How New Jersey Counties are Reducing Rural Roadway Departures

Reducing fatalities on rural roads is a key challenge for transportation agencies in the United States, where roadway departures on rural networks account for one-third of traffic fatalities. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has identified safety countermeasures that are proven to improve rural roadway safety and reduce the number of traffic deaths. In the fifth round of the agency’s Every Day Counts (EDC) State-based model, FHWA identified “Reducing Rural Roadway Departures” as a proven, yet underutilized, innovation. The four pillars of the initiative are: all public roads, proven countermeasures, a systemic approach, and safety action plans. FHWA Proven Safety Countermeasures for rural roadway departures fall into three broad categories: helping drivers stay in their lane, reducing the risk of a crash with lane departures, and minimizing the severity in the case of a crash. Specifically, FHWA safety countermeasures related to rural roadway departures include rumble strips and stripes, SafetyEdgeSM, high friction surface treatment, and backplates with retroreflective borders. A recent FHWA video, Focusing on Reducing Rural Road Departures, provides information on how these low-cost measures help drivers stay in their travel lanes and reduce the potential, or minimize the severity, of rural roadway crashes.

Through EDC, FHWA seeks to support rapid deployment of identified initiatives at the State and local level, which results in cost, time, and resource savings. As of December 2019, New Jersey is in the “development” phase of the Reducing Rural Roadway Departures initiative; NJDOT is collecting guidance and best practices, while building support with partners and stakeholders to develop an implementation process. The goal is to reach the “demonstration” stage by the end of EDC-5 (December 2020), when they would begin testing and piloting the innovation.

In order to achieve this goal, NJDOT seeks to improve the knowledge of rural roadway facility owners and maintainers through training, with the assistance of the FHWA Resource Center. In 2018 and 2019, FHWA and NJDOT hosted a series of Local Safety Peer Exchanges at which engineering staff from Cumberland and Somerset counties shared their experience with implementation of countermeasures on high risk rural roads (HRRR).

FHWA’s Strategic Approach and Plan to reduce roadway departure crashes and fatalities. Photo Source: FHWA, 2019.

The Cumberland County Engineering Office manages infrastructure that includes 540 miles of county roads, 50 traffic signals and flashers, 54 bridges, and 169 minor bridges. One important source of funding for their work is the Highway Safety Improvement Federal-aid Program (HSIP). The purpose of HSIP is to achieve a significant reduction in highway fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads, using a data-driven, strategic approach focused on improving performance. The County focuses on two types of projects for HSIP: systemic projects and “hot-spot” projects. Systemic projects apply a given improvement method over a large number of applicable locations in order to deter “random” crash events and reduce risk across an entire roadway system.

Hot-spot projects need more in-depth data collection and analysis to determine appropriate site-specific improvements related to crash history. To collect data for hot-spot projects, South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO), the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Cumberland County, worked with Rutgers University’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) to use NJDOT’s Plan4Safety multi-layered decision support tool to create four network screening lists for the region. Each list provided weighted scores for a given timeframe based on a location’s number and severity of crashes. The four screening lists identify pedestrian intersection hot spots, pedestrian corridor hot spots, intersection hot spots, and HRRR hot spots.

Selecting the appropriate countermeasure is critical to project success. When using network screening lists, the countermeasure should address the particular type of crash occurring at the location, while countermeasures used with the systemic approach should address the specific geometric trait(s) that are related to the specific crash type.

Cumberland County highlighted two countermeasures at the Peer Exchange: centerline rumble strips and high friction surface treatment on horizontal curves. Centerline rumble strips reduce the risk of cross centerline crashes and are often part of a systemic approach. With the help of NJDOT’s Bureau of Transportation Data and Safety, SJTPO created a candidate list of potential centerline rumble strip locations. NJDOT’s criteria limit installation to two-lane urban or rural roadways with a 20-foot minimum pavement width, and a speed limit of 35 mph or greater. In addition, Cumberland County limited installation to asphalt roadways 10 years old or less in less dense residential neighborhoods due to the noise the rumble strips produce. Based on these criteria, the County selected approximately 150 roadway miles across 11 municipalities. Installation was performed at night to lessen the impact on traffic, improve safety conditions for construction workers and inspectors, and shorten installation time.

HFST installation at a horizontal curve. Photo Source: FHWA, 2018.

The second method, high friction surface treatment (HFST) on horizontal curves, addresses the challenges that horizontal curves pose due to the change in alignment that can cause issues for driver navigation, especially at night or in inclement weather. According to data analysis cited by SJTPO, 28 percent of fatal crashes nationwide occur on horizontal curves. HFST compensates for the high friction demand at the curves in areas where the current pavement condition does not adequately support operation speed, due to a number of factors such as sharp curves, wet conditions, polished roadway surfaces, inadequate cross-slope design, and driving speeds above the curve advisory speed. HFST are proven to reduce wet road crashes by 52 percent and curve crashes by 24 percent according to the FHWA. Additionally, these treatments are safe for all vehicle types and have high durability. However, the county engineer also noted the high unit cost and the lack of contractors within the region capable of HFST installation. When properly installed, the pavement life is equal to, our greater than, asphalt pavement but improper installation potentially limits the usefulness and life expectancy of the pavement treatment.

Locations were selected from the HRRR list, along with spots familiar to the Engineering Department based on geometry, crash history, residential input, and municipality information. Additionally, pavement condition was taken into consideration as a factor that could affect the treatment’s durability.

Cumberland County staff highlighted the importance of updating and upgrading existing safety features during the project such as size, location, spacing, and retroreflectivity of signage. They noted important considerations moving forward: data used in the network screening lists is aging; the rumble strip projects had a long delivery timeline of 22 months from application submission to construction notice to proceed; and the centralized project review process eliminated interactions with the local public agency which tends to have the most detailed knowledge of the project area.

Cumberland County High Risk Rural Roads Locations in Cumberland County. Photo Source: Whitaker, 2018.

A representative of the Somerset County Engineering Office shared their systemic safety approach to horizontal curves with high friction surface treatment. The Engineering Office manages infrastructure for 250 miles of county roads, 193 traffic signals, and 762 bridges, along with county sites, facilities, and parks. Annually, their work includes 15 miles of road resurfacing, 1.2 miles of road reconstruction, 7 bridge replacements, installation or upgrade of 10 traffic signals, and replacing more that 150 ADA curb ramps. The catalyst to pursue pavement friction treatments was the availability of crash data from the Plan4Safety crash database, which allowed Somerset County and their MPO, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), to analyze crash trends in the region in order to plan for infrastructure improvements based on need and types of issues.

