have to be able to understand the parking data, so the data interpretation that comes with your reporting tool is critical. You also want to partner with a provider who not only gives you the data and the reporting, but provides a simple process for interpreting it.

Real-time Parking Data and Connected Systems Benefit Everyone

Parkers

Real-time data and reporting can save parkers time, energy and effort and alleviate stress over where they are going to park because now they’re able to reserve it, pay for it and access it in real time.

Companies and Facilities

Real-time parking data makes it easy for employees to find available parking quickly, reducing stress and improving productivity.

Operations

Operators can take their garages and their revenue back, increase profits and reduce costs. They can get the best price for their spaces by driving folks to their own apps and driving more revenue for themselves, rather than paying an aggregator.

IT

IT has a stake in parking because of its ability to interface with things like the employee ID, campus security and parking gate systems. IT appreciates a parking system that is future-proofed and works well, both from an integration standpoint and an information security standpoint.

CITIES

Data helps cities ease the parking congestion nightmare. Real-time data improves traffic flow by directing people to available parking in real time. Cities that focus on reducing congestion and traffic density have a much happier driving public and a healthier city through reduced emissions.

Decision Makers and Planners

Leveraging data for proactive decision making is what we all want to do. The exciting thing about real-time parking availability and real-time data that tells you what’s going on in your facilities is that when machine learning and predictive analytics come into play, you can come pretty close to achieving “availability certainty.” You can look at your data in six months to a year, see the trends and be able to accurately forecast. Your tools can be set to do some of that forecasting for you so you never have to guess what parking will look like from year to year. You will know what to expect and can plan for it.

ParkingCloud

ATS’ ParkingCloud™ is the only cloud-based IoT platform purpose-built for the parking, transportation and traffic industries that integrates all your devices, data and output in one place. ParkingCloud works with just about any third-party data, sensors, legacy devices and publicly available data sets. It has a machine learning engine, provides analytics and reporting, and can combine data sets so that you can see how everything works together and how traffic data potentially impacts parking data and vice versa. ParkingCloud incorporates our (or your existing) guidance and wayfinding system, your reservation system and mobile payments, and PARCS systems.

ParkingCloud removes the burden of having to build out your own system or having to use locally-based systems which require you to continually upgrade or service. We handle all this in real time in the Cloud, making it as maintenance-free and hands-off for you as possible. It’s the true easily customizable solution versus a “one-size-fits-all” that really doesn’t fit anybody.

In our last post, we wrote about how to assess your parking needs.

This post is an excerpt from the ATS white paper How to Achieve “Availability Certainty” Using

Connected Parking Systems and Real-Time Data

For more information or to request a quote, contact an ATS solutions expert.

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Blog, Parking Lot Blog

Getting to 99% Accuracy with Your Parking Availability and Guidance Solution – Part 1: Why Accuracy is Critical

Regardless of whether you’re buying one component of a parking availability and guidance solution, outfitting one lot or garage, or crafting a system for your entire parking environment, your goal is to solve your parking challenges, both today and into the future. You need something that is flexible enough to cost-effectively instrument and disseminate information throughout your diverse infrastructure—lots, garages, street parking—with the right solution to meet your accuracy needs, at the price that will drive value, that doesn’t require an engineering degree to implement, and that has an easy-to-demonstrate impact on your organization.

Nobody thinks about platform when picking a parking availability and guidance solution. In fact, buyers rarely think about platform at all when they’re buying any parking solution. But, it could be the most important part of any technology decision you make.

What is an “open platform”?

You hear about platform in many industries today, but what does it mean really? When we talk about platform, we’re talking about a solution that allows you to integrate with many different components, such as sensors, signs, data sets, and external systems, without extensive custom coding or other IT or engineering work. The key difference between an open platform and a closed system is the ability to connect to different data sources and outputs without having to pay for a custom coding effort to get it to integrate with your existing systems, new technologies or a specific component from another manufacturer. The open platform has pre-built integrations or toolkits that make this a simple, turnkey process that the supplier has to worry about, not you.

So, what does an open platform give you that a closed or proprietary solution doesn’t? Read why selecting a turnkey parking availability solution based on an open platform that’s device agnostic is the best decision you’ll make about your parking technology stack.

You want the most accurate parking counting solution for each separate component of your parking operation

Most parking operations have a number of different environments in which tracking availability is necessary—garages, lots and street parking, to name the most common—and a variety of applications they want to deploy. Most frequently these include availability and guidance, access control, safety, and reservations, but messaging, mass notifications, custom analytics, and integrations with other systems are also on many parking professionals’ radars too. Deploying the best solution to fit the problem is the way to get the results you’re looking for. The challenge is that there isn’t typically one technology that fits every environment or configuration, and there aren’t any suppliers who cover every possible scenario.

For example, at a large university, you may have:

Surface lots, some with clear access points and some with no defined entries or exits, some with controlled access, some with design standards that restrict the use of poles or delimiters, some with very low light levels, some with power and some without, some with occlusions, some unsurfaced or some set aside for specific events or venues.

Garages, which may or may not be access controlled, may include meters, may have multiple exits and entries, may have premium spaces (reserved, handicapped or expectant mother) or rooftops that need space level availability and guidance.

Street parking that may be metered or open, may have time restrictions, may be reserved for specific events or times or may have design constraints that restrict accurate counting.

The last thing you want is for each structure to have a varying rate of accuracy in the number of spaces occupied. If your garage availability solution is 99% but your surface lot solution is at 80% and your street parking solution even lower, your aggregate accuracy rate is very low. And that’s not a daily accuracy rate if you have multiple turns on each space. Even if you have an accuracy rate of 90% across all your environments, if you have four turns a day, you are producing directionally accurate data, at best.  

You may also have a number of different needs or applications, for example:

  • To provide parking availability information, both on signage and directly in your campus app, to provide a one-stop shop for students
  • To integrate with your permitting system to control access to specific lots using ALPR or Bluetooth
  • To leverage your mass notification system to alert those on campus during events via signage or direct app integration
  • To integrate with multiple parking management systems to provide a campus-wide view into available spaces
  • To include reservation services for pay-to-park events or feed availability to an aggregator

Across everything, though, for every kind of operation, you likely want one source of truth: one parking availability and guidance system to reference where you can see the availability, utilization, occupancy time, duration of stay, and type of parking stay for every lot, garage or street parking space under your management. You want to have one place where you can gather your data to make the best decisions in real time and on the fly, provide guidance for parkers in real time, and understand your environment based on true data, not opinion or anecdote.

