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Smart Parking: Technology and Analytics Can Optimize Parking Availability

 From the whitepaper “Smarter Cities:  5 Ways to See Results in 2017” (Download now)

In our previous posts, we’ve discussed how properly ‘agile’  smarter transportation projects can provide results now while at the same time laying the foundation for long-term smart cities success, and how you can build a culture of data-driven decision making and leverage up-to-the-minute traffic data to manage your ever-changing traffic landscape, and reviewed some key initiatives in smart traffic congestion and smart safety.

Today we are walking through our fourth Recommendation, Smart Parking. bollards_square

By now you’ve heard about autonomous cars, self-driving vehicles capable of sensing their environment and navigating without human input. According to CB Insights, 33 major corporations, from Apple and Microsoft to Tesla and Mercedes-Benz are working on their own driverless or semi-driverless vehicles. Business Insider predicts that by 2020 there will be over 10 million autonomous cars on the road. To urban planners, the introduction of autonomous transportation begs the question, “Where will all these self-driving vehicles actually park?” 

As cities continue to grow, parking is always a top issue to urban planners and departments of transportation. Of all the newer technology solutions available to cities, perhaps none is more welcomed than smart parking initiatives. In fact, approximately 30 percent of city traffic is made up of drivers looking for a place to park—spilling out of packed parking areas, clogging up roads, increasing emissions, causing fender benders and generally agitating everyone involved.

Many cities now employ sensor technology on busy streets, parking lots, and public garages. These sensors identify parking availability and notify parkers of open spaces via message display, LCD indicators at the end of each aisle, or floor counts that turn green for available parking, red for full. The sensors can integrate with apps and other systems that notify drivers where available spaces are located; and with mapping software that aggregates sensor data and calculates availability at row, section and facility levels for on-premise display and remote site management. Indicators can even help clear backups at busy logistics centers and loading docks, and when combined with apps or remote and radial indicators throughout your municipality, can help to alleviate traffic associated with idling trucks.

Smart parking systems collect and aggregate historical data on capacity and availability to drive proactive planning for new parking facilities. They make it possible to manage premium spots for expectant mothers, the handicapped, and locations equipped with electric vehicle charging stations by tracking occupancy and factoring them into the number of total open spots. Parking solutions can also utilize sensor-driven gate management to count vehicles as they enter and exit for tighter access control, and notify parkers of restrictions and availability.

The ability to automatically count and track parking availability (or lack thereof) makes it possible for urban planners to anticipate future parking needs so they can create workable plans for parking expansion or optimization in highly populated or growing sections of the city.

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

Smart Safety Initiatives for Managing Complex Traffic Safety Challenges

 From the whitepaper “Smarter Cities:  5 Ways to See Results in 2017” (Download now)

In our previous posts, we’ve discussed how properly ‘agile’  smarter transportation projects can provide results now while at the same time laying the foundation for long-term smart cities success, and how you can build a culture of Data-Driven Decision Making to Leverage up-to-the-minute data to manage your ever-changing traffic landscape, and reviewed some key initiatives in Smart Traffic Congestion.

Today we are walking through our third recommendation:   Smart Safety Initiatives timeto5313

Technology has brought rapid advancements in the evolution of today’s smart cities, and new ways to manage complex traffic and safety challenges.

New technology-driven tools and devices are more versatile, affordable and compact, with many options available:  

  • Radar speed displays alert drivers to their own speed so they can slow down accordingly; some are equipped with strobe lights that flash when drivers exceed the speed limit by a preprogrammed amount. Connected displays can also alert law enforcement, and tell you how many drivers are speeding at what times of day to direct enforcement efforts precisely, optimizing resources.
  • Variable message signs dynamically display important information on anything from traffic delays and construction to updates on parking availability and inclement weather. Some can alternate between multiple messages and can display images as well as text.
  • Conditional sensor messaging incorporate sensor or network data into messages on variable message signs and displays. Built-in sensors collect and transmit traffic or parking data in real time for safety management, information-sharing, analysis, and resource optimization. Data values can be incorporated into any position in a preestablished message. For example, a work-zone sign that reads “Time to end of work zone is X” will include the current travel time as it changes during the day or night, to help drivers make travel route decisions. You can integrate flood sensors with dynamic messaging signs to warn and divert drivers automatically in the event of high water. Sensors can let drivers know there is a train approaching, and recommend alternative routes. Temperature sensors can alert to freezing conditions and dynamically slow the speed for incoming traffic with variable speed limit signs

 

 

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

Smart Traffic Congestion Management- Why Communication is Key

From the whitepaper “Smarter Cities:  5 Ways to See Results in 2017” (Download now)

In our previous posts, we’ve discussed how properly ‘agile’  smarter transportation projects can provide results now while at the same time laying the foundation for long-term smart cities success, and how you can build a culture of Data-Driven Decision Making to Leverage up-to-the-minute data to manage your ever-changing traffic landscape.  