Based on this analysis, the county identified and prioritized horizontal curves where they decided pavement friction treatments would be the best countermeasure. The next questions they had were: what is the correct treatment method; when is treatment appropriate; and how do they determine the length of need on the horizontal curve. Initially, the county used micro milling which provides a high friction surface to reduce “run-off’ road crashes for a low cost of installation. Downsides for the treatment include a short life expectancy, complaints from motorcyclists and bicyclists, and negative public perception associated with milling a newly paved surface.

Based on this experience, the county turned next to high friction surface treatment as an option that is safe for all vehicle types and has a longer life expectancy than micro milling. As did Cumberland County, Somerset County noted the treatment’s high cost at $35-65 per square yard and the specialized nature of the installation. Somerset County’s evaluation method for determining when HFST should be used requires the following data: centerline alignment geometry, roadway cross slope, road profile slope, posted speed limit, and posted curve advisory plate speed. The resulting evaluation produces friction ranges to guide the action taken.

Initial micro milling treatment in Somerset County. Photo Source: Bates Smith, 2017.

Somerset County found a comparison of crashes in the years prior to the treatment with crash data from the year after the treatment revealed a significant reduction in crashes, although they cautioned that there may be other factors at play. In the case of Chimney Rock Road, annual crashes dropped 84 percent from 73 to 12 for the year after HFST was applied to 5 curves on a 1-mile road segment. Looking to the future, the county plans to prioritize high crash locations for evaluation to either implement additional signage or HFST, based on data from GIS crash mapping, along with the NJ Regional Curve Inventory and Safety Assessment for the NJTPA region. They additionally highlighted important resources that have emerged, including the FHWA’s HFST Curve Selection and Installation Guide.

Cumberland and Somerset counties are just two examples of rural roadway departure safety improvements happening around the state. In the NJTPA region, Monmouth County received $2,967,000 from NJTPA’s FY 2017-18 High Risk Rural Roads (HRRR) Program for corridor improvements on Stage Coach Road in Upper Freehold Township, including the application of high friction surface treatment, safety edging, and centerline rumble strips. To help support and expand these efforts, NJDOT will be holding train-the-trainer events at DVRPC, SJTPO, and NJTPA later this year for county and municipal representatives, MPO staff, and NJDOT staff. This training will help New Jersey advance to the next stage of this EDC-5 initiative and improve safety on rural roads throughout the State.

Featured Image Source: FHWA, 2016.

Resources

Bates Smith, P. (2019). Pavement Friction Surface Treatments. Retrieved from https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/E_Somerset-PAVEMENT-FRICTION-surface-treatments-3-21-19.pdf

FHWA. (2019). Reducing Rural Roadway Departures. Retrieved from https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_5/roadway_departures.cfm

FHWA. (2020). Proven Safety Countermeasures. Retrieved from https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/

FHWA. Focus on Reducing Rural Roadway Departures (FoRRRwD) Overview Video. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfdBrrl0WwU&t=87s

NJTPA. (2020). Local Safety Program/High Risk Rural Roads. Retrieved from https://www.njtpa.org/localsafety.aspx

SJTPO. (2020). Highway Safety Improvement Program – Safety Infrastructure. Retrieved from https://www.sjtpo.org/hsip/

Whitaker, D. W. (2018). Systemic Safety Improvements. Retrieved from https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Cumberland-Systemic.pdf

STEP-Aligned HAWK Signal Installed in Bergen County

Every Day Counts (EDC) is an initiative developed by the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Center for Accelerating Innovation to improve safety along our roadways. Every two years, EDC identifies a number of highway safety innovations that are then supported for rapid deployment. A set of innovations targeted at pedestrian safety was identified within the 2019–2020 EDC cycle. Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) provides a set of pedestrian improvements ranging from small scale signage installation to fully revamped roadway layout through road diets. STEP-aligned projects have been successfully deployed in locations across New Jersey, including a recent pedestrian improvement project along Washington Avenue in the Borough of Carlstadt in Bergen County, New Jersey.

Washington Avenue is a four-lane, bidirectional road with a speed limit of 40 miles per hour. The corridor hosts a number of industrial businesses and therefore witnesses a great deal of truck traffic. Many employees working at these sites arrive by bus and dash across the four lane roadway to avoid walking 700 feet to the nearest lighted intersection at Veterans Boulevard.

In early 2013, a pedestrian fatality occurred along the corridor. According to Christine Mittman, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, concerned county officials submitted an application to the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) through the Local Safety Program which utilizes Highway Safety Improvement Program funds. In order to develop comprehensive and effective solutions for the corridor, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and NJTPA recommended a road safety audit for a 1.6-mile section of Washington Avenue from Moonachie Avenue to Road A, just north of the Paterson Plank Road.

Figure 1. At this location along Washington Avenue, pedestrians were forced to walk in the travel lane (photo credit: Christine Mittman, NJTPA).

Figure 1. At this location along Washington Avenue, pedestrians were forced to walk in the travel lane (photo credit: Christine Mittman, NJTPA).

A road safety audit is a tool promoted by FHWA to identify safety issues for all users along a designated area of roadway. An independent multidisciplinary team walks the corridor observing and taking notes related to safety concerns, user conflicts, and roadway performance issues. Often the auditors use a standardized form to take notes about each section of the corridor being studied. Some issues that may arise include missing street lights, uneven sidewalks, areas where turning conflicts are common, and high volumes of pedestrians crossing the roadway outside of crosswalks. Additional guidance from FHWA can be found here.

During the Washington Avenue road safety audit, it became obvious that the pedestrian infrastructure along the corridor was insufficient. Paths were worn into the grass along either side of the roadway where sidewalks were missing. Workers crossed the road all along the corridor as trucks flew by. In some areas of the corridor, pedestrians were forced to walk within the vehicular travel lane as the pedestrian right of way was blocked and there was no shoulder along Washington Avenue (see Figure 1). The situation was clearly dangerous.

Once the recommendations were made through the road audit report, the project was advanced through the Local Safety program which included funding for both design and construction. A number of recommendations from the report made it into the final designs, including several pedestrian safety improvements at Barrell Avenue. These recommendations included completing the sidewalk network, relocating the bus stops for safer pedestrian crossings, and extending the Jersey barrier median with fencing along the top. The most innovative part of the design was the installation of a high-intensity activated crosswalk beacon (HAWK) signal, the first of its kind in Bergen County.