This can only happen when you have very high accuracy rates. Without that, you’re still working from supposition, making it difficult to solve the problem, whether it’s getting students to the closest available parking spaces and to class as quickly as possible (helping increase student retention), shoppers into spaces and shops without frustration (so they can spend money), employees into their seats (so they’re productive and ready to work), or visitors into and out of their event venue without backups (to reduce traffic, congestion and emissions). For each of these considerations, there is a “best fit” technology, one sensor type or technical solution that provides the most appropriate accuracy level at the right cost. Finding one manufacturer who offers each of the different sensor types or integrations can be challenging if not impossible.

In our next post, learn more reasons why selecting a turnkey parking availability solution based on an open platform that’s device agnostic is the best decision you’ll make about your parking technology stack.

For more information or to request a quote, contact an ATS parking solutions expert.

This post is an excerpt from the ATS white paper Getting to 99% Accuracy with “Right Fit, Right Technology” Solutions: Why Platform Matters.

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Blog, Parking Lot Blog

How to Achieve “Availability Certainty” Using Connected Parking Systems and Real-time Data Part 2: How to assess your parking needs

In our last post, we discussed the limitations of old-school solutions. Now let’s look at how to assess the best smart parking solution for you.

Solutions: Best vs. Best Fit

There’s a lot of debate in the parking industry about the best parking technology, and it sometimes leaves the industry at odds. Organizations are tired of trying to manage more and more complex parking availability and guidance systems, and complexity does not always equal the best fit. They want a solution that solves their problems.

You hear a lot about the Internet of Things (IoT), real-time data, predictive analytics—but the technology you choose has to be something you can actually use. If you’re the parking administrator at a company or university, you want it to be simple. You want to be able to grab the data simply and leverage the data in a meaningful way. If you’re a parker, you also need technology to be simple, not something that completely twists your brain when you’re trying to park your car.

Parking has become a bigger and bigger problem for everyone. It takes a lot of time and energy for people to circle trying to find parking, and it takes lots of money and resources for organizations to manage those environments, only to find out the solution they were offered and implemented hasn’t solved the problems. If you have legacy investments already in place on your campus today, you want to figure out a way to integrate them into the new parking technology that’s coming down the line and some of the platforms that are available.

Organizations should focus on parking availability certainty, not probability. Look at accuracy versus estimates, and know your parking availability down to the last car. Take the information that you may have captured in an Excel spreadsheet and start to do some comparisons to see how close you were to what the real numbers are. Look at parking data for more exact data sets to inform infrastructure development.

True Data in the Cloud

Whether you are looking to make a profit or planning for growth, you need true data in order to develop a roadmap of how to get there. At All Traffic Solutions, we believe that the best path to true data is a cloud-based system. You don’t want servers, manual updates or manual field service—you want a system that delivers true data quickly and remotely and gives you the ability to tie in other systems for greater benefits. If you have ALPR and a permitting system but you want to install a counting system, you should be able to tie them in and have them all on your cloud-based platform.

What Data and Technology Can Do for You

What do you want your data and technology to do for you? Do you want to monitor and manage your pay-to-park spots so you can set rates and pricing? Do you want to simply capture the number of people who park on your campus? Do too many employees park in the visitor lot or in handicapped or expectant mother spaces? Not only can you manage it all with the proper mix of sensors and wayfinding, you can actually help develop policies that have a positive impact on your organization.


How to Assess Your Parking Needs

Here are some questions to ask when figuring out the right parking availability and guidance system for you.

 

What does the physical infrastructure look like?

Do you have a mix, or is it all garages or surface lots? Do you have defined entries or open access? Do you have designated entrances and exits, or is there an enter/exit opportunity with a single lane of road? Do you use lane delineators? Do you separate things off using a delineator system?

Do you have design restrictions? This is a big one. You may want high-tech equipment and sensors and the latest signage, only to discover there are design restrictions. Do your homework and find out before you make selections.

Do you need to count both spaces and zones?

If you have huge corporate parking garages where you enter on one side, exit at the other and park somewhere in between, do you want to track which zones are experiencing the most traffic, or do you want to know where most people choose to park? Do you want counts at the zone level, by individual space, or do you need to count them both?

There are many good systems available that will not only help you count spaces but will also provide information on which spaces are open and which are closed.

What are your signage requirements?

There are many excellent options available in terms of signage. Do you need standard count availability signage, or do you need a monument board that tells you the availability on each level? Do you need signage that not only provides parking counts but corporate messaging as well?

Do you need signage at all?

Could you provide availability with a simple red/green bollard system that shows parkers exactly where they can park?

Do you have existing counting equipment?

Do you already have something in place that counts people coming in and out, but you’re just not getting data from it? You should be able to integrate your existing counting system into your platform.

What kind of reports do you need?

When asked, many organizations will respond, “I want all the parking data,” but what they don’t realize is that ALL the data is like a big fire hose. It’s best to think strategically. Determine what you want initially and what matters to you the most today. Then start to build out your data, based on your reporting needs, from that point and you’ll develop a healthy number of reports as you move through the process. Collect three to six months of data so you can start to drive your business through forecasting based on accurate data.

Our previous post discussed limitations of old school solutions.

In our next post, read about how ATS can help you achieve “Availability Certainty” using connected parking systems and real-time data.

This post is an excerpt from the ATS white paper How to Achieve “Availability Certainty” Using Connected Parking Systems and Real-Time Data

For more information or to request a quote, contact an ATS solutions expert.

Blog, Parking Lot Blog

How to Achieve “Availability Certainty” Using Connected Parking Systems and Real-time Data Part 1: Limitations of old school solutions

Traditionally, parking availability data used for guidance, pricing, planning and reporting has been based on estimates and anecdotal information, but today that’s no longer an option. If you’re a parking manager, understanding real-time availability is central to providing efficient wayfinding and better customer service. Real-time data allows you to maximize revenue by implementing dynamic pricing based on current demand. Real-time availability data gives you insight into how your parking organization is currently functioning and changing, and what the latest trends look like.