Today we are walking through our second recommendation:   Smart Traffic Congestion Management

As a city grows and thrives, traffic congestion is an inevitable problem that must be addressed on an ongoing basis. Backups can cause road incidents and road rage, and adversely affect commerce, road work efficiency, emissions levels and fuel consumption (which drives gas prices up), event attendance, the ability to attract businesses, and a host of other negative outcomes.

The degree to which cities can proactively address traffic congestion over the long term is key to their ability to support business, serve their citizens, and maintain a higher quality of life. Fortunately, there are intelligent traffic applications—thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) —that are highly effective for communicating with drivers, and keeping traffic flowing and more evenly distributed.

Virtual drive times

Anyone who’s ever contemplated which route to take home, only to find themselves parked on the freeway minutes later has experienced high levels of frustration. If only they had known about that pile up ahead they could have chosen another option; now they can do nothing but wait.Virtual drive times

Providing commuters with updated virtual drive times before they hit the road gives them the information they need to steer clear of congested roadways and other high problem areas.

Many municipal, corporate and campus parking garages are now equipped with virtual drive time signage that displays a map of the surrounding area with current travel times to main roads, bridges, and tollways. Signs like these are also popping up in hotel lobbies, airport car rental areas, and public elevators.

The signs are connected to an app that is fed GPS-based data which in turn updates the map. Dynamic recommendations of alternate routes are based on travel time thresholds. There is no need for any fixed speed sensing infrastructure, and the signs can be programmed to display different travel areas.

Time to Destination

Like virtual drive time signs, time to destination messages alerts drivers to up-to-the-minute travel times updated constantly on a connected changeable message board. They can be used to convey information for frequently traveled destinations such as the business district, main highway, airport, etc. so drivers can make more informed travel decisions and experience a higher comfort level while on the road—and traffic gets distributed over a larger perimeter.

Event traffic management

Stadiums, convention centers, festivals and concert venues attract tourists, sports enthusiasts, business professionals and others to visit your city and make it a more desirable place to relocate. These attractions are also prime locations for traffic jams and bottlenecks, as cars pack the freeway and nearby roads to drive there; only to circle and re-circle the area in search of a place to park.  

 

Your city needs to have a well-executed, integrated approach to managing the onslaught of vehicles on their way in and out of large events, to keep traffic flowing, and both drivers and pedestrians safe from harm. Fortunately, there are devices available that can help you accomplish this.
Portable, variable message signs installed at strategic locations, either on posts or on trailers, can direct drivers to event locations, available parking or back to main thoroughfares. These signs have the advantage of being programmable remotely, so authorized personnel do not have to physically travel to each sign to program them, check the battery or change the message. Some signs have the capability to store, display and rotate more than one or two messages, and when not in use at an event they can be repurposed in other locations.

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

Data-Driven Decision Making Equals Better Traffic Management Outcomes

From the whitepaper “Smarter Cities:  5 Ways to See Results in 2017” (Download now)

In our previous post, we discussed how properly ‘agile’  smarter transportation projects can provide results now while at the same time laying the foundation for long-term smart cities success.   Today we are walking through our first recommendation: Data-Driven Decision Making

Leverage up-to-the-minute data to manage your ever-changing traffic landscape.TraffiCloud Report

To support its request to increase the speed limit on a local road, the Department of Public Works submits a traffic study to the Department of Transportation that includes an analysis of vehicle speeds at different times of day over an extended period. The report shows clear proof that the current speed limit is too low; DoT reviews and grants the request.

County police officers provide the traffic court judge with undisputable recorded evidence of individual traffic infringements by vehicle, making it possible to clear the docket faster and reduce officer time spent in traffic court.