A HAWK signal, or Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon, is a traffic control signal that assists pedestrians in locations where a traffic intersection is not signalized.  When pedestrians are not present, the HAWK signal is unlit. But, as its name implies, when the HAWK is activated by the push of a button it proceeds through a light sequence that stops traffic while the pedestrian safely crosses the roadway with a countdown. A video of the HAWK signal control process can be found here.

A HAWK signal was installed just north of the intersection of Barrell Avenue and Washington Avenue for a number of reasons (see Figure 2). The first consideration was the high volume of pedestrian traffic coupled with a lack of traffic control at the T-intersection. Secondly, the area is situated about midway between the two nearest signal controlled intersections with pedestrian crosswalks.  Additionally, the overhead nature of the HAWK plays a much stronger role in capturing drivers’ attention as compared to placing rectangular rapid flashing beacons on either side of the roadway. Bus stops were relocated on either side of Washington Avenue near the HAWK signal to ensure the stops are safely accessible to patrons from both sides of the roadway.

Figure 2. HAWK signal located north of the intersection of Barrell Avenue and Washington Avenue.

Figure 2. HAWK signal located north of the intersection of Barrell Avenue and Washington Avenue.

According to Nancy Dargis from the Bergen County Division of Planning and Engineering, local officials were concerned that drivers would not understand how to respond to the new signal. However, since the project’s completion in late 2018, driver compliance rates have been high according to the Carlstadt Police Department. A post-implementation crash data analysis will be performed once three years of data is available, at which time more details will be available regarding the HAWK signal’s effectiveness on Washington Avenue.

Additional research related to the general effectiveness of HAWK signals is currently being undertaken by an NJDOT-funded study out of Rutgers University’s Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center and Rowan University. The study seeks to measure both the public’s understanding of the HAWK signal and its effectiveness in increasing driver yielding at pedestrian crossings.  The study will be completed this year.

The Washington Avenue HAWK signal was part of a $4.2 million project improving the safety of a 1.6-mile corridor of Washington Avenue. The project costs included sidewalk installations, drainage, new and upgraded signals, ADA compliance improvements throughout the corridor, guardrail upgrades, and an extended Jersey barrier median with six feet of fencing along the top.

Officials learned during implementation that the fencing along the median barrier would create sight line issues for drivers approaching the crosswalk when pedestrians were in the crosswalk on the opposite side of the road. After some research, they determined the safest course of action would be to take down the fencing for the 100 feet approaching the crosswalk in both directions. Additionally, officials pointed out the importance of installing the HAWK signal at an appropriate location. Specifically, the HAWK signal should not be placed at an intersection in place of a full traffic signal. The Washington Avenue HAWK signal is installed near, but not at, the Barrell Avenue intersection which is a T-intersection with a minimally trafficked side street.

The Washington Avenue HAWK signal was the first HAWK signal installed in Bergen County, and so far it has been a success. The signal has been seamlessly incorporated into the traffic movements in the area and local officials are happy with the results.  Several more HAWK signals are in the works in locations throughout the NJTPA region as officials work to implement safety improvements aligned with the EDC STEP initiatives.

 

RESOURCES

Every Day Counts Initiative: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/about-edc.cfm

Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP): https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_5/step2.cfm

FHWA Road Safety Audit information and resources: https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/rsa/

NJDOT videos describing FHWA’s Pedestrian Safety Countermeasures: https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/2019/09/27/njdot-safety-countermeasures-videos/

FHWA HAWK information and statistics: https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/ped_hybrid_beacon/


This article is cross-posted on the NJ Bike & Pedestrian Resource Center blog.

 

A UAS flown during the TRB visit to New Jersey DOT captured an aerial image of the Wittpenn Bridge.

Collaboration Demonstration: New Jersey Hosts State Partnership Visit

By Stefanie Potapa, Amanda Gendek, and Glenn Stott

Above: A UAS flown during the TRB visit to New Jersey DOT captured an aerial image of the Wittpenn Bridge.

Each year, representatives from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) visit with state departments of transportation (DOTs) to strengthen the partnership between TRB and state DOTs, identify current issues, collect and generate information, and disseminate that information throughout the transportation community.

In late February, Christine L. Gerencher and Andrew C. Lemer of TRB traveled through inclement weather from Washington, D.C., to New Jersey to visit with staff from various New Jersey DOT units. They were met by hosts Mike Russo, Assistant DOT Commissioner, and Amanda Gendek, Manager, Bureau of Research (BOR), as well as more than 40 staff members.

Knowledge-Sharing Opportunity
The annual TRB state visit allowed New Jersey DOT and TRB staff to share knowledge and information on initiatives, issues, and research directions.

The annual TRB state visit allowed New Jersey DOT and TRB staff to share knowledge and information on initiatives, issues, and research directions. Photo courtesy Stefanie Potapa

The annual TRB field visit is an important part of BOR’s program because it provides a forum for New Jersey DOT staff to share such information as research initiatives, new technologies, best practices, lessons learned, or specific problems they are currently facing. The TRB representatives then can transmit that information back to TRB so that other states, industry members, or educational institutions can benefit from it or use it to help solve the identified problem. The TRB visitors also highlight the Board’s range of services to the DOT and help identify potential candidates from New Jersey DOT staff for TRB committees.

Gerencher is a senior program officer at TRB, managing nine committees within the Aviation group and eight committees within the Environmental and Energy Section as well as chairing the editorial board of TR News. Lemer is a senior program officer in TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), managing a diverse portfolio of NCHRP-sponsored research projects with a focus on transportation asset management, system performance measurement and management, regional development, and agency information and knowledge management.

Kimbrali Davis and Stefanie Potapa of BOR worked diligently to produce the two-day event, collaborating with members of the following New Jersey DOT units and subject areas: Environmental Resources, Capital Investment and Development, Aeronautics, the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Program, Local Aid and Economic Development, and Asset Management. The first day of the field visit allowed Gerencher and Lemer to hear presentations from each invited New Jersey DOT unit, followed by a roundtable discussion. These discussions covered challenges, accomplishments, research needs, and New Jersey DOT participation in various TRB committees and subcommittees.

Field Observations
When using a UAS for inspection, the resident engineer closely follows protocol to operate the camera controls. Photo courtesy Stefanie Potapa

When using a UAS for inspection, the resident engineer closely follows protocol to operate the camera controls. Photo courtesy Stefanie Potapa

The next day, Shukri Abuhuzeima, Executive Regional Manager, Capital Program Management, presented an overview of the Route 7 Wittpenn Bridge construction project, complete with project-related statistics and background. Glenn Stott, UAS Coordinator, then spoke about the agency’s UAS program and briefed the participants on what to expect when they would arrive at the construction site later that morning.

