Throughout cities and towns worldwide, traffic and congestion within centres is a major issue for both citizens and city leaders, alike. In order to combat the pain point head on, many local authorities are working alongside collaboration partners to identify a viable solution that not only mediates, but reduces traffic throughout urban hubs to improve mobility and access for citizens. One solution is the introduction of intelligent traffic counting.

Collecting data of traffic density and frequency, traffic sensors can help inform councils and local authorities of hot spot areas that require further attention and management. Usually placed atop of traffic lights or lampposts, thanks to their frequent and tall profiles, traffic sensors are able to count and measure road usage by assessing trends from a bird’s eye perspective. This insight is valuable for city leaders for a number of reasons…

Traffic management

One of the main reasons to implement such a system is to use the data in order to better understand trends in road use and congestion. At particular times of the day roads become extremely busy; from the daily commute, to the school run, the congestion this causes is not only emotionally draining but increasingly harmful to the environment.

By using traffic counting systems, city leaders can become better informed of the main problem areas within their region and the times when congestion is at its highest. From gathering the data from roads and highways, city planning can become more proactive in the traffic management solutions they deploy, which can help to better mitigate road use throughout areas of increased traffic flow.

Whether this is by way of changing the traffic light patterns at particular periods of the day, or implementing wider initiatives that completely change the way traffic travels throughout a town or city centre, traffic management systems and the data they produce are valuable assets in terms of understanding the best solutions for the particular needs of a city.

Road usage and maintenance

From a resource point of view, traffic counting information can be used effectively to understand the maintenance requirements for road networks throughout a region. Roads with heavy usage will, inevitably, become quickly worn which leads to potholes that can damage vehicles and cause pain points when it comes to congestion.

Traffic counting systems can help in two main ways here, one is to understand how quickly a road will wear and the other is to devise a maintenance plan that will cause the least disruption to frequent users of these roads. Additionally, when looking at resource, traffic counting solutions can better inform city leaders about the man hours and costs incurred should a road not be maintained effectively, compared with contingency roadworks that ensure routes are not affected by poor surfaces and potholes.

 Air quality

Along with increased congestion, inefficient roads can cause poor air quality, which can affect citizen quality of life. Using a traffic counting system to better understand road use can help municipalities map out zones that have poor air quality, with a view to improve and monitor key areas.

Understanding trends, such as how many vehicles it takes to create dangerous CO2 levels and how long it takes for them to have an effect on citizens, requires further sensing from a combined air quality sensor. Comparing traffic data with air quality information can hold vital details for city leaders in how to develop cleaner air for citizens.

To reduce CO2 levels some local authorities have introduced clean air zones, where drivers of certain vehicles pay a congestion fee. This is in an aim to reduce road use, where traffic counting systems can monitor just how effective this is, combined with the revenue made from particular drivers.

Citizen safety

Of course, traffic counting systems not only have their use on highways, they have a valuable place in residential areas too. As congestion on major roads continues to rise, smaller more residential routes are being increasingly utilised as ‘rat runs’ for commuters to cut-out traffic and reduce journey times, to and from work.

With the extra traffic passing through residential areas, there is a greater risk to citizen safety; traffic counting systems can help city planners to better understand areas with the highest traffic and implement appropriate speed limits or cameras to ensure residents feel safe in their neighbourhood.

Traffic counting in residential areas can also capture data on road usage and just how and when areas are busiest.  Understanding this can help local authorities to develop initiatives for improved road safety, or create alternative routes that ensure residential areas remain safe, while main roads are free from congestion and effective for motorists to use at peak hours. After all, it is the safety and well-being of the citizen that remains at the forefront of city development plans.

Traffic management in smart cities

Interoperable urban assets are becoming increasingly available and help make the smart solutions within cities more scalable. Using different hardware solutions to monitor a number of variables throughout roads and towns, made possible via open networks and interoperable software, various insights can be gained that underpin the pain points of the region.

Using the information gathered from traffic counting and management systems, combined with air quality and other environmental data, city leaders can become better informed and more proactive in the way urban improvements can be made and how these will enhance the experience and accessibility of a community.

We will be exploring the possibilities of streetlighting sensors and traffic management systemss, alongside the hardware used to help illuminate cites, at the Light + Building Show held at Frankfurt, Messe from 18th-23rd March 2018.  To find out more about our stand at Light + Building,click here:


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