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When just counting vehicles is good enough for traffic management

Loop-based counters undeniably still rule the roost as far as providing accurate, reliable, classified traffic flow data at the roadside – but do you always need to know what type of vehicles were passing through?

For many applications, this is overkill and all that’s required is a picture of the rates of traffic seen across a road network.

deviceBudget cuts have driven a rethink

The age of austerity has forced many operators to revisit their existing ways of working and ask questions about whether they really need to keep to the same model.

After all, what were they doing with all the vehicle class data anyway?

The reality is that in many cases they are doing very little with it, as either it held little extra value for them or they no longer had the resources to conduct the type of analyses that they would like.

As maintenance budgets are let slide (which in itself can be a costly mistake and equipment starts to degrade and become uneconomical to repair, operators are shying away from full replacement – because of the expense and disruption it causes, and turning to cheaper (and often temporary) solutions that give them a snapshot of traffic data, such as outsourced ad hoc surveys using tube or radar counters, or even manual surveys in some instances.

Is a snapshot really enough?

Taking seven days’ vehicle flow data as is typical from a temporary survey and extrapolating that out for a whole month, quarter, half year or more is simply flawed and any transport planner worth their salt will say that there are all manner of variables affecting the flow of traffic.

These include weather, special or regular events, incidents, roadworks, construction…the list goes on. So a seven-day window of data will never be able to adequately reflect the typical patterns of traffic you would see in a month, quarter or longer.

To reliably manage the road network and assist in transport planning and modelling for the future, transport planners and operators really need higher levels of information if they are to establish any indications of patterns or trends in behaviour that can be used to improve traffic flow in the future.

You could opt for more frequent surveys, but regular use of temporary survey methods can be expensive and disruptive.

We need a simple ‘fit & forget’ solution

Small, but perfectly formed, the M210 logging stud measures about 5cm deep, 13cm in diameter and installs in the road in less than fifteen minutes.

Even better, once installed the M210 powers from solar energy harvested by its in-built photovoltaic cell and will happily continue working in all weathers, counting traffic day and night for at least a year between data downloads.

To download data, a user simply connects via their laptop at the roadside communicating via a Zigbee-enabled M211 USB dongle, able to retrieve a month’s worth of data within sixty seconds.

In fact, this solution has proved so effective that it is being used for data infill sites and as a main means of data collection right across the world.

Over 450 of these devices are positioned across the road network in New South Wales, Australia and 130 of them are used at key sites across Amsterdam, Holland.

And because the concept is so simple and the form factor so convenient, these handy devices have been used for car park counting installations too, both for temporary car parks such as special events, country fairs, festivals – and at other permanent sites including country parks, retail parks and event municipal recycling centres.

In fact, any location where a simple, accurate and continuous understanding of the traffic volumes really is good enough.

If you’d like to find out more about Clearview Traffic’s road traffic data solutions, traffic data collection, road safety solutions, intelligent road studs and traffic management systems, please feel free to contact us here.

Author: |Date Published: January 2014

Links: Traffic Flow Monitoring

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