The group then traveled to the construction site, where all individuals were briefed on safety. Stott, UAS pilot Koree Dusenbury, and visual observer Ashley Davis began a UAS flight demonstration to highlight the capabilities of these vehicles in construction project management and bridge inspection applications. For example, using a drone to inspect projects like the Wittpenn Bridge allows inspection personnel to remain safely on the ground rather than being suspended high over a busy waterway. The drone also can move quickly from one area to another, allowing each inspector to view more structure in less time.

Flight Demonstration

The flight began with Davis and Dusenbury conducting a full systems check followed by a detailed briefing of the mission. In his briefing, Dusenbury—a new Federal Aviation Administration–certified UAS pilot in the Bureau of Aeronautics—included current weather conditions, potential hazards, obstructions such as overhead wires, the flight profile, and actions to be taken in the event of an emergency.

TRB senior program officer Christine Gerencher (left) and New Jersey DOT UAS pilot Koree Dusenbury (right) prepare for the flight demonstration.

TRB senior program officer Christine
Gerencher (left) and New Jersey DOT UAS pilot Koree Dusenbury (right) prepare for the flight demonstration. Photo courtesy Stefanie Potapa

The visual observer is the crew’s safety person, who keeps a close eye on potential hazards to the mission. The resident engineer is tasked with ensuring the quality of work; traditionally, this person uses tools such as a bucket truck to inspect the bridge. When using a UAS, however, the resident engineer operates the camera controls and can pan, tilt, zoom, and take photos. The strict and professional communication phrases and safety procedures among the remote pilot, visual observer, and resident engineer during the flight demonstrated impressive coordination and commitment to safety. The remote pilot first communicated each movement of the drone—which then was acknowledged by the crew—before making an input into the UAS controller.

Thanks to a large flat-screen television behind the rear seats of the New Jersey DOT Bureau of Aeronautics drone SUV, visitors and staff were able to observe everything on the control screens of the UAS operators and inspectors during the flight, in real time. This arrangement minimizes crew distractions and maximizes the level of detail available for resident engineers and other observers to evaluate. The large screen also displays flight telemetry, such as battery levels, altitude, speed, and camera settings. The inspection camera’s optical zoom is capable of 30x magnification, so the drone can safely fly 20 feet away from a bridge and can still zoom in to magnify critical areas needing closer inspection.

Gerencher commented that the format of the visit could be used as a model for other states on how to prepare for annual TRB state partnership visits.

Potapa is Research Project Manager, Bureau of Research; Gendek is Manager, Bureau of Research; and Stott is Unmanned Aircraft Systems Coordinator, Bureau of Aeronautics, New Jersey Department of Transportation, Trenton.

Click here for a PDF of this article.


This article originally appeared in TR News, January-February 2020 issue. TR News is copyright, National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; posted with permission of the Transportation Research Board.

DVRPC’s Sidewalk Inventory and Crowdsourcing Platform

Improved walkability and accessibility help to create vibrant and healthy communities. The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), the metropolitan planning organization for Greater Philadelphia and Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties in New Jersey, is seeking to understand the region’s pedestrian infrastructure through the development of an online inventory, map, and platform for public participation and crowdsourcing. According to DVRPC, the goal of the project is, “to assist with planning efforts to help communities in the region become more pedestrian-friendly and accessible.”

Options from the DVRPC Pedestrian Portal homepage

DVRPC hopes that these new tools will assist the agency and its partners to more efficiently identify and prioritize walkability improvements across the region. The online platform is expected to improve asset management and support various regional planning and place-specific initiatives such as Safe Routes to School, pedestrian safety audits, plans for healthy communities, and strategies for providing safe and equitable access to public transportation.

The need for better sidewalk data was suggested by DVRPC staff during a data roundtable meeting and became the impetus for the Sidewalk Inventory Project, according to DVRPC’s Kim Korejko. The MPO had already conducted work on bicycle infrastructure in the region, but lacked data on pedestrian infrastructure. The absence of a good inventory of sidewalk data was also felt by agency staff who had previously worked on transit station area walkability studies. To address this gap, DVRPC resolved to assemble a seamless and standardized GIS dataset of sidewalks in the region.

DVRPC sought state funding from both Pennsylvania and New Jersey to start the project in 2018. The planned platform for crowdsourcing and community involvement was well-aligned with “PennDOT Connects,” a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation initiative that supports collaboration with communities to sustain and expand mobility in the state. This alignment was a principal reason that the project received funding from Pennsylvania. The crowdsourcing platform also aligns well with the Federal Highway Administration EDC-5 initiative to advance crowdsourcing for operations.

Chester and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania had previously developed sidewalk databases, but the counties did not follow a standardized methodology for data visualization. As a result, DVRPC needed to rework the data for integration into the new dataset. Philadelphia County was also assembling sidewalk data at the time, but differences in data methodology along with the county’s scale have led to delays in assembling and publishing their inventory.

A visualization of Chester and Montgomery counties original sidewalk databases

The DVRPC sidewalk inventory is not the first of its kind in the country. TriMet, Portland, Oregon’s transit operator, undertook a pedestrian network analysis in 2011 with the goal of improving pedestrian access to transit stops, especially in the suburbs surrounding the city. Once compiled, TriMet was able to put forth 10 pedestrian access projects to improve pedestrian access to transit stops, the majority of which were bus stops, but also to light rail and commuter rail stations. TriMet is continuing its pedestrian network analysis, and is seeking public comment on transit stops with low pedestrian accessibility. DVRPC also cited Denver and Seattle’s sidewalk inventories as inspiration for the Philadelphia project.

The TriMet Pedestrian Network Analysis can be found here.

DVRPC staff were surveyed prior to the assembly of the database to explore how they would use the tool and what features they would want:

  • Sidewalk mileage and gaps — 60 percent said they would use the database to calculate sidewalk mileage and gaps to set goals and measure progress for improved network walkability.
  • Pedestrian routing and modeling — 57 percent sought to use the database for pedestrian network routing and modeling
  • Visualization — 51 percent would use it to help visualize the sidewalk data.

In terms of the data features captured by the inventory and mapping, 83 percent of staff said that they wanted to know sidewalk presence, 70 percent wanted to know the sidewalk conditions, and 59 percent wanted to know of the presence of curb ramps.

A look at the sidewalk inventory in Camden, New Jersey

Out of 30 responses, 29 staff members stated that they wanted to know the presence of crosswalks, 24 wanted to see what pedestrian signalization types are present at intersections, and 15 wanted to know the characteristics of crosswalks in the network.