In this blog post we’ll look at the stark contrast between “old school” parking solutions and the next stage of parking, mobility and technology, and how the Cloud and IoT (Internet of Things) are helping parking managers gain efficiencies, save money and deliver a better parking experience.

Old School Solutions

Parking is more than just the physical structures; it’s part of the bigger vision that positively or negatively impacts an entire city and the infrastructure around it. Parking is a vital factor in mobility and guidance, and it’s as much about navigating through a city as it is navigating through a garage. Your city is adversely affected when you don’t have real-time availability data. Other limitations of old school parking solutions include:

Can’t Route Parkers

Efficient, accurate routing is really critical to sustaining optimal traffic flow, but many existing parking guidance solutions are woefully inadequate. They often route people to facilities that are full, causing would-be parkers to circle garages, lots and city streets—leading to traffic jams and agitating everyone. When signage is present, it’s not always designed to be helpful—legacy signage can actually cause congestion by forcing drivers to slow down to read because information is presented in a way that isn’t highly visible or legible.

People today expect more than physical parking locations and availability numbers. They’re looking for specific zone and even space-specific information for their immediate parking need, be it for shopping, a special event, or a business meeting.

Insufficient Availability Data

The methods you used in the past to understand availability don’t really work anymore because they don’t tell you everything that’s happening within your premises. You may have an idea based on past experience, but you don’t necessarily know what’s going on at any given time.

For example, do you really know how your parking areas are being utilized? If some parkers are leaving their cars for eight or nine hours at a time at a shopping center, it could mean they’re not actually shopping—they’re commuting—but you won’t know this unless you have occupancy data or unless you were to watch and manually record each vehicle. It’s not practical to assign a person to stand in the corner with a clicker; it’s far more efficient and helpful to count occupancy and occupancy duration in a sensor-based environment that drives that data in real time.

 

Flow, Safety and Productivity are Impacted

Everybody would love to accurately forecast parking availability, but it’s almost impossible if you don’t have accurate real-time parking availability data. Public safety is often addressed piecemeal in the parking world. Some garages still have somebody periodically counting vehicles manually to get an idea of capacity throughout the day and actually build their safety policy around that information.

Many parking facilities still use loops, which can be not only unreliable but tear up infrastructure, take days or even weeks to install and can disrupt the facility during installation, calibration and setup. We consider that old school.

What Would Your Perfect Parking System Look like?

How would your current parking operation be impacted if you had immediate access to real-time parking availability data? Think of each component of your end-to-end parking process and how you could optimize it with real-time data. For example,  if you’re a municipality and you want to guide eventgoers through your town to convenient, available parking, how would guidance be enhanced with access to up-to-the-minute occupancy data? You could provide the latest availability information via continuously updated signage on major roads or through your app or website. In the garage, you could tell parkers where they could find parking by level, row, space and in nested areas.

Add real-time traffic data to the mix and your parking system becomes even better. Let’s say you’re running an airport and you want to provide accurate, efficient traffic routing from downtown out to the airport. At the airport, you want to route people away from a construction area to the nearest available parking in time for them to make their flights. At exits, you want to tell parkers the most efficient way to leave the parking garage or lot to avoid congested routes to major roadways. You can accomplish all this by leveraging real-time availability and traffic data.

How Data Transforms Parking Operations

Parking operations generally fall into one of four segments, and regardless of which segment you’re in, you can achieve “availability certainty.”

Commercial operators

Commercial operators can reduce cost and increase profitability using real-time parking data. If you’re a commercial operator, you want to get the most out of every space you have available, and you can maximize yield with dynamic pricing that’s driven by real-time data. If your facility has an app or reservation feature, with real-time data you can drive revenue.

Municipalities

Many factors impact municipal parking. Increase in headcount, office changes, consolidation, and construction can all affect where people park. Local events, weather and time of year also play a part in parking demand.

Many municipalities prefer to manage parking based on known factors, such as how much they can charge to accommodate current and potential growth. They want to consider impacts of growth, for example, if a large company sets up headquarters in their town. With accurate availability data, they can plan for that and be able to manage it when it happens.

Municipalities also want to consider the residents and anchor businesses, those who help build the community and keep it stable. With real-time data, parking can be leveraged to aid economic development and enhance quality of life for residents.

Universities

Universities face similar problems as student enrollment increases, especially at commuter schools. In many cases, they rely on a security or facilities team to go out and perform manual counts across surface and garage lots. They’d like to increase student and staff satisfaction with real, accurate guidance, making it easier to find parking and get to class on time.

They can do this by understanding their true parking availability. By having real-time availability data, they can make smart, money-saving decisions based on facts and not guesswork when it comes to building, renovating, or expanding parking.

Corporate

Productivity, morale and stress levels are affected when employees are spending 25 minutes looking for a parking space. Corporations want to get employees out of their cars and into their seats faster. They can do this while leveraging technology they’ve already implemented and future-proofing their next investment. For example, if your company already has a gate system, you may want to put in a counting system but without having to tear up the gates.

Companies can use parking data to drive additional mobility and workplace transformation initiatives as well. If you are at capacity and don’t have anywhere to build, you can use a parking availability system to drive rideshare programs or flextime and develop policies around how much parking you have now and how much you would like to have in the future.

Companies also must consider the communities in which they’re located. If your parking garage is situated off of a public road, you don’t want your employees tying up traffic in the morning or the afternoon when they’re arriving or leaving work.

In our next post, read about how ATS can help you assess your parking needs.

This post is an excerpt from the ATS white paper How to Achieve “Availability Certainty” Using Connected Parking Systems and Real-Time Data

For more information or to request a quote, contact an ATS parking solutions expert.

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Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

Free Up Resources and Let Portable Traffic Devices Do the Work

 

If your agency needs to stretch the budget—what agency doesn’t?—you know it’s challenging to manage traffic flow and safety with fewer resources.  You’re trying to do more with less and less; you may have even developed a real talent for this in many areas.

