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Check Traffic Congestion Online 199

Posted by Hemos
from the testing-the-traffic dept.
braddk writes "Looks like traffic helicopters will slowly become unnecessary in Denver, as an ongoing construction project implements online traffic data. The traffic is monitored via "vehicle counters" placed at the onramps and in between interchanges. Although only a 10 mile section is currently monitored, plans are to add more sensors as they complete sections of the larger project. They also have a lighter version for mobile phone users. Click here to see the Flash version and to check out the current traffic in Denver. Now I can check whether I really want to head to work in the morning." Kinda like that project in Finland.
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Check Traffic Congestion Online

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  • nothing new... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MagusAptus (456895) on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:01AM (#5269620)
    Atlanta's traffic [georgia-navigator.com] Sure it is not in pretty flash, but is is much more extensive.
    • Re:nothing new... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:08AM (#5269640)
      All The Netherlands roads (main roads) already have this system, take a look:

      Amsterdam [www.anwb.nl]

      Before I leave my work I always check it!

      Overview of The Netherlands [www.anwb.nl]
      • by olip (203119) on Monday February 10, 2003 @09:01AM (#5269800)

        Nothing new in France either.
        Roads have had sensors for at least a decade.
        Used for different purposes :
        - traffic monitoring (accidents, etc.)
        - driver information by huge screens on the road, telling how long to this and this direction ; and I find it really nerve calming to know how long it will take and be able to organize (once it only said how long - in distance - the congestion is, which I don't care about)
        - website [sytadin.tm.fr] for 4 years.

        Here we have two type of sensors :
        - simple loops, which only give information about the "coverage rate" (that is, proportion of time there is a vehicle on the loop. Funnily, this figure is heavily correlated with the state of traffic and the speed of the vehicles. 0.1 is heavy traffic and 0.2 is congestion. I do not recall exacly the figures but you get the highest throughput for a magic "coverage rate" which corresponds to around 57 kmph (~37 mph).
        - double loops are simple loops 1 meter away ; correlating data from the two gives you the time decay between them and so the speed of vehicles, in a more reliable fashion than just simple loops ; in particular with these you can ajust the nominal traffic model with observed speeds so your model integrates real road conditions (snow, rain, saturday night...) and single loops can then give you very accurate information.
        On heavily trafficked roads (eg Boulevard Peripherique in Paris) you have a single loop every 400m and a double every 2km AFAIR.


        • So do they have a way to correlate this with traffic light data, so that, for instance, they would be able to tell if someone ran a red light and caused an accident? I know they probably would not be able to tell WHICH car did it, but it would be nice if they could tell that A car coming from THIS direction ran a red light at approximately the time of an accident.
      • Ditto here in the UK, we have been using this system for at least three years.

        Trafficmaster [trafficmaster.co.uk]

        This data feeds most of the radio, TV, PDA, satnav and breakdown agency traffic reports. You can view live reports here:

        Royal Automobile Club [rac.co.uk]
        Automobile Association [theaa.com]

        A network of cameras, which look like blue lampposts [trafficmaster.co.uk] on trunk roads (highways) and fly-swatters [trafficmaster.co.uk] on motorway bridges (interstates) digitally capture registration numbers (licence plates) and time how long it takes to get from A to B, or A to C etc. If a significant portion of numberplates arrive at A but don't arrive at B or C, then the computer presumes that there is a blockage somewhere near A. It also uses averaging to spot changes in normal traffic flow which indicate delays rather than blockages.

        Interestingly, the trunk road system can be easily socially hacked with very major results. There are many classic cases of Trafficmaster being confused by temporary major changes in traffic flow, particularly infrequent events such as village fetes, town picnic days, jousting re-enactments, fireworks etc. If a bunch of cars all go past camera A and then turn off to park in a field for two hours to watch fireworks, the system will flag up point A as a traffic blockage!

        I've known some mischevious parish council members specifically plan their event parking arrangements around buggering up Trafficmaster, making sure that the parking entrance is *after* the blue lamp camera... :-)

    • Re:nothing new... (Score:3, Informative)

      by blackbyrd (254594)
      Toronto's got it too, but real (downtown) Torontonians don't drive! Remote Traffic Information System: http://www.toronto.ca/trafficimages/rtis.htm and cameras: http://www.toronto.ca/rescu/index.htm
    • I live in this congested city, and although the real-time map is cool, the fact that they link the data collectors to the on-ramps is fucking awful.

      Many times during rush-hour, I have seen traffic backed up for a mile or more trying to get on a relatively fast moving highway because a data collector isn't seeing any moving traffic for some unknown reason.

      After a while people get the idea and just drive through the light, but you still get the occasional asshat who sits there for the ten minutes it takes to change.

      Sometimes technology just can't integrate with old processes efficiently.
      • by evilpenguin (18720) on Monday February 10, 2003 @12:36PM (#5271151)
        You assume the sensor is "dead," but these traffic management systems set ramp meters based on conditions further down the road. Traffic may be rushing towards a stop. Minneapolis-St. Paul has had these sensors and ramp meters for years now. One of State Senators got a bug up his backside about them and forced MnDOT to do a "study" (well, it was a real study) that involved shutting down all the ramp meters for weeks. The results? A disaster. Congestion increased severly on most roads. Most trips *increased* in drive time (yes, even when you include time spent being an "asshat" at a ramp meter).

        The interesting thing was that this was not 100% true. Some routes got better. And drive times improved over the course of the study, although they didn't come back to anywhere near as good (on average) as they were before metering. In other words, people found alternate routes.

        One outcome of this was the appearence of lighted arrow signs along side streets of the most congested highways that come on to point motorists on to alternate routes when congestion is severe. Unlike the ramp meters, these are mere suggestions. But it seems to have improved things.

        Transit is a huge political issue here. The Republicans took over Minnesota government last election largely by promising massive road building instead of public transit. That's pretty remarkable for MN which has long been considered a Democratic stronghold. People get "het up" about traffic.

        Traffic metering WORKS. Sure, you get annoyed waiting on the ramps, but they really do improve travel time.

        Oh yeah, the study did improve their meter rates. They were able to speed some meters up and slow some others down and *improve* travel times over the pre-study metering system. It didn't stop me cursing that senator every time I commuted during the study! BTW, in 2001, when the study was done, there were 233 metered ramps in the metro area during the morning rush, and 283 metered ramps in the afternoon rush. I don't really know how many meters exist now, although MnDOT's web site could probably tell you. They have data on