A busy university assesses capacity at each of their campus parking lots to determine space availability at different times and days— to better manage class schedules, event planning, and security requirements.

If this sounds like a pipe dream, it’s not. A cloud-based solution, such as TraffiCloud™ from All Traffic Solutions, securely collects and stores data from all traffic devices and makes it possible for municipalities, law enforcement, and enterprise companies to download and share report-ready data remotely from any Internet-ready device. With immediate access to complete and actionable traffic and parking data, these entities can prioritize issues, utilize resources more effectively, do a better job of calming traffic, reduce congestion and emissions, control costs and generate analyses for long-term planning of transportation safety programs, parking availability, road construction and other critical transportation-related initiatives.

Providing real-time information access to citizens is important as well. “Developing ‘smartness’ in the eye of the citizen means developing contextual applications for them,” said Bettina Tratz-Ryan, research vice president at Gartner. For example, a smartphone parking app can direct commuters and shoppers to the closest available parking spots—reducing traffic congestion, maximizing facilities revenue, getting people to work on time and fueling commerce.

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

Smart Cities: Why You Need to Become One

When you hear the term ‘smart cities,’ what do you think of?  Light rail projects with completion dates in 2025?  Privacy policy initiatives?  Lighting that adjusts itself depending on whether people are around? Or perhaps even refrigerators that let you know if you have eggs or toasters that adjust from light to dark depending on who is standing in front of it?

Smart cities projects have a great ability to return real benefits to your citizens, but oftentimes they can be overwhelming to think about or take on when their results come in future years.  Transportation projects can seem particularly challenging.

Did you know that half of urban city-dwellers will benefit from smart city programs by 2019, according to market research firm Gartner*?  With traffic and transportation initiatives at the top of many smart cities’ project lists, real benefits—from relieving traffic congestion (and emissions), making neighborhoods safer and relieving stress on your infrastructure—are easily within reach for most cities.

Scioto River and Columbus Ohio skyline at dusk

Understanding how to leverage innovation and technology to make lives better for your citizens now and into the future is critical to the success of your efforts.  Being “agile” is the key.  And knowing how to implement transportation programs that both make a difference in 2017 and lay the groundwork for success in the future is critical to your success.  *Predicts 2017: Government CIOs Are Caught Between Adversity and Opportunity, November 10, 2016

Regardless of the population or size of your municipality, there are considerable advantages to adopting a smart cities mindset and approach to planning, management, and growth.

Where to Begin 
Rapid advancements in secure information and communication technology (ICT), as well as the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, have popularized the vision of smart cities—municipalities that can manage their assets, including transportation, law enforcement, and public works as well as government services and utilities. Communities across the country are quickly recognizing the enormous benefits associated with becoming a smarter city, including more efficient processes, better response times and a more proactive approach to planning for the future of all their citizens.

Smart transportation and traffic management systems are a central component of any intelligent city network, thanks to technologies and tools that have made it possible to improve traffic flows, increase road safety, maximize parking availability, reduce gas consumption and emissions, and strengthen communication with constituents.

Being a full-fledged smart city does not happen overnight—it takes careful planning and implementation of carefully vetted technologies and solutions. In the coming weeks, we’ll excerpt from our popular whitepaper “Smarter Cities:  5 Ways to See Results in 2017” and help you walk through how you can identify and implement projects that not only lay the foundation for your future Smart City but also provide real, tangible impacts in 2017.

More about becoming a smarter city in our next post. You can read ahead if you’d prefer by downloading the full whitepaper here…

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

Traffic Data Sharing and Analysis

Data, data, data. It’s everywhere. On devices, in files, on spreadsheets and worst of all, captured in manual tracking logs.  But there’s an easier way to analyze your data and create the reports that help your traffic studies solve your thorniest problems.  Thanks to sensor-driven cloud-based systems,  data collection and analysis have become even easier, according to Ted Graef, All Traffic Solutions’ founder and Chief Operating Officer.

“Traffic engineers are accustomed to spending days tracking down data buried in Excel documents saved on someone’s computer,” he said. “With cloud-based data collection,  all anyone has to do is go online and all their information—from maps to traffic data—is right there in one central location. For example, StatTrak data is uploaded automatically directly from the unit, so when a user clicks on a specific location they have immediate access to the data and can easily run reports.”

