How can traffic data inform us during COVID-19?
We’re seeing massive changes in all traffic behaviour due to the global spread of COVID-19 coronavirus. So how can traffic data inform us to make important decisions during the pandemic?
Although passenger vehicle volumes have reduced, we are seeing the following traffic trends, among other changes:
- A global increase in active transportation,
- Elevated speeds due to less congestion,
- Normal or slightly increased movements of heavy goods vehicles.
These particular trends will have a direct impact on traffic-related hospitalisations and on the wear-and-tear of our roads. We need to pay close attention to both areas over the coming months to ensure health systems aren’t overloaded with trauma patients and that supply chains remain functional.
How to use data wisely during COVID-19
Although traffic movements are atypical, it is essential to continue collecting data in a safe manner that can inform us during the outbreak. Gathering data in this rare moment in time will also provide us with invaluable information for future analysis and comparisons.
Data can be used over the coming months and into the future to:
- Reduce the strain on an already overwhelmed health system by identifying active transportation hazards and road safety improvements.
- Monitor border crossings and make decisions on park, site, region or border closures.
- Proactively plan for road maintenance due to normal or increased movement of heavy goods vehicles.
- Calculate the free flow of vehicles in normally congested areas, determine road capacities and true 85th percentile speeds.
- Model emergency responses at borders and checkpoints.
- Learn from an incredible spike in cycling and set in place projects and targets to sustain the upward trend.
- Model pollution reduction levels and set achievable sustainability goals for the future.
Safely collecting traffic data
Many of our clients are currently asking us “What can we do to continue surveying traffic safely during the coming months?”
It’s great to see a widespread understanding of the importance of continuing traffic surveys. However, we must make sure that all traffic monitoring going forward is carried out in a safe and socially distant manner.
Using personal protective equipment and maintaining minimal contact with others while installing surveys is vital.
Reducing the need to sporadically visit these sites to check on sensors and download data is another way we can minimise any potential risks.
It is now possible to automatically transmit data from RoadPod and RidePod classifiers to any computer running MTE software. This includes data collected by portable tube systems.
This means you can download data and diagnose potential issues from home at any time.
The technology is currently being implemented at borders across Australia to check daily vehicle volumes by class and ensure compliance with current travel restrictions.
It is also being used around the globe to set up semi-permanent tube surveys that will follow the changes in both road and cycle traffic as the situation with COVID-19 unfolds.
These will be invaluable to provide data for the above purposes along with monitoring the return of traffic as a key economic indicator once the coronavirus pandemic passes.
Sharing data for the greater good
Here at MetroCount we have always advocated the benefits of sharing data. This enables multiple entities to understand the bigger picture and make comparisons between similar roads, cycleways or areas.
With the spread of COVID-19 its more important than ever to be sharing information and collaborating for the greater good. This will help us to identify trends quicker and make more informed decisions to protect communities.
Over the coming weeks, MetroCount will be sharing case studies from data collected at some of our permanent monitoring sites around the world. We hope these can be of use to road/active transport managers and policymakers.
Please get in touch with us if your organisation has data they’d like to share. Feel free to comment below if you have any information or insights that might be of use.
Although the transportation world has been flipped on its head, there is still valuable traffic information we need to continue collecting.
Data gathered in the middle of this pandemic is not only useful to make informed decisions about road safety policies, maintaining functioning supply chains and closing borders in the midst of the virus; but as the pandemic eases and we start returning to “normal life” traffic data will be used as a key economic indicator.
Many are saying that this virus will change the way the world moves. Data collected during this rare period will be invaluable for future analysis and to set achievable sustainability goals going forward.
MetroCount is continuing to provide support, advice, online training and equipment to those who need it during this time.