DVRPC has published a sidewalk inventory, including curb ramps and crosswalks for Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties on the Pennsylvania side of their region. A sidewalk inventory for the New Jersey portion of the region was added in February 2020. Release of the Philadelphia County inventory is expected in fall 2020.

To leverage its limited capacity to maintain the database, DVRPC is seeking to crowdsource sidewalk conditions by engaging the public to help keep the map up-to-date and accurate. Community members will be able to create an account to access the editing platform to add new infrastructure and attributes to the database.

In addition, DVRPC hopes to identify and maintain a list of potential pedestrian facility projects through its Pedestrian Facilities and Planning Portal. The portal will provide a space for collaboration between local and regional planning partners working on pedestrian improvements. The secure online interface will (1) provide access to and accommodate maintenance of the regional sidewalk inventory by local entities and (2) allow local and regional planning partners to share their pedestrian facility priorities (such as those identified in their comprehensive/ master plans or those for which they seek grant funding) on an interactive map.

While the planning and editing portals are not yet active, the sidewalk, crosswalk, and curb ramp shapefiles can be downloaded through the DVRPC GIS portal for those wishing to use the inventory for analysis. Once the data has been fully assembled, DVRPC plans to undertake further analyses of pedestrian access to transit and bus stations.

The Greater Philadelphia Pedestrian Portal, which includes the currently available New Jersey and Pennsylvania inventories, can be found here.

A view of the attributes for a sidewalk in Glassboro, New Jersey

Resources:

City of Seattle. “Access Map, Walkability.” https://www.accessmap.io/.

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. “The Greater Philadelphia Pedestrian Portal.” https://walk.dvrpc.org/.

Korejko, Kim. March 2018. DVRPC’s Sidewalk Inventory Project. Presentation. https://www.dvrpc.org/Walk/pdf/DVRPCSidewalkInventory_websiteMar2018.pdf.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. “PennDOT Connects.” https://www.penndot.gov/ProjectAndPrograms/Planning/Pages/PennDOT-Connects.aspx.

TriMet. “Improving Pedestrian Access to Transit.” https://trimet.org/walk/.

Walk Denver. June 2016. “Congratulations to the WALKscope Data Challenge Winners!” http://www.walkdenver.org/congratulations-to-the-walkscope-data-challenge-winners/

Final Report Released for the Connected Vehicles Program Pilot Testing of Technology for Distributing Road Service Safety Messages from Safety Service Patrols

NJDOT’s top priority is to improve highway safety. To support this goal, in September 2018, New Jersey began a pilot study of the effectiveness of using connected vehicle technology to alert the motoring public to the presence of safety service patrol (SSP) workers at incident sites.  With the support of the NJ State Innovation Council (NJ STIC) and a STIC Incentive Funding grant of $39,600 awarded by FHWA, NJDOT piloted the use of Beacon Hazard Lights technology on 32 safety service vehicles to alert drivers to the presence of workers via the mobile navigation app Waze. The device, which is produced by iCone, uses GPS location and wireless communication technology to transmit the location of the SSP vehicles to the iCone Data Server in the cloud where it can be picked up by Waze. Together with the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s (NJIT) ITS Resource Center, NJDOT published a final report of their findings from the pilot project in December 2019, available here.

The SSP location and message shown on the Waze.com website. Photo Source: Cowan et al., 2019.

The primary goal of the study was to test the feasibility of the iCone technology on SSP vehicles by analyzing the time elapsed between device activation and Waze notification, to examine the Verizon 4G cellular network strength for potential coverage loss that could result in service disruption in communication, and to analyze the effectiveness of the equipment through several testing means. The methods of evaluation to complete these objectives were field and remote testing of the technology and documentation of the equipment installation and repairs. Field testing was conducted from January to October 2019 by activating the iCone-enabled SSP truck hazard lights and Dynamic Message Board (DMS) at 2-mile intervals along the entire 280-mile SSP coverage area. An analyst conducted remote testing through monitoring of the iCone and Waze web-based interfaces.

The results of field testing showed that, on average, communication with Waze was successful 76 percent of the time, 20 percent of the time the device communicated with the iCone Data Server but not Waze, and the remaining 4 percent of the time the device did not transmit its location to the iCone Data Server or Waze. The average time elapsed from the iCone device activation to its appearance in Waze was 2 minutes and 41 seconds. On two days of testing along the SSP coverage area, there was no communication between the iCone device and iCone Data Server or Waze.

In addition to field testing, analysts conducted remote testing of 85 active instances of the iCone device by observing the iCone and Waze web portals. In 59 percent of these 85 instances, the active iCone device was detected in Waze, with 29 percent of these successful detections showing the exact timestamp in both Waze and iCone. These results were shared with Waze so that the company could address the issues related to missing and delayed data transmission. For equipment evaluation, results showed that by April 2019, 12 of the units had technical problems that were attributed to the winter weather conditions in New Jersey including snow, road salt, and extreme cold. The iCone engineering team was responsive to the issues and re-evaluated the device design so that replaced units could withstand the weather conditions. A prototype of the newly-designed replacement devices was delivered to NJDOT in December 2019 and has been installed in five of the vehicles.

The installation of the device on an SSP vehicle by an iCone technician. Photo Source: Cowan et al., 2019.

The researchers believe that this technology evaluation pilot project was the first of any state DOT to seek to inform the public of SSP patrol vehicle locations with the sole objective of increasing safety.  The pilot project provided valuable analysis and lessons learned to inform next steps for NJDOT. Testing and analysis of installed devices and their replacements will continue until the end of the product warranty period on September 1, 2021. Additionally, researchers recommended further investigation of the disruptions and delays in the communication path from the iCone device to Waze.  Additional coordination with each technical partner during the steps of the testing process could help to identify the cause of service disruptions.

During the study, NJIT and iCone were unable to obtain Waze data showing how many people clicked the “thumbs up” to the message on the app. Future analysis should investigate how to gather reactions of the motoring public to Waze notifications. The researchers recommended exploring partnerships with crowdsourcing GPS navigation providers to further learn how drivers are reacting, which should include a data transfer process and strategies for reducing latency between iCone data server and Waze.

The Final Report contains additional information on the purpose of the research, the role of various stakeholder organizations in the research, a description of the technology devices and tools procured and used in the research, and the evaluation results.  The Final Report was submitted to the FHWA and is available to review here.

Featured Image Source: NJDOT, 2019.

Build a Better Mousetrap Competition 2020

People involved in the transportation industry often find better ways to do their jobs. Whether it’s a new gadget that improves the quality and safety of a project, or an innovative process that reduces costs and improves efficiency, it is typically the people on the front lines who discover the latest and best practices!

