Transportation agencies are finding that combining Every Day Counts (EDC) innovations accelerates success. Pairing weather-responsive management strategies and crowdsourcing for operations, for example, creates synergies that leverage the impact of both innovations.
“A whole host of operational strategies can be enhanced with crowdsourced data,” said Paul Jodoin, co-leader of the EDC team on crowdsourcing, which helps agencies increase situational awareness of real-time traffic conditions. A webinar explored how agencies in Wyoming, Utah, and Kentucky use mobile applications and crowdsourced data to improve traffic and maintenance management in inclement weather.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) developed the Road Condition Reporting app to share information between maintenance vehicles and its Traffic Management Center (TMC). The tablet-based app makes it easier for maintenance staff to report road and atmospheric conditions, variable speed limit suggestions, traffic incidents, and road hazards. Maintenance staff receive information such as road weather conditions and asset locations on the app, improving their situational awareness.
A same-storm comparison found that the number of road reports submitted doubled and variable speed limit change requests tripled with the app, compared to standard reporting by radio. “More reports equate to more accurate and timely information,” said Vince Garcia, who manages WYDOT’s geographic information systems/intelligent transportation systems program. “Our takeaway is that plow operators are more engaged with the app.”
WYDOT also uses its Wyoming 511 mobile app to crowdsource data. In addition to providing real-time information on travel conditions, the app allows motorists to submit photos. “The TMC can use the image to update condition reports or share the image with the public, if appropriate,” said Ali Ragan, WYDOT project manager.
The Wyoming 511 app includes the capability to report truck parking availability at WYDOT locations, which is particularly important during weather-related road closures. “It helps truck drivers find a safe place to park,” Ragan said.
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) created a smartphone app to crowdsource data from motorists. Through its Citizen Reporter Program, UDOT enlists trained volunteers to use the app to report road and weather conditions on State highways. The data help UDOT fill in gaps where road weather information system data are not available and provide more timely and accurate road weather forecasts.
“The information also goes to our UDOT traffic app so travelers have a better idea of what to expect on the roadways,” said Lisa Miller, UDOT traveler information manager. “The goal is to make sure people have the information they need to make informed and safe travel decisions.”
In the 2018–2019 winter season, citizen reporters submitted 5,200 reports, up from 1,800 reports in the 2013–2014 season. UDOT estimates the program saves $250,000 a year because of the reduced need for road weather instrumentation and more efficient storm forecasting.
“We now have almost every segment of our roadway network assigned to a citizen reporter,” said Miller. “We have many important rural routes that help with trucking traffic and vacation traffic going to ski resorts and parks, so this is a helpful way for us to get data.”
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) integrates data from third parties, such as Waze and Doppler radar, with agency sources, such as snowplows and roadway weather stations. “All of this flows into our system in real time, so our snow and ice personnel and TMC staff can mix and match the data to better understand a weather event,” said Chris Lambert, KYTC transportation data manager.
KYTC uses some data on its GoKY website, which provides road condition and traffic information to travelers. Another application is the Snow and Ice Decision Support dashboard, which aggregates road weather data that KYTC shares with agencies such as the Kentucky State Police and Kentucky Emergency Management. “When agencies are talking about closing roads or creating detours, having a single understanding of what’s happening on the roadway is useful,” said Lambert.
The agency turned to crowdsourcing for road weather management when heavy rains led to flooding last year, using social media to ask Waze app users to submit reports on high-water locations. “The reports from people willing to participate in marking high-water locations nearly doubled between late February and early March,” said Randi Feltner, KYTC snow and ice operations program manager.