When it comes to traffic calming and traffic safety programs, it’s not easy to achieve and sustain program goals after budget cuts. It costs money to post officers on busy roads to monitor traffic and enforce speed limits, but it can be difficult to reallocate these resources from other critical duties so they can sit in their patrol cars and identify speeders.

Then there are the issues of ongoing data collection and reporting— traditionally two time-consuming and cumbersome tasks. If you’re fortunate to have one or more radar speed displays at your disposal, you know how effective they are at alerting speeding drivers to slow down as well as giving you valuable feedback about the most effective times to conduct enforcement activities.

But dispatching someone to drive to each sign to collect data (not to mention check batteries, make sure the signs are where they’re supposed to be and that they have not been tampered with) means taking another resource out of the field. That’s not always something you can afford to do when staff is already stretched thin.

The public demands a lot when it comes to traffic management, and the pressures and obligation to serve and protect citizens won’t decrease, even as funding is being cut. That’s why it’s important to maximize every resource and traffic device available and find cost-effective ways to leverage technology for both quick wins and long-term results.

Web-enabled traffic calming and speed enforcement devices can augment the work of agency by being on patrol 24/7. They can record accurate information (and in stealth mode without unduly influencing driver behavior), can be accessed from any Internet-connected device to check batteries, confirm location, program messages and other parameters, and allow you to download traffic data in real time for reporting. Also, by storing traffic data in the Cloud, you eliminate time-consuming data file management.


How the Natick Police Department uses their Web-enabled ATS Devices

The Natick Police Department in Massachusetts is using their ATS devices in different ways depending upon the situation.  Each year, Natick is home to Miles 8 through 12 of the Boston Marathon, and, as you might imagine, the world-famous event attracts a huge influx of visitors that results in a sharp increase in traffic. For the past several years, the Department has deployed trailer-mounted SpeedAlert 24 radar speed displays from ATS to communicate event-related messages to the public. Because the portable signs and lightweight trailers are easy to move from location to location, they can be used for different purposes whenever and wherever they are needed.

Before the event, the signs notify motorists and residents of impending event-related road closures. During the race, the signs are stationed along the route to direct runners to medical tents and emergency shelters should they be required. After the race, the signs can be repositioned to direct spectator traffic out of the area to minimize congestion. Sign messages are pre-programmed remotely using TraffiCloud so that officers don’t have to drive to each sign to change messages, which would be problematic during such a busy, crowded event.


Capturing Data for Quick Speed Surveys

The SpeedAlert radar speed displays get plenty of use in Natick the rest of the year, too. The Department utilizes their four SpeedAlert 24 signs and two SpeedAlert 18 signs to run speed surveys they use to clear complaints. This saves them from having to assign officers with Lidar to each location to collect speed data.

A radar speed display is set up at the location in question to gather the speed data—first in stealth mode so drivers are unaware they are being monitored, then in active mode to display driver speeds as they pass, and finally in stealth mode again to capture additional information.


Time-Saving Extended Speed Summary and Enforcement Priorities Reports

Extended Speed Summary reports are generated in TraffiCloud, comparing before and after average speeds to measure the sign’s effect on traffic. The reports are kept on file where they can be shared with the state of Massachusetts as needed. Another helpful report is the Enforcement Priorities report. Says Officer Scott Lacerna, “The enforcement reports are huge because they allow us to utilize our resources in a more effective manner. We are a department of 60, and I’m the only traffic officer—the radar message displays are great because they allow me to immediately identify where resources need to be.”


Portable Radar Speed Displays and Vehicle Counter Classifiers Also Save Time

StatTrak Portable Vehicle Counter Classifier Natick Police Department

Because ATS signs are easy to deploy and redeploy as needed, they can be mounted temporarily on a pole, stand, trailer or vehicle hitch, then moved to a new location to calm traffic on another road. The Natick Police Department also uses StatTrak off-road counter classifiers with speed measurement from ATS because, at as little as three pounds each, StatTrak is easy to install, take down and redeploy at each new location.

“We were using road tubes, but using StatTrak we avoid the mess of nailing tubes to the ground and then tearing them back up,” Officer Lacerna said. “It’s far easier to tie a StatTrak to a pole. We use four-foot zip ties to secure it to the pole, then we chain it with bike chain so that they don’t get stolen. I can put two StatTrak devices up in 30 minutes at two separate locations.”

The police rely on the StatTrak’s speed measurement capability to run quick, accurate speed surveys that they can generate in seconds using the TraffiCloud remote traffic management system. Unlike speed trailers, which can’t be used at every location, StatTrak is installed on the side of the road, away from direct vehicle contact for safety and uninterrupted traffic flow. The speed surveys are used to determine if the department should invest more time and resources into a particular roadway, and since oftentimes the data proves there is no issue, the Natick police can focus on what they do best—protecting the people. 

By being resourceful, the Natick Police Department and many other law enforcement agencies are achieving their goals and managing safety more efficiently and effectively.

Read the ATS case study here.

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

Run Quick, Accurate Speed Surveys and Traffic Studies Using Portable Traffic Devices and the Cloud

 

If you’ve ever had to follow up with residents regarding speeding complaints on a particular road or neighborhood, you know that generating speed surveys and traffic studies can be time consuming, and often the results prove there isn’t a real speeding issue at all. Or perhaps you want perform a traffic study to measure current traffic volume in an already congested roadway, without laying road tubes (which can be dangerous to install, easily damaged and a mess to pull up) so you can plan how to divert traffic during upcoming road construction.

The good news is that you can conduct mini speed studies and baseline traffic studies—fast, efficiently and accurately—and produce simple speed and volume traffic reports to help clear complaints, identify enforcement priorities, improve traffic flow and plan for future growth. You just need the right tools.


How much does it cost to prepare a traffic study?
Transportation studies can be expensive and should not be conducted without considering the alternatives. “There is no typical cost for conducting studies since transportation problems often are unique in scope and sensitive to regional differences in travel patterns. A traffic study can range in cost from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, based on the complexity and extent of the study.” Traffic Study Fact SheetInstitute of Transportation Engineers  


Clear Speed Complaints with a Quick Speed Survey

Police departments understand the importance of following up on neighborhood complaints regarding speeding vehicles on a particular stretch of road. The ability to address these concerns in a timely manner strengthens community relations and helps lighten the volume of paperwork for officers and staff.