Now is the time to share those new ideas with others in New Jersey’s Build a Better Mousetrap Competition.

We are looking for submissions from employees of local or state public agencies (municipalities, counties, parks commissions, NJ Department of Transportation, NJ TRANSIT) who have created innovative solutions to problems or found better ways of doing things. The best ideas from around the state will be gathered and judged using a 5-point rating system (cost, benefits to the community, ingenuity, ease of transferability, and effectiveness.)

Based on these criteria, a state winner will be selected from all of the local public agency entries, and that entry will be elevated to the National Build a Better Mousetrap Competition!

This competition is sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration’s Local Technical Assistance Program and Tribal Technical Assistance Program, and winners will be announced at the annual National LTTAP/TTAP Conference in July 2020. A state winner will also be selected from the NJDOT/NJT entries for the 2020 NJDOT Innovator Award, to be presented at the Annual NJDOT Research Showcase in October.

Want to learn more about past winners? See Share Your Ideas – Build a Better Mousetrap.

Ready to Enter?

If you have something you think would qualify for this competition, submit your entry by July 1 (local agency) or August 15 (state agency).

Please include a photo(s) or sketch of your project with submission.

Remember, this competition is open to employees of any local, county, or state  public agency, including New Jersey Department of Transportation and NJ TRANSIT. Two winners will be selected; one for the best local agency and another for the NJDOT/NJT Submission.

NJLTAP – Proven Safety Countermeasures Workshops – Upcoming Events

New Jersey is currently a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) focus approach state for both Pedestrians and Intersections, with approximately 24% of fatal and serious injury crashes involving Intersections and 27% involving Pedestrians and Bicycles. In New Jersey, approximately 60% of fatal and serious injury crashes are occurring on the local system.

The New Jersey Local Technical Assistance Program (NJLTAP) has partnered with the FHWA Division Office, NJDOT Bureau of Safety, Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs and Local Aid and Economic Development, and our three Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to develop a half-day workshop focused on the FHWA Proven Safety Countermeasures and the funding available for improvements to the local system.

This workshop provides guidance on the FHWA Proven Safety Countermeasures that local public agencies can implement to successfully address roadway departure, intersection, and pedestrian and bicycle crashes. The course will provide emphasis on intersection and pedestrian safety countermeasures, as well as potential funding sources (both federal and state) for implementing such countermeasures. Further, emphasis will be provided to include ways to implement the countermeasures into existing projects as proactive low-cost solutions to safety improvements.

Registration is required to attend any of these workshop events to be in North, South and Central regions of NJ. AICP and PE credits will be available. There is no fee for these workshops, but advance registration is required.

Visit the NLTAP Training and Events page for more information and to register for any of the 3 workshops:

The Impact of SJTPO’s Traffic Signal Inventory on Signal Operations

As technology advances, so does the need for data—information that allows engineers, planners, and others to utilize innovative ways to improve transportation and safety. To implement smart traffic systems, whereby centrally controlled traffic signals and sensors regulate the flow of traffic, agencies must know the present state of their traffic signal infrastructure. The South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO), the metropolitan planning organization for four counties in South Jersey, sought to better understand their infrastructure by developing a database of all traffic signals in the region. Completed in 2017, the database provides local agencies with the information needed to target intersections and signals for upgrades and replacements. Replacement with newer integrated traffic signals improves traffic flow, allows for remote signal monitoring and regional signal maintenance, and supports bicycle and pedestrian improvements at intersections.

A traffic signal located in SJTPO’s region. (Source: Tracy, 2017)

In 2016, SJTPO sought to create a database for all traffic signals within Atlantic, Cape May, and Salem Counties. Previously, Cumberland County had developed a traffic signal inventory which SJTPO plans to integrate into the new, comprehensive database. SJTPO and county governments wanted to know the count, age, and types of signals in their jurisdictions. An SJTPO study in Vineland found that many of their signals were very old, with one using circa 1955 electromechanical components to operate. In addition, traffic signal maintenance progressively transferred from municipalities to counties and records of some signals were found to be deficient. The lack of information needed to properly maintain signals was a major impetus for creating the database, according to Andrew Tracy formerly of SJTPO (Source: Tracy, 2017).

Agencies across the country have created similar traffic signal databases. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the regional metropolitan planning organization for Chicago and the surrounding seven counties, undertook development of a signal database in 2013 for the region, with the first version released to the public in 2018. CMAP’s goals for the database reflect those of SJTPO. The agency seeks to use the information for planning, and targeting specific signals and intersections for upgrades and replacement.

For an RFP issued to support its regional signal timing initiative,  SJTPO included a list of specific intersections identified by the counties for possible improvements. Extensive outreach to counties and municipalities to acquire signal data and plans took place prior to the database assembly to minimize the field work needed. For all data acquisition requiring field work, the subcontractor created an application to minimize errors with data input. The participating counties gave data collectors the keys to their controller cabinets along with a permission note in case police questioned them during their field work efforts. The signals were classified by features such as signal location, mast arm, head, sign, and presence of pedestrian push buttons. Additional information collected included intersection features such as ADA ramps, crosswalks, etc.

A look at SJTPO’s map and reviewer application for data input. (Source: Tracy, 2017)

Traffic data was also collected at identified intersections, including turning movement counts, queue lengths, delays, and travel times. This information could be used for traffic simulation modeling, performance measurement of intersections, and  revised signal timing plans. Extensive photography of the signals and intersections complemented the data set and provided visual aids. In total, 431 signals, including 258 traditional traffic signals and 173 beacons, were logged in the database across the 3 counties. The signal inventory was completed in 2017 and each county updates the database when a signal or intersection receives upgrades.

The traffic signal inventory database has created a variety of benefits for SJTPO and the region’s residents. One of the most noticeable benefits for local agencies has been access to data to target specific signals for upgraded technology, such as vehicle detection cameras and GPS clocks for signal coordination, or installation of new signals. The database can help identify intersections for bicycle and pedestrian facility improvements and greater accessibility for individuals with disabilities, such as wheelchair ramps and improved crosswalks. Signal upgrades benefit residents by improving traffic flow, and allowing for implementation of remote signal monitoring and signal maintenance at a regional, rather than local, level. Finally, the database reinforces knowledge preservation to ease any transitions in the event of staff turnover.

For other agencies considering a similar database, a Signal Inventory configuration is available via Collector for ArcGIS and performs similar functions as the SJTPO in-house application. Additional information on the process for assembling the SJTPO’s Traffic Signal Inventory Database can be found in a webinar (see below)  hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Geospatial Transportation Users Group.

