Eyes on intersections: doing more (with less) for better traffic flow

Remember the days when City staff in parked cars counted traffic movements in person, or used mechanical counters connected to rubber hoses stretching across the road?

That was then, and this is now, and the comparison is like the difference between horse-and-buggy and hybrid car.

Five years ago, Transportation Services’ traffic monitoring group was an early adopter of a new video traffic monitoring technology called Miovision.

Since then, the traffic monitoring group has boosted the amount of valuable traffic movement data it supplies its internal customers by more than 300%, and done so with cost savings averaging $200,000 a year – not bad for a program with a $1.5 million budget!

“It’s incredible what Miovision has done for our ability to help supply the traffic signals and road maintenance people with detailed information that helps them move traffic more quickly and keep roads in better physical shape,” says Thareesh Kariyawasam, Transportation’s general supervisor of Strategic Monitoring.

Miovision involves the temporary (12 to 72 hours) location at an intersection of a small video camera atop a long pole. Below is a battery and a computer which records real-time video of traffic movements.

Field technician Milt Nordstrom is one of the traffic monitoring team that sets up Miovision camera units at intersections all over the city. The actual camera is surprisingly small, given the incredible amount of information it provides to Transportation analysts and planners.

Field technician Milt Nordstrom is one of the traffic monitoring team that sets up Miovision camera units at intersections all over the city. The actual camera is surprisingly small, given the incredible amount of information it provides to Transportation analysts and planners.

The video is uploaded by City traffic monitoring staff to Miovision, whose proprietary computer algorithms recognize all possible movements at intersections by vehicle type and direction, and produce data-rich reports. To ensure 95% accuracy, portions of each hour’s video analysis are verified by real, live humans.

Old-style traffic counting supplied basic information about the type of vehicle (car, truck, bus) and what direction drivers took at an intersection (right/left/straight through).

Miovision’s product not only tracks which directions vehicles take, but it can tell analysts whether the vehicle was a bus, a car, or any one of many sizes of truck. It also produces information about bicycle and pedestrian movements.

One of the technology’s greatest fans is the traffic monitoring group’s supervisor and strategic traffic analyst Sharon Gorton.

“We used to be able to monitor 600 locations a year using people and the hoses, and now we’re doing almost 1,800. At the same time, we extended the length of time we’re monitoring each location, and we eliminate human error, so our data is far more accurate than before. It also enables us to collect data in all types of weather and at any time of year” she says.

Sharon’s obviously thrilled with the value of the 58 Miovision units in the 8-person group’s tool crib.

“Give me a camera, and I can give you just about any kind of data you need. If you can see it, we can count it!”

The group is also using the cameras to supply data on bicycle movements, and on bicycle/pedestrian use of various city walking trails. This data helps sustainable transportation planners create better ways of encouraging more people to leave their cars at home and use other methods of navigating the city.

In addition to helping traffic signals people adjust traffic light timing to move vehicles more efficiently, and helping road maintenance staff better plan where to focus their resources, data produced by the traffic monitoring group is also critical to planning major infrastructure investments.

Transportation Services relies on traffic monitoring data to support large expenditures on improvements such as the recent widening of the Quesnel Bridge and the replacement of the 102 Avenue over Groat Road Bridge.

Transportation Services’ eight-person traffic monitoring group is supervised by strategic traffic analyst Sharon Gorton and managed by Thareesh Kariyawasam.

Transportation Services’ eight-person traffic monitoring group is supervised by strategic traffic analyst Sharon Gorton and managed by Thareesh Kariyawasam.

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1 Comment
  1. Yogi
    2 years ago

    So much goes in for a smooth running commute. Great article!

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