At times, these speeding complaints prove to be more of a perception problem. Other times there is basis for concern and remediation but researching speed issues has oftentimes involved assigning officers, using handheld Lidar, to manually monitor and track driver speeds. This takes officers way from fighting crime and taxes your already stretched budget.

One solution is to first install a speed radar sign, such as the portable Shield 15, on the road in question. You can deploy the display on the road in stealth mode so that it can inconspicuously gather true speed data without appearing to be operational to passing drivers. (This is important because who hasn’t slowed down in observance of a flashing sign telling you that you’re going over the speed limit?) If the data shows that most everyone is obeying the speed limit, you can clear the complaint without using valuable resources. If there is a problem, you know that you need to take action, such as posting an officer with a Lidar device on the road for enforcement or installing a permanent speed sign to keep drivers in check.

Another option is deploy an off-road counter classifier like StatTrak, also from ATS. StatTrak is a portable, easy-to-install counter classifier that collects bi-directional traffic in up to four lanes at once and can be mounted to a pole on either the side of the road or in the median in under 30 minutes. If you have concerns that your radar speed sign in stealth mode isn’t “stealthy enough,” this lightweight device (weighing in at as little as three lbs.) is an ideal solution to collect information without the potential influence of the radar sign.

Request Speed Limit Change

Let’s suppose that despite all your efforts to slow speeders on a road, your reports show no noticeable decrease in average speed or in the number of speeders, pointing to the need to ask the DOT to perform a traffic study. Does filing this request mean more paperwork for you? Probably not, if you submit data reports that support your request and demonstrate that remedial action is indeed required. If additional speed data is required, you’ll be able to furnish it quickly and with greater accuracy than if you had to manually collect the data and perform ongoing file management to produce reports; your centralized data repository will provide the reports you need with just a few clicks.

 

Planning For the Future Using Accurate Traffic Data

Most traffic complaints or speed studies get routed to the police department, other times it’s the public works department that will conduct that study. In either case, many traffic studies are still conducted by having someone stationed at roadside to manually count vehicles which is time-consuming, expensive and takes staff away from other important tasks. One city that ATS is working with is going to upgrade their 40 unconnected signs to be smart units so they can gather data and upload it to the TraffiCloud remote traffic management system. As the city grows and expands, they will have an accurate idea of how that population is moving and the impact on traffic on the edges of their city. As congestion gets worse, they can tie it back and track population growth through speeds and volume and see how those impact major highways or throughways.

Whether your goal is to clear speed complaints, conduct unofficial speed surveys and traffic studies or produce accurate forecasts of traffic trends and population growth, All Traffic Solutions has the right portable, web-enabled traffic devices to save you time, budget and resources.

For more information or to request a quote, contact an ATS solutions expert.

 

Further reading

Traffic Studies Made Easier: Count and Classification in the Cloud

Using Data-Fueled Radar Speed Displays for Optimal Traffic Calming

Sample Count and Classification Reports

Sample Reports Speed Vol Enforcement

"Shield
Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

Bolster Road Safety with Connected Radar Speed Displays

As your community grows and your budget shrinks, your resources are probably being stretched to the limit. A growing population usually means an expanding infrastructure and more businesses moving to your area.  How can you enforce speed limits and keep roads safe when you’re expected to do more and more with less?

All Traffic Solutions customers are finding success by making our portable web-enabled radar speed displays an important component of their traffic safety initiatives. This post will discuss three of the benefits of these versatile devices.


Reduction in the volume of speeding-related complaints

Most customers we speak with say that with the majority of speed-related complaints they receive related to a specific road prove to be largely unfounded. More often than not, it’s a perception problem. The resident may observe that cars are whizzing past their house in large numbers, but when an officer is deployed to the street to take Lidar readings, what they discover is that the percentage of speeding is quite low, or that there’s only an issue on Friday and Saturday nights between 10pm and midnight.

Having the officer park their car for the better part of a week to come to that conclusion isn’t proactive, it’s reactive and costly, and it’s taking them away from other important police work. When the next complaint call is received, they’re assigned to the next location to do the same thing all over again.


Accurate real-time speed data

Another problem with sending an officer with Lidar is that when drivers spot the officer they’ll slow down so you’re not getting an accurate picture of the true extent of the speeding problem. Your officer can’t be at that site 24/7 so how do they know what time of day or days of the week is the issue most critical?

You can deploy a Shield 12 or Shield 15 radar speed sign in stealth mode at the location so that it captures data but doesn’t display speeds. Drivers don’t know that the sign is operational so they don’t alter their speed as they pass. The sign will capture up to 10 days of accurate speed and volume data and produce a documented report of that 10-day time period that they can slice and dice to understand what’s going on.You can download the report as a PDF to share with the complainant, share with management, bring to your next town council meeting or post on your website.

If you see that there is indeed a speeding problem, switch the sign to active mode so that it displays each driver’s speed as they pass. Oftentimes drivers don’t realize they’re surpassing the speed limit, and seeing their speed displayed is a jolting reminder to pay attention and slow down.

TIP: SpeedAlert 18 and SpeedAlert 24 radar speed displays can be programed to display both driver speed and speed-dependent  messages for added reinforcement.

You can run a range of reports in literally seconds to understand traffic volume, high/low speeds, average speed, 85th percentile, etc. for a week, day, daypart or view a comparison. There’s a really helpful Enforcement Priorities report that combines all your locations and shows where and when there are issues at each location. Law enforcement can use this data to prioritize their resources so that problem locations are monitored at the right time.

 

Lasting speed reduction in the community

Radar speed displays have been proven to reduce speeds and continue to calm traffic months after the sign has been installed. According to a study by the Texas Transportation Institute, there was an average reduction in vehicle speed of as much as nine miles per hour a full four months after a radar speed sign was installed. All Traffic Solutions customers report the same kinds of results, especially when the sign is installed, even temporarily, on a neighborhood road where residents travel often. When made aware that the police department is watching the area, driver behavior is lasting.