Data is also easily shared across departments or with partner agencies such as law enforcement.  Additionally, Graef said, All Traffic Solutions has integrated mobile phone alerts so that traffic engineers are notified if one of their devices is broken, stolen or is low on batteries, and other new features are added periodically.  TraffiCloud Report

“ In the near future, checking and analyzing traffic data will be as easy as checking your email,” he added.

Cloud-based traffic management solutions have the added benefit of helping to make a city’s traffic smarter, by providing a system to coordinate all of its signs, sensors and devices, allowing traffic engineers to host all the data in one place and be able to access it anywhere so traffic decisions can be made based on the real-time data.

Additionally, attaching Excel documents and tracking changes can be a thing of the past. With cloud-based systems, the entire team can all be on the same page. Every logbook can be web enabled so anyone can access the most current version, and base strategy on the most recent traffic reports. All the devices can be integrated regardless of what manufacturer made it, providing a “traffic ecosystem” of speed sensors that work with counters and message signs so drivers are aware of current roadway conditions.

A department could build this system itself with a team of IT professionals, but it would take valuable resources away from the department’s main mission. Hosted or “cloud-based’ systems allow busy traffic departments to focus on the end product, not on the technology to make it happen.  A hosted system not only solves that problem but also requires less of an investment because of the developer, not the department, is responsible for rolling out new versions of the software and updating hardware.

Using Web-based count and classify devices that mount on poles or medians instead of busy roads, provide safety for installers, and fast access to data from any Internet-ready device. You can utilize accurate, plentiful data for more informed decision-making and smoother, more expedient traffic studies.

Learn how the Missouri Department of Transportation was able to increase the safety and efficiency of their traffic studies here.  

All Traffic Solutions delivers cloud-based traffic management solutions including radar speed and variable message displays, imaging products, and intelligent transportation systems for law enforcement, municipalities and smart cities. Our innovative TraffiCloudTM transportation management platform is changing the way smarter cities solve their most complex safety, transportation, and parking challenges by allowing them to manage all their traffic equipment remotely, as well as leverage data to increase traffic safety, streamline their operations and achieve lasting results.

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

Web-enabled Count and Classification Devices: Goodbye Road Tubes!

Today, transportation data collection equipment or ‘counters’ have become a component of the “Internet of Things” — that buzz phrase heard at conferences and on the news, that more often than not refers to “smart toasters” and “connected refrigerators.” But in the case of web-enabled traffic devices, the benefits to the transportation industry are more substantial and yes, more justifiable than being able to see how your food is doing.

Now, with a click of a mouse you can check on the counter and the data it’s collecting. You can make more expedient judgments or decisions based on preliminary data and improve traffic flow with educated hypotheses about what’s happening in the field.Armadillo-Graphic-4-opposing-lanes-for-Web

Additionally, thanks to these cloud-enabled devices, you can test your hypotheses by running reports while they are still in the field collecting data. You can even begin to understand the bigger traffic picture by layering data from other devices or running competitive reports to compare how traffic is currently functioning throughout your city.

The devices have also become less intrusive. Now, counters are small enough that they can be banded on a road sign pole by a single person — saving manpower and time and making those inconvenient road tubes a thing of the past.

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. But if you’re trying to cost-effectively and efficiently collect data that truly supports your need, then automating the collection of that data, and expanding the amount of data you are collecting using automated cloud-based technology just makes good sense.

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

Count & Classify in the Cloud

We are switching gears now to talk about counting cars. Yes, counting and classifying the cars on your roads.  There are quite a few reasons you want to study the volumes of cars on your roads, from resolving complaints to supporting requests to change speed limits to understanding how to better configure your roads to support a perceived increase in traffic.  Any way you slice it, understanding the kinds, volumes, and speeds of vehicles on your roads is useful in supporting your traffic safety program.C&C

At the heart of every great traffic engineering project is a good traffic study. Data derived from traffic studies can provide the information needed to make the right decisions about safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of traffic management efforts.

But undertaking a traffic study? What about the time commitment? Cost? Duration? Resources and safety? These can be hard to quantify. The typical answer is “well, that depends” on what you’re studying and the kind of analysis you need.