Sources:

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. “Highway Traffic Signal Inventory: Draft Proposal.” CMAP, October 29, 2015. https://www.cmap.illinois.gov/documents/10180/481346/RegionnalSignals_Proposal_20151029_forRTOC.pdf/3aef6a03-a792-44ed-9515-11496c9c25f8.

South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization. “Request for Proposals: Regional Signal Timing Initiative.” SJTPO, July 13, 2017. https://www.sjtpo.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/SJTPO-RFP-Regional_Signal_Timing_Initiative.pdf.

Tracy, Andrew. October 30, 2017. The South Jersey Regional Traffic Signal Improvement Program. Presentation. https://www.sjtpo.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/CAC-10-30-2017-Andrew-Tracy-Signals.pdf.

Tracy, Andrew, Colleen Richwald, David Braig, and Matthew Duffy. October 12, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMO7-NYuXZ0.

Tech Talk! Webinar: The Connected Job Site

On November 14, 2019, FHWA sponsored an innovation exchange webinar, "The Connected Job Site," that was live broadcast by the NJDOT Bureau of Research as part of its Tech Talk! series, for NJDOT staff at NJDOT Headquarters in the Foran Building Training Room.

With the recent influx of new technologies such as smartphones, tablets, and drones, and their growing and widespread availability, many ingenious applications have been developed for their effective deployment in construction and operations and maintenance activities in transportation. These technologies have allowed for real-time project monitoring, improved communication among team members, documentation stored on the cloud, and more efficient online scheduling. During this webinar, attendees learned about what exactly connected job sites are, and how various local agencies from around the country have started to utilize these technologies in innovative ways.

FHWA launched the webinar with a short presentation, Ten Examples of Connected Technologies, that highlighted examples of tools and technologies found on the connected job site. The primary objective behind the adoption of these connected technologies is to save time and money and improve safety in operations.  Hardware like smartphones, tablets, laptops, wearable technology and various vehicles and equipment have streamlined communications and planning in performing field work, while software solutions like 3D Modeling and Building Information Modeling (BIM) have improved the accuracy and efficiency of digital representation for physical facilities and infrastructure design. Virtual reality (VR) technologies have also started to find applications in the field, allowing professionals to safely experiment and test ideas in an artificial environment and bring products and concepts to life through visualizations.  Using VR in conjunction with drone technology, for example, has allowed maintenance crews to safely examine parts of bridges that were previously hazardous to inspect. The advent of unmanned aerial vehicle systems, in general, has provided the ability to garner visual information at a lower cost than traditional methods, while keeping workers out of harm’s way.

Connected job sites do not always have to deploy new technologies; sometimes they just re-purpose applications of older technologies in conjunction with new ideas. GPS systems have been around for decades, but when used with new software they are immensely effective in improving efficiency.  Two case examples of this were provided by the local public agencies who participated in the webinar.

Township staff can review actual snow plow routes to improve cost-effective coverage and verify citizen complaints

The Township of Edison’s presentation, Improve Fleet Operations Through the Use of GPS and Telematics, provided by the New Jersey municipality’s Information Technology Manager, described some benefits and challenges of the installation of GPS tracking devices on its vehicle maintenance fleet.  During snow events, the Township was able to monitor the entire routes taken by its snow plow trucks and the specific segments where the plows were used.  Once the monitoring systems were in place, the Township found that it had the capability to more effectively evaluate individual citizen complaints of streets not being plowed adequately.  For example, the Township could check its mapped records of fleet route deployment during storm events, and see if the complaints were "true" and then determine whether a specific snow removal job needed to be repeated.  More broadly, the tool allowed the agency to ascertain whether designated routes were being followed by operators and whether the priority routes themselves were efficient and effective in both design and operation.

This capability had the added benefit of reducing the Township’s liability for alleged property damage. In fact, the Township found that some 50 percent of the claims that asserted that snow plows were hitting parked vehicles could not be substantiated after checking the GPS location of the snowplow trucks and their route history. Insurance claims and payouts were reduced by some 60 percent due to this capacity to technically validate the potential merits of a claim. The Township also found that it was able to improve efficiency in route designs, leading to less wear and tear on equipment, less use of salt and brine, and a reduction in person-hours and overtime costs.

The Township touched upon tool features that improved the monitoring of vehicles for preventative maintenance. As vehicles systems were now connected to a central hub, needed repairs were identified more quickly and systematically, and less dependent on individual driver reports of faults in a vehicle's operation.  Eventually, low use and high maintenance cost vehicles were better identified and retired, allowing for an overall fleet reduction of 35 percent which, in turn, has reduced costs for fuel, insurance, parts and labor.

For Lauderdale uses available individual vehicle operations measures to improve safety and support preventative maintenance progam for its fleet.

The City of Fort Lauderdale’s presentation, How to Improve Fleet Sustainability, jointly given by the City’s Program Manager for Fleet Services and their Automotive and Equipment Specialist, described several features and benefits of their fleet management program, including the use of geofencing. A geofence is a virtual perimeter dynamically generated for a real-world geographic area around a point location, or a predefined set of boundaries. It is typically used for security purposes and to better track people and equipment. Fort Lauderdale used geofencing to help preserve its infrastructure, as it was able to monitor overweight trucks using historic bridges; with this real time technology, they were able to reduce over-weight vehicles crossing the bridge by nearly 90 percent.

Vehicle tracking had the side benefit of making their drivers operate more safely.  The City found that its personnel were less likely to go over the speed limit if they were monitored, and “harsh events” such as braking and sharp turns were also reduced.  Examples of some of the specific and aggregate dashboard performance measures that can be monitored for equipment usage were highlighted.

In the dialogue following both presentations, it was clear that the adoption of the connected technologies changed the way business is being performed. Notably, the tools and performance measures permit increased tracking of the workforce on-the-job.  The presenters acknowledged that it can raise concerns about the level of monitoring available to the local public agency's management team.  However, according to the presenters, the implementation of the systems has generally improved the safety and efficiency of daily operations and contributed to improved maintenance and longevity of their fleets.

While the webinar shared just a couple of case examples primarily focused on fleet management, the FHWA hosts stressed that the future of connected job sites will only grow as the “internet of things” becomes more complex. Everything from automated vehicles, intelligent compaction, drones, and RFID scanners will continue to find new applications, and new ways to save money and enhance safety.