TIP: The best way to ensure lasting results and reinforce compliance is to mount your sign on a pole (it takes one person about five minutes) and use solar power so it’s always operational.

We hear success stories from customers in law enforcement, public works departments, college campuses and corporate facilities, and many call to purchase additional signs. They like the portability and the remote access. They see a reduced volume of complaints, they have traffic concrete data when they need it, and they can address issues effectively while tying up fewer resources.

SUGGESTED READING

PROVEN SOLUTIONS FOR INCREASING SCHOOL YEAR ROAD SAFETY 

Download our free 10-page guide to get the facts about web-enabled radar speed displays, their benefits and how you can use data to support your case for the purchase of your new Shield or SpeedAlert.

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Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

How Agencies Can Easily Automate Traffic Management Using the Internet of Things and Cloud Technology: Part II Traffic Flow

Last week we posted the first of a two-part conversation with Heidi Traverso, former police officer and ATS in-house traffic solutions expert, in which she shared how some agencies are automating traffic management and maximizing resources using cloud technology and IoT specifically by leveraging conditional sensor messaging. In today’s post, we’ll talk about how some ATS customers are using real-time data to manage traffic flow and plan for the future.

How would I use conditional messaging in a work zone?

The challenge with work zones is the presence of traffic where workers and equipment are also present, which could cause injury, crashes and fatalities. Depending on the volume of vehicles and the speed limit, a municipality may not want to incur the expense of police enforcement at that site. By deploying web-enabled radar speed displays in work zones, you not only add that enforcement layer by reminding drivers to slow down, you can also track volume and speed for benchmarking purposes and monitor in real-time for ongoing tracking.  The data gathered by the radar speed displays are uploaded automatically to TraffiCloud where you can generate speed and volume reports in seconds for any date and/or time range. These reports may show you that your heaviest volume and highest percentage of speeding occurs Monday through Friday between 8-10am and Monday through Wednesday between 5-7pm, demonstrating with real data that police presence is needed during those times only. You can’t gain this kind of immediate insight if you have to go out to the equipment and download data constantly, then manage your data files and plug information into a spreadsheet.

The same process applies to vehicle queuing. If you have real-time queuing data, you can change your work zone intervals for allowing traffic through. You can view this information in real time, which allows you to create optimal traffic flow through the work zone or use conditional messaging to route vehicles to alternate routes. All this in real time, adaptive to current traffic conditions.  

How can I use technology to control traffic flow? Let’s say I’ve got one intersection that, between 7am and 9am in the morning is awful, but only on some days. How can I reroute traffic when it gets to a certain point, away from there?

Congestion could be caused by the way the lights are timed at that intersection, it could a choke point, it could be an event-driven occurrence like a confluence of school buses.  Since we don’t have any means of knowing without collecting data and analyzing, I would just say to treat it as a segment of road. For example, if you are able to do a historical analysis of speed and volumes in an area, you can identify those pinch points and when they occur and reroute traffic away from the area using conditional messaging. For example, a job I am working on at the moment is for a city that is about to undertake a bridge replacement and they need to do two things—communicate  to the public in advance about the bridge closure and/or imminent delays and then, while it’s happening, let drivers know what and how long the delay is and advise them of the time required to cross the bridge versus taking an alternate route—so that they have the choice beforehand based on current congestion.

SpeedLane Pro Off-road Bidirectional Counter Classifier

If they close all lanes except for one and they alternate traffic back and forth utilizing the one lane in timed intervals based on volume, that’s something that can be communicated in real time. Since you wouldn’t know if your westbound traffic is heavier than your eastbound or how it’s queuing up based on the work you’re doing, you need to perform a pre-engineering study. This can be easily accomplished if you have radar speed displays or count and classification devices. What I would do is put out a SpeedLane Pro counter classifier alongside a multilane road and for a month, collect a baseline for that area so you’ll know exactly when those volumes are heaviest, the percentage of cars on the road versus commercial vehicle traffic, how much of that is commuter traffic, and what are the peak hours and days. This information may really alter the course of how that project is conducted.

They might determine that nighttime is the most opportune time to do their roadwork because the impact to that commute is just too significant, or that they have to create additional shoulder lanes to move traffic through the area in a different way. If they are changing an intersection or a series of intersections, they may do a temporary roundabout. I’m working with another county who did that as well. They created a roundabout while designing an intersection so that traffic would flow well through that area. It has actually worked so well that they are going to keep and expand it.

By having easy access to traffic data allows you to make better engineering choices and use your resources more widely based. You can anticipate projected growth as well. If a housing development is being built and you know that X number of vehicles drive through that area currently, you need to accommodate that increase. Measuring current volumes, you can anticipate and prepare for those changes ahead of time.

So, having real-time traffic data enables a municipality to minimize congestion AND do it at a lower cost?

Yes. So many road projects were planned using traffic data from as much as three years ago or more. Population, roadways and conditions all change in that time, so doing real-time studies before, during and after construction ensures that you’re prepared and addressing current as well as future needs.  If you post that SpeedLane Pro counter classifier for the pre-study and you leave it up, you can see and measure the impact as you’re moving forward with your project.

You can infer from the trend that, “If it continues to increase at X percent, this is what it’s going to be like in a year”?

Yes! That’s traffic engineering. Universally, municipalities are doing this on a per-project basis, but if they have the technology at their disposal they can do multiple studies throughout the year very cost-effectively and easily.  I have another project going with a couple of engineers that don’t know how the project will proceed yet, but they want to know what their options are down the road. They know that the duration of the project is six months and there might be a pause.  the great part about this is if they own the technology, the gap doesn’t matter because they can adjust for it.

This county also is going to operate rolling work zones where the actual work is being conducted as they move. It could be shoulder work, it could be striping. To be able to advise and understand potential queuing volume enables two things. Number one, it makes it safer for the workers ahead because since they are constantly moving, there is no way to use barricades or lane delineators. Second, this active work zone may be confusing for a lot of drivers. By utilizing a variable message board like InstAlert 24 in front of the work zone, they can reroute traffic with the least amount of confusion as the work zone changes from one lane, to two lanes, to shoulder work.

Without this advanced notification, what happens is the vehicle in front sees the work, but three or five cars back won’t, causing a major backup, jamming brakes and unsafe conditions for the workers.

