Using the "crowd" to cut travel times

As individual drivers, we can’t do much to improve traffic conditions, but one organization is trying its best to ensure that we have all the information we need to plan out trips.

The I-95 Corridor Coalition is in the midst of a program started in 2008 to develop real-time, accurate traffic data on the I-95 corridor. The organization created the I-95 Vehicle Probe Project, a public-private partnership between the Coalition, the University of Maryland and Inrix, a supplier of traffic data and data analysis. The purpose: to find more effective ways to monitor and report real-time traffic conditions on the major North-South artery along the East Coast.

bridgeporti95traffic.jpg“Two years ago, leaders of the Coalition decided to seek consistent real-time traffic data for a large multi-state area, believing the timing was right to leverage technology capable of delivering high-quality traffic information at much less cost than traditional approaches,” said George Schoener, executive director, I-95 Corridor Coalition.

The I-95 corridor encompasses a region that would be the world’s third largest economy. That alone makes this project one to watch for any company that is involved in commerce.

The Vehicle Probe Project now incorporates real-time traffic speeds and travel time information for more than 5,000 miles of road from Maine to Florida, and in many cases, data is suggesting it is providing it more cost-effectively and efficiently than previous methods.

“As we move forward with expanded coverage throughout the Coalition, more of our members will have access to traffic data that is becoming a valuable tool in the development of performance measures for their systems,” said Schoener.

According to the Coalition, the project’s “objective is to create a seamless traffic monitoring system that spans the eastern seaboard delivering travel times and speeds on freeways and arterials using probe technology. The Inrix system fuses data from various sources to present a comprehensive picture of traffic flow. Member agencies have found numerous uses for the data beyond simply travel information.”

That “crowd-sourced” data offers a more complete view of travel times and speeds. The study so far has found that traffic monitoring through the probe strategy cuts costs. The South Carolina DOT said the cost to obtain traffic information for 1,200 miles of road using the Inrix vehicle probe is the same as the cost to obtain the same information on 300 miles using traditional methods.

heavy-traffic-i95.jpgSeveral states, such as Maryland, use the data to display travel times on strategically placed signs along the highway. Faster emergency response times are another benefit, Inrix said. In one case, New Jersey estimated a $100,000 savings for one incident because responders were aware of current traffic conditions, cutting an hour out of response time.

North Carolina and Florida are using the data for their 511 telephone services where callers can get updated travel times to key interchanges around the states.

The information is also being posted online at i95travelinfo.net.

Perhaps someday in the near future, this same information will interact with my GPS and notify me to take an alternate route before I get stuck in a traffic jam. My bosses would probably appreciate that.

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