The good news is that new traffic management technologies and enhancements are being developed all the time. Technology-based traffic equipment is more affordable, easier to deploy and manage, more compact, and there are more choices available.    They provide for access to your data in real time, provide a more comprehensive picture of your traffic environment, and can cost thousands less than manual data collection.  

Check out our portfolio of counting and classifying products here, and stay tuned as we discuss how enabling cloud-based IoT (Internet of Things) sensors can help you optimize your traffic programs (without scaring you or requiring an IT consultant to set up your system).  

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

How to keep better records with cloud-enabled radar speed signs

Over the last several weeks, we’ve been talking about how you can keep your roads safer with radar speed signs. And today’s the day we step it up a notch.

Now that you understand the basics for deploying and installing speed displays (and if you’re still foggy—we’re always here to help), it’s time to tie it to your entire traffic strategy.

TraffiCloud makes that happen. It’s All Traffic Solutions’ cloud-based ecosystem for managing all your traffic safety equipment, while reducing the amount of time needed to manage all of it.cycle

Imagine being able to check the data on your speed displays in real time. No need to drive out to the site and download the data — it’s shared with you through the cloud. And not just your speed displays — your traffic counters, message signs, street signals and more. In the same way your speed displays improve your traffic flows, the TraffiCloud improves your workflow by offering a consistent interface across your traffic management equipment.

Take for example, U.S. Route 160 in Taney County, Missouri. It’s one of those idyllic, hilly, American country roads.

It’s also one of the most dangerous.

“It’s one of those roads where you can’t be out in the middle of it during the daytime. It’s so curvy, drivers don’t see you working,” Mike Bock, Senior Traffic Studies Engineer at the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), said. “There’s also nowhere to park a vehicle — no shoulder or driveways.”

So in times when the district is tasked with a traffic study on U.S. 160, it takes a team to place the equipment on the road. Several workers stop traffic while others work to nail vehicle counters to the road or lay the tubes across the lanes. Additionally, they have to orchestrate the process again each time the department collects the data. Even then, it still feels dangerous, Bock said.

But now, the device automatically uploads data to a cloud server called the cloud and the Southwest District is able to focus on other problems such as deciphering the data its counters are collecting.

“Traffic engineers are used to spending days tracking down data buried in excel documents saved on someone’s computer,” Ted Graef, of All Traffic Solutions, said. “With the TraffiCloud, all anyone needs to do is login online and everything — from maps to traffic data — is right there. The data is uploaded automatically and when a user clicks a specific location, you see all the data right there and can easily run reports.”

 

By Lori Miles at All Traffic Solutions

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

How to justify a budget increase to the city council with data from your radar speed signs

It usually starts with a call from a resident.

Cars are flying past their home, they say, and the police department is spurred to investigate the situation either by placing an officer on the road or installing a speed radar display.

Closing the loop on this situation is where is gets tricky for police departments around the country. If the department uses a speed display, the resident typically doesn’t have access to the data or the data is difficult to comprehend.

For this reason, traffic reports from All Traffic Solutions are colorful and full of easy to read charts. A speed volume analysis report, for example, simplifies the traffic data into four categories

  • Green (no ricompliance-chart-for-marshallsk) — vehicles driving at or below the speed limit
  • Yellow (low risk) — vehicles traveling no more than 10 mph over the speed limit
  • Orange (medium risk) — vehicles traveling over the speed limit that would receive a fine
  • Red (high risk) — reckless drivers traveling far above the speed limit

The reports are designed so they can be read easily by anyone. They’re a way to say to the resident “Here are the numbers we saw. There is not an issue here or we’re going to take care of it.” Some department have gone further and posted these reports on Facebook for the community to read and digest.

The reports are also ideal for taking to town council meetings to show evidence of a traffic problem and justify a budget increase to solve. Some departments use the reports to justify another part time officer or to buy more signs.

The other issue that surfaces once departments begin to use speed displays in the community is keeping up with the demand. With only one or two signs, officers have a hard time keeping up with the resident complaints that increase when residents see the signs, know the police have them and want one placed near them as well.

The other common appeal to town councils is to approve permanent signs in school zones, parks, near crosswalks or roads coming into town like in Lemont, Pa.

Regardless of the need, evidence is key to making a case for a budget increase and speed displays are an effective way to do that. Have you used traffic data to justify a budget increase? We’d love to hear about your experience!

 

By Marshall Barto at All Traffic Solutions

 

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