What about using technology for traffic calming, setting speed limits, working with the community and traffic studies?

Most traffic complaints to law enforcement are complaints or speed studies that get routed to the police department. If it’s a speed study, many times Public Works will conduct that study. One city I’m working with is going to upgrade their 40 unconnected signs to be smart units so they can gather data and upload it to TraffiCloud. As the city grows and expands, they need a really accurate idea of how that population is moving and the impact on traffic on the edges of their city.  As congestion gets worse, they can tie it back and track population growth through speeds and volume and how those impact major highways or throughways.

What other technology-driven traffic tools do you want departments of transportation, public works or traffic safety to know about?

One big thing is preemption devices. One aspect that I’ve been studying in a lot of different cities is the impact of commercial vehicles traffic on congested inner-city roads or municipalities.  They are trying to deliver goods, but they can cause severe congestion. They need to make wide turns, they’re slow to move, they’re slow to stop and potentially triggering unsafe traffic conditions. By combining our counter classifiers with ATS tools like Virtual DriveTimes or Time to Destination, cities can route trucks onto designated roads, rather than allowing them to trudge through a downtown area.

 

For example, if you’ve got a business route or a ring road that commercial rigs could use as an option, by letting them know in advance that there is a commercial vehicle route that favors them, that holds the green longer for that direction of traffic, you’ll keep lots of trucks from the inner-city parts and you’ve done something positive for commercial commerce.  You are giving that segment of the traffic population a benefit—they can get through, make their deliveries without the frustrations of dealing with inner-city traffic and congestion, and you’re giving them a favored route. Usually, it’s all about no commercial rigs, wrong way, do not enter, high restriction, weight restriction… by giving them alternate routes that favor they feel rewarded instead of punished.

The bridge network in this country is one of the most under-addressed transportation infrastructure components. Right now, one of my major metropolitan clients is using a SpeedAlert 18 radar speed display integrated with our SpeedLane Pro counter classifier to classify each vehicle before it enters the road to the bridge.  If the vehicle is commercial it immediately triggers the sign to say, “No commercial vehicles.”

You can direct each driver to either not go through or give them an alternate route. All these way-finding apps don’t distinguish commercial rigs from private vehicles. A commercial driver who is unfamiliar with an area, as many are, gets there with Waze or Google Maps, which directs them to go through an area which is a hazard, but it also causes tremendous angst for that city. I’m working on a different project that redirects drivers, compelling them to ignore their GPS and take the route the city wants them to take. The city is communicating with them, telling them, “Ignore your app. This is our city. We need you to comply with our directions through the city.”

Heidi, thanks so much for sitting down with us, and for the great tips and tricks on how any municipality can improve traffic flow and safety, expand their services and reduce their costs using connected traffic devices, the IoT and the Cloud.  

SUGGESTED READING

Data-Driven Traffic Management Solutions for Safer Roads

Learn about InstAlert variable message signs.

Learn about our connected Count and Classify solutions.

Download our Count and Classify Sample Reports Brochure.

 

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Blog, Parking Lot Blog

How to Gain Real-Time Understanding of Your Parking Availability Using a Smart Cities Approach

If you’re a parking operator, when it comes to having a parking management system that allows you to understand your total parking availability in real time, the deck has been stacked against you. There are many factors that have made it very challenging. In today’s post, we’ll talk about those challenges, and how you can leverage the latest technology to move you closer towards having the right-size, right-fit, right-technology parking system you want but thought you couldn’t have.

The Situation

Parking systems have traditionally been built on platforms that use proprietary software and therefore don’t “talk” to other systems, and don’t provide information and data in real time. Also, the systems required the purchase of a server, plus ongoing IT support.

As a parking facilities manager, how can you gain insights into your entire inventory? Every lot, every garage, all your on-street parking and every premium space?

The answer lies in adopting a smart cities approach to parking.

A smart approach:

  • Leverages your existing hardware and software, together with data analytics, to accomplish more while spending less
  • Utilizes a technology-agnostic strategy so you can use the technology you have and seamlessly add the technologies you want in the future
  • Collects valuable data and then uses it to make the most cost-effective and impactful decisions
  • Integrates all your devices, systems, and data onto a single platform to give you real-time insight into your entire inventory

Here are five best practices your organization can implement now to attain the right parking system for you while continuing to use the systems you already have, to gain a real-time understanding of your total parking inventory.

#1 Automate Using the Cloud

The Cloud can simplify things, allowing you to leverage the IoT (Internet of Things) to connect your parking-related devices so they can “talk” to one another. 

So, your parking counting system could tell your variable message signs the current availability on each level so the signs can share that information with parkers. You can implement dynamic pricing automatically, increasing the hourly parking fee when lots approach a preset threshold to maximize revenue.

When you use these technologies you can monitor all your systems from anywhere using the Internet so they’re easier to manage, improving the parking experience for parkers and operators.

You also want to look for a parking management system that is built using an open-technology platform, which gives you maximum flexibility now and in the future. For example, ParkingCloud from All Traffic Solutions connects all your systems on a single, central platform. This gives you limitless technology choices, independent of your current environment—as complex or as simple as you need them to be. You leverage your existing technology, can add new technologies as they are developed or as your requirements change—without being locked into one vendor’s platform.

#2 Leverage Meaningful Parking Data

To make parking data work for you, you need a system with an open architecture. This allows for easy integration and easy viewing and analysis of data all in one place. Once the data is all in one place, you need the ability to analyze it for decision making and planning. For example, having parking occupancy data in real time and over a period of time allows you to track peak occupancy times, when vehicles enter a garage or lot and leave without paying, and how much inventory you can offer to aggregators to maximize revenue.

#3 Use Real-time Occupancy Data

Real-time occupancy data is one of the most powerful tools parking managers can have. Furnishing real-time occupancy information to parkers alleviates congestion, gets people to open spaces faster and allows them to get to their destination and go about their business, which makes everyone happier. Real-time occupancy data reduces overall frustration and improves safety in and around parking facilities, and allows parking managers to respond faster to issues and better plan for the future.

#4 Slow Speeding Drivers

Drivers are becoming more aggressive, so you need to plan accordingly, whether that involves placing traffic calming signs for speeders in a garage, sending messages to a sign or an app letting drivers know there’s been an accident, or using radar-enabled signs that automatically alert speeding drivers to slow down, the technology now exists for your organization to be proactive in communicating with parkers. Providing timely information helps calm drivers and reduces frustration, which has a positive effect on safety in and around your parking facilities.

#5 On-site Messaging to Communicate with Parkers

Using real-time messaging to communicate vital information to parkers is an essential best practice in parking facilities management. A simple message like, “Accident: Take Alternate Route,”along with a system that reroutes accordingly can be a great way to ease congestion and enhance overall customer, employee and commuter satisfaction.

By implementing these best practices, you now have a centralized cloud-based system that provides insights into your total parking availability so you can improve the customer experience, maximize parking revenue and plan for the future.

For information on how All Traffic Solutions can work with you to build your custom parking solution contact our parking solutions experts today.

 

SUGGESTED READING

Download the Smart Parking Solutions Overview.

Find out more about ATS Smart Parking Solutions.

Read our white paper  How Technology, Data and the IoT are Redefining Parking Facilities Management.

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Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

How Agencies Can Easily Automate Traffic Management Using the Internet of Things and Cloud Technology: Part I Conditional Messaging

As budgets tighten and needs expand, more and more communities are feeling the pressure of managing more traffic with fewer resources. Safety, congestion, special events and unforeseen circumstances—all of these coalesce into more needs, expanded requirements and a broader range of challenges to resolve. What are some strategic ways that a municipality or agency can address these needs while at the same time optimize resources? How can technology allow you to increase your service offerings while at the same time reduce your expenses?

We recently sat down with Heidi Traverso, All Traffic Solutions’ in-house traffic solutions expert for municipalities and law enforcement, to discuss easy ways that any agency can leverage technology—specifically the Internet of Things and the Cloud—to increase services, reduce costs and make roads safer.  In this two-part series, Heidi will provide examples of how technology can make traffic management simpler, easier and more efficient. She will also explain how public works departments, traffic divisions, and law enforcement agencies can work together to manage traffic throughout their communities.

In this first post, we talk about how to define the issues, and how conditional roadside messaging can help in many situations.

Heidi, you work with municipalities of all sizes, helping them solve issues related to traffic.  Say someone calls you and says, “I’m from XYZ Township Department of Public Works. My community is growing, my resources are shrinking. Can you show me how I can use technology and automation to increase safety on my roads and reduce the number of resources required to direct and manage traffic?

Heidi: Public works departments often recognize that they have safety or traffic congestions issues, but they don’t know how best to address them. A smart way to begin is by coordinating across functions with key stakeholders in Law Enforcement, Engineering, Road Maintenance, Parking Operations and others to learn what other departments have done to define the issues, what they have tried in order to address the problems, and how well it worked.  This is the perfect time to see how technology could be added to existing solutions to increase effectiveness and reduce costs.  If agencies haven’t had the success they’re looking for, it could be time for a whole new approach that leverages their existing technology and also layers in new ones, including the IoT (Internet of Things) and the Cloud.

As Head of Public Works, I may not know what I’m looking for yet because I don’t understand what technology can do to help me. For example, I’ve heard the term “conditional messaging”. What is it, and how can it help my community?

Heidi: Sensor messaging is a key component of any successful traffic management program. Conditional messaging leverages different types of sensor inputs like speed, traffic conditions, weather or other special conditions like events, to output dynamic messaging on variable message signs, apps, texts or websites so that drivers can take immediate action.  For example, messaging can be output to variable message displays placed on roadways as drivers approach an area to let them know about adverse road or weather conditions.

How is technology going to help me to be more efficient if my crew has to drive around and manually change the sign messages?

Good point. You’re already trying to maintain infrastructure on a budget that doesn’t cover everything. If you want to save on personnel costs, you need to have automated conditional messaging that’s connected to the Cloud in real time.  It may sound counter-intuitive, but technology can save you money because there are intelligent sensors that can communicate even more effectively than a person to relay accurate temperature and other conditions.

For example, you can link temperature sensors to your traffic signs, so that when road temperatures drop below a certain threshold, the sensors “tell” the sign to display a conditional message, to alert drivers that roads are icy. You can also set up a communication between flooding sensors or congested roads that will automatically, based on rules that you set up, change the message on your variable message signs under these specific conditions. All this can be accomplished in real time, as conditions change. That’s very important because the information you provide has to be up-to-the-minute or else it could be too late, or drivers may not trust what the sign is telling them because they are accustomed to receiving delayed information.

 

Another good way to use conditional messaging to save time and increase road safety is when there are flood conditions present.  A sensor not only tells you that water is present in a particular area, it tells you what the water level is. Regular alerts can also tell you whether that water is rising or falling, and if you’re getting real-time photos of that location, you can monitor the water level without being there.  Feedback from the sensors is sent immediately to the message signs to advise the driving public to avoid this hazard situation. Far better for drivers to see a sign that says “FLOODING AHEAD, TURN AROUND,” than to drive further where there could be immediate peril.


How does real-time information help to increase safety exactly?

You increase safety because drivers have the information they need to drive safer

You reduce traffic congestion because drivers can be proactive such as by taking the less congested route

You eliminate the need to assign resources to drive around to change messages, which means sign information is current, your resources can be deployed elsewhere

You save money on fuel, vehicle use and resource hours

You don’t have to dispatch a crew to travel to each sign to change messages—they can manage each sign from the traffic management system or using TraffiCloud; however you want to manage the updating of your signs, either automatically or after someone verifies the conditions. Regardless of where you are located, your community probably experiences some kind of unexpected environmental incidents. Having that real-time connection allows you to remotely manage your messages to drivers as incidents occur. You may have flooding roads in summers, you may have wildfires, but by leveraging some pretty simple sensors that are connected in real time to dynamic message boards, you can make roads safer, offer more services AND reduce the costs to provide them.

In our next post, Heidi shares how to use cloud technology and the IoT to manage traffic flow and plan for the future.


SUGGESTED READING

Data-Driven Traffic Management Solutions for Safer Roads

Learn about InstAlert variable message signs.

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