Virginia Enters 2nd Year of On-Demand Traffic Intelligence Experiment

I-95 in Virginia

I-95 in Virginia Molly Riley / AP Photo


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Standardized data is allowing the state to make more informed transportation decisions more often.

The Virginia Department of Transportation ran more than 360 on-demand traffic intelligence studies in 2017 for a savings of more than $14 million.

VDOT is now entering the second year of a three-year StreetLight InSight regional subscription having used the mobility analytics platform to develop a statewide travel demand model and transportation projects in Northern Virginia.

All state, regional and local transportation planning agencies, including the Virginia Port Authority, are covered under the subscription, as are authorized engineering firm employees for the duration of their contracted projects.

“Different agencies and consulting firms are all working with the same set of data, so everyone is on the same page,” said Nick Donohue, Virginia’s deputy secretary of transportation under the previous Gov. Terry McAuliffe, in a statement. “This power and flexibility helps us maximize our efficiency and gain a better overall understanding of how our state moves.”

StreetLight InSight pulls data mostly from mobile phones but also connected vehicles, cleaning trillions of points and enriching them with context. Surveys take minutes instead of months.

Consultants are currently using the platform to evaluate congestion mitigation tactics on Interstate 95 and other key corridors, origin-destination flows informing an update of the Charlottesville area’s regional travel demand model, and commercial truck metrics to understand their impact on traffic along Interstate 66.

“People are running analytics on projects where they wouldn’t have collected data otherwise,” Laura Schewel, StreetLight Data CEO, told Route Fifty late last week.

That leaves transportation officials more time to think about policy and planning.

The next step is to incorporate more modes of travel into studies.

In Northern Virginia, VDOT ran a rigorous cost-benefit analysis of transportation infrastructure the state should spend limited funds on.

Hypotheses were made about the neighborhoods that needed bike lanes, those with frequent car trips less than two miles, and the ones that required bus routes, those where trip destinations were clustered. Then roadways were scanned and ranked to find the top 30 bike and bus candidates.

From the long list came a shortlist.

“Usually, when you start you don’t have time to look at every candidate to make your shortlist … so you’re not really triaging in the right way,” Schewel said. “Data revealed new places for congestion and emission reductions that were not obvious choices.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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