The Connected Job Site webinar is one in a series of Innovation Exchange webinars sponsored by the Center for Local Aid Support (CLAS) in the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Innovative Program Delivery. Through Innovative Exchange webinars, CLAS seeks to bring cutting-edge transportation leaders to the table to share ideas and out of the box innovative practices that have proven results.  More information about this webinar, upcoming webinars, and webinars available on demand can be found here.

How SJTPO Refined Their Congestion Management Process with Crowdsourced Data

Through the Everyday Counts (EDC) program, FHWA identifies and deploys established but underutilized innovations through a state-based model, with the goals of streamlining project delivery, improving roadway safety, decreasing traffic congestion, and incorporating automation. The fifth round of EDC kicked off in 2019 and included Crowdsourcing for Operations as one of ten initiatives.

As described by FHWA, "When combined with traditional data, crowdsourcing helps agencies efficiently implement proactive strategies that improve incident detection, traffic signal retiming, road weather management, traveler information, and other operational programs" (EDC-5). Crowdsourced operations data can include traffic, transit, bicycle, pedestrian, construction, and weather information collected in real-time by intelligent transportation systems (ITS) infrastructure and archived for planning use. One example of this traffic data is time and vehicle location collected via GPS probe-based sources, such as vehicles and smartphones. Through NJDOT and the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), New Jersey has institutionalized the practice by incorporating crowdsourced data into multiple operational programs since 2008.

Congestion Management Process

An example of PDA Suite's Performance Chart tool displaying archived operations data for speed. Photo source: Tracy, 2019.

The South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO), the MPO that represents Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem Counties, revised its Congestion Management Process (CMP) last year, with formal adoption in November 2018. A CMP is defined by FHWA as “a systematic and regionally-accepted approach for managing congestion that provides accurate, up-to-date information on transportation system performance and assesses alternative strategies for congestion management that meet State and local needs.” Metropolitan areas larger than 200,000 people are required to develop and implement a CMP as part of their overall transportation planning process for their region.

An effective CMP will help a region pinpoint congested roadways, determine multimodal performance measures, develop congestion management strategies and implementation methods, and assess the efficacy of the implemented strategies. While FHWA does not strictly define how to implement a CMP, they do provide a CMP Guidebook with an eight-step Process Model which SJTPO followed:

  1. Develop Regional Objectives for Congestion Management
  2. Define CMP Network
  3. Develop Multimodal Performance Measures
  4. Collect Data/Monitor System Performance
  5. Analyze Congestion Problems and Needs
  6. Identify and Assess Strategies
  7. Program and Implement Strategies
  8. Evaluate Strategy Effectiveness.

Along with the 2020 Regional Transportation Plan update, two important pieces of legislation drove SJTPO’s motivation to overhaul their CMP: Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) of 2012 and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015. Both of these laws established requirements for performance-based planning and programming by MPOs. Performance-based planning and programming consists of the following steps: identifying a transportation system’s needs and problems, prioritizing projects and programs for investment, and monitoring impacts of the projects. SJTPO revised the CMP methodology using recently acquired real-time and archived travel time data to establish performance measures for the extent and severity of congestion throughout the region. The archived operations data provides a more holistic picture of system performance, creates more relatable and user-friendly measures, and enables more sophisticated modelling.

PDA Suite's Bottleneck Ranking tool displays here all bottlenecks found on a specific date range by time of day, visualized by maximum queue length in miles. Photo source: Tracy, 2019.

Under a contract with NJDOT, the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory (CATT Lab) provided all three New Jersey MPOs with access to real-time and archived data via the Probe Data Analytics Suite (PDA Suite). The PDA Suite is a web-based platform that consists of a range of data visualization and retrieval tools for real-time and archived probe data. The vehicle probe data is provided by multiple third-party vendors, including INRIX, HERE, and TomTom, that collect it via smart phone navigation apps. These companies anonymously aggregate the data which is then used by the PDA Suite tools to calculate metrics such as real-time speed data, travel time index, travel time reliability, queue measurements, statewide bottleneck ranking, and corridor congestion charts, among others.

An overview of the tools available in the PDA Suite. Photo source: Tracy, 2019.

Agencies can use the tool to download reports, create interactive maps and graphics, and download raw data for external analysis. The performance measurement data is available at both the corridor and regional level, with 1,556 roadway segments covered in the SJTPO region. SJTPO has used PDA Suite’s Bottleneck Ranking Tool to create congestion screening lists for all of their counties; the lists are then screened for outliers and confirmed with independent data sources. SJTPO will then meet with county and municipal stakeholders to gather their input to prioritize locations and develop a problem statement. So far, SJTPO has found PDA suite valuable for quantifying seasonal congestion, which traditionally is difficult to define. Compared to traffic counts, operations data has wider spatial and temporal coverage.

Lessons Learned

While this data has been incredibly valuable to SJTPO, the agency has learned there are several drawbacks when it comes to working with crowdsourced big data. False positives may occur that identify congested areas when a roadway segment has a low sample size of probe vehicles, or there is a typical traffic signal delay or an inaccurate calculation of historical reference speed. Additionally, there are many ways to parse and analyze a dataset, which can lead to different results. To accurately represent the travel experience, organizations need to develop and use consistent methodology.

Looking forward, SJTPO plans to continually update their CMP. The document will evolve with additional insight from internal documents and studies (including the 2020 Regional Transportation Plan), changes to planning guidelines, and shifts in regional demographic and fiscal resources. In 2020, a Congestion Management Process Activity Report will be issued to summarize findings to be incorporated in the 2045 Regional Transportation Plan Update.

Sources:

CATT Lab. “Probe Data Analytics Suite.” CATT Lab. University of Maryland, 2019. https://www.cattlab.umd.edu/?portfolio=vehicle-probe-project-suite.

FHWA. “Crowdsourcing for Operations.” Center for Accelerating Innovation. U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, October 22, 2019. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_5/crowdsourcing.cfm.

FHWA. “Congestion Management Process (CMP).” Organizing and Planning Operations. U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, February 11, 2019. https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/plan4ops/focus_areas/cmp.htm.

SJTPO. “Congestion Management Process.” Congestion Management Process (CMP). South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization, 2019. https://www.sjtpo.org/CMP/.

SJTPO. “Congestion Management Process: Methodology Report.” Congestion Management Process (CMP). South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization, 2018. https://www.sjtpo.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/CMP-Report-2017.pdf.

Tracy, Andrew. “The Use of Real-Time and Archived Operations Data for Congestion Planning and Incident Management.” TransAction 2019. April 17, 2019. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/SJTPO-TransAction-2019-Operations-Data-slides.pdf.