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Blog, smart cities, Tech, Traffic Data

The Ongoing Conflict Between Data Privacy and Smart Cities: Will It End?

I’ve been drawn to the headlines coming out of San Diego, where a government watchdog group has sued the city over data it has collected from smart street lights.

This is a polarizing debate, and one that merits discussion. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, which has done a terrific job of covering this story since initial requests for information were made last month, “Critics fear the cameras are intrusive and could be used to spy on citizens, although police insist they are not monitoring the feeds. Some critics also raise concerns that there is a lack of oversight, as well as the potential for data mining.”

Consumers are increasingly concerned about data privacy – but continue to share data freely when it is a benefit to them. According to the 2018 Norton LifeLock Cyber Safety Insights Report, nearly 75 percent of Americans are more concerned about privacy, but two-thirds will make the trade off of personal data for convenience online. Smart devices for the home are being purchased at a record clip and no less than Amazon, Apple, and Google have pushed for an open standard for all devices to talk with one another securely.

The realization of smart cities has already made communities safer, cleaner, and more efficient and the technologies available to communities is only getting better. Being in the traffic and parking space, I witness daily the impact our smart traffic and parking solutions make in the communities that we serve. I’m not being dramatic when I say that there are times our technology – and those like ours – save lives.

However, this conflict we have between intelligent devices and data privacy is not going away anytime soon. Good data – data that can be trusted – is at the most critical component of every smart city technology.

So where do we go from here?

Residents must continue to be vigilant in protecting their privacy. The volume of cybersecurity incidents continues to increase and protecting our online identity is just as important as protecting our physical on

But, I wonder if we can continue to shift our thinking, much like we have when we give Amazon or Google permission to use our data to better our online experience? I made the point in my last post that we are in the infancy of smart city and it’s only natural to have fear and skepticism when embarking on a new technological journey, particularly one so deeply wedded to data collection. However, just one smart sign, light, meter, etc. makes a community smarter and isn’t that something to strive for?

The Union-Tribune article makes the point that “when they’re all installed, more than half of the lights will be equipped with cameras and technology that collects real-time data, which the city said it will use to help the community, including improving traffic congestion, making parking easier.

In addition, San Diego police can access the video footage from the lights in limited situations, like homicide or other violent crimes.”

It seems like there are a number of positive outcomes that can come from San Diego’s smart street lights. Traffic congestion cost the US $87B in 2018 and is bound to increase again when we see the 2019 data. In Washington, DC, the average driver lost 155 hours dealing with traffic. Those are staggering numbers and, despite the best efforts of cities like New York to curb traffic, only growing.

If we are willing to exchange data for online convenience, shouldn’t we also be open to exchanging it for programs that will make our communities safer and protect our residents?

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Blog, Traffic Data, Traffic Stop Blog

Traffic Calming Measures to Save Pedestrian Lives

As immersed as we are in traffic statistics each day at ATS, this particular statistic from a 2011 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study never ceases to hit home: “The average person hit by a car traveling 25 mph has a 12 percent chance of death. That drops to a 7 percent risk at 20 mph.”

Pedestrian survival rates decrease as vehicle speed increases. The chance of a person dying as a result of being struck by a vehicle decreases 5 percent when the speed of the vehicle is just five mph lower. That’s one percentage point less for every reduced mile of speed. But if you double the vehicle speed from 20 mph to 40 mph, the chance of death doesn’t merely double from 7 percent to 14 percent—it skyrockets to 85 percent according to a National Transportation Safety Board 2017 study.

Pedestrian deaths from speeding increase exponentially as vehicle speed increases. Once cars reach a certain speed (just above 20 mph), they rapidly become more deadly. Think about the speed limits in your community, especially around schools, parks and shopping areas. If speed limits in those areas are set higher than 20 mph, it’s probably time to reassess and request a lower speed limit, as well as anywhere else where there is a disproportionate number of speeding vehicles.

Look at these stills from ProPublica’s interactive graph:

Graph: ProPublica

Traffic Calming Measures

Radar signs are a versatile and effective traffic calming method and an efficient way to gather highly accurate speed data.

To demonstrate the volume and percentage of speeding vehicles on any given road, you’ll need to gather accurate speed data. You can run quick, easy speed studies using a radar speed display such as the Shield radar sign or SpeedAlert radar speed display from All Traffic Solutions.

Both the web-enabled Shield and the SpeedAlert capture accurate speed and volume data, and when you the TraffiCloud traffic management system this data is automatically uploaded so you can run pre-designed reports and charts for traffic studies. Either device can also gather data in “stealth mode” so the sign appears to be turned off and drivers won’t slow down as they pass. This provides true data of drivers who aren’t on their “best behavior” because of the sign.

Radar speed displays are perfect for handling speed complaints—deploy one in lieu of a police officer and you save money and enable law enforcement to stay in the field. Then simply select your date and time range in TraffiCloud and produce a report to present to the citizen that shows the real story on speeding down their street.

If your goal is to increase traffic safety in your neighborhood, radar speed signs are effective traffic calming devices. All Traffic Solutions customers are seeing reductions in speed of as much as 23% and more after installing a radar speed display—making them one of the fastest, easiest and most effective traffic calming measures.

If you’d like more information on any of our cloud-based traffic calming solutions, contact us to speak with a solutions specialist, or you can request a quote now on any of our portable traffic devices.

To test out ProPublica’s interactive speed chart click here.

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Blog, Traffic Data

Sharing Traffic Data: How Law Enforcement, Public Works and Municipalities Benefit

 

Public Works Installs SpeedLane Pro Counter Classifier from ATS

 

As towns and cities everywhere become more populated and industry continues to grow, our roads have become more congested, with more residential and commercial vehicles hurrying to get where they’re going. Increased traffic means more delays at some times and more speeding and traffic incidents at others. Though the solutions may be up for debate, one thing is for sure, the state of traffic on our nation’s roads falls under the jurisdiction of law enforcement, public works and local government in some way.

It can lead to the need for more frequent road maintenance, especially in areas with heavy commercial traffic, and traffic studies in others, to address shifts in population and commerce. For law enforcement, increased traffic has traditionally meant more officers assigned to carry out the important, neverending tasks of enforcing traffic speed, managing safety and responding to community concerns about both. For municipalities and public agencies, increased traffic has meant assigning more traffic engineers and other personnel to carry out the important, never-ending tasks associated with managing volume, speed and safety, as well scheduling road maintenance and construction.


Budget Restrictions Call for Creative Traffic Solutions

In today’s economy, cuts and hiring freezes have made it necessary for agencies and municipalities to become more resourceful in order to achieve traffic safety goals and manage risks. One solution lies in approaching the problem from a new perspective—one that leverages the technology with automated traffic data collection and reporting allowing for real-time sharing of data and analytics.


Sharing Data Has Many Benefits

Safer Communities
Sharing current, accurate data within a department and with surrounding agencies forms alliances that profoundly impact the safety and well-being public works departmentof our communities. Traffic intelligence enables coordination between traffic engineers who design roadways, public works departments who manage all the signage and road marking, and police departments who are responsible for traffic calming and enforcement.

For example, if there’s an area that experiences a lot of accidents annually, maybe that’s because the road markings or signs are inadequate, because the speed limit is too high, or because the intersection signal timing is too rapid. There are a number of reasons why those accidents may be occurring that have little to do with policing. Sharing traffic data helps departments lessen their individual burdens and responsibilities of calming traffic, reducing accidents and making roadways safer for the public.

Budgeting and Funding
school zone safety radar speed signCooperation among multiple departments within city and town governments is important as well as mutually beneficial. Spreading the cost of traffic safety equipment and software across two or more budget proposals has a better chance of being approved than if one agency makes the request. Government agencies often notice this trend when applying for grant funding. Many of the high-dollar grants require multiagency participation and that can be difficult when not all agencies share the same mindset or commitment to the partnership. By sharing traffic data with other agencies, partnerships can be formed, and groups can work together toward funding the solutions that benefit everyone.

Agencies can also pool their funds, such as for the purchase of traffic safety equipment that collects data. Recently, the Vienna Town Council in Virginia unanimously approved the purchase of eight portable SpeedAlert signs and Traffic Suite management software from All Traffic Solutions, which town officials will pay for using money from capital-improvement funds and the town’s traffic-engineering operating budget; the remaining portion will come from the Virginia Department of Transportation. “On a per-dollar basis, this might be one of the best expenditures we have,” said Councilmember Pasha Majdi.

LMPD with SpeedAlert radar speed displayATS customer Louisville Metro Police Department recently purchased nine new SpeedAlert trailers, complete with red and blue strobe lights, with funds provided by the Republican Members of the Louisville Metro Council. The radar speed displays upload speed and volume data to the ATS TraffiCloud automatically so the Department can run reports to respond to complaints, understand speed and volume trends and prioritize problem areas that require enforcement. The Department will share report access with the City Council and other elected officials so that they can monitor traffic information themselves.

Identify Problem Areas to Prioritize Enforcement

The ability to pinpoint high-speed areas and when problems are at their worst enables law enforcement to assign officers when and where they can do the most good, conserving resources and traffic equipment. With access to historical and real-time volume data for specific areas, the department of transportation can spot trends, look at ways to reroute traffic, change the timing of lights or make other adjustments to keep traffic moving and incidents at a minimum.

Long-term Planning
Traffic data can help identify what each agency will require in the future in terms of traffic safety and improvements. Analyzing traffic data allows municipalities to identify the locations and severity of traffic congestion and safety issues in the community to see which are trending upward and will require more long-term solutions, such as adding more traffic lanes or signals. Sharing traffic data helps law enforcement enormously in planning and budgeting for new traffic equipment and for resource allocation.

Holistic View of the Future
More and more municipalities are sharing data between agencies so that everyone can benefit from a larger, integrated database that paints a more holistic picture of the future. For example, when DOTs share traffic volume data with law enforcement, they can use that information to assign officers to a particular road during peak congestion hours. The vehicle count and classification data collected for traffic studies is helpful to them as well, for example, in identifying where trucks or motorcycles are most likely to speed through neighborhoods.

The city’s traffic engineers will find count and classification data useful, too. They can use it to determine how long to make turning lanes or to identify where they may need to reroute trucks away from heavy local traffic. Urban planners can use traffic data intelligence to plan new business and shopping districts, parking facilities and residential developments. Intelligent transportation and smart cities initiatives can use the data to build conditional messaging or dynamic traffic routing in real time, using a flexible open platform that integrates with existing equipment and systems. When public agencies share their data, everyone benefits from the combined pool of intelligence it creates.

Adopt a “Data-Analytics” Mindset
As municipalities and law enforcement find themselves continually challenged by the growth in population, commerce and sheer volume of traffic, adopting a data-sharing strategy to traffic management is more critical than ever. By applying a shared “data analytics mindset,” agencies can capitalize on the trends they see taking place. The result is informed decision making that leads to better traffic management and resource utilization, reduced congestion and work zone accidents, improved community relations and safer roads for everyone.

If you would like to simplify and streamline the collection, management and sharing of traffic data in your municipality, we’re here to help.

For more strategies and tips on how to use traffic data to reduce costs, maximize resources and keep your community safe, read our white paper How to Use Data and Analytics to Achieve Your Traffic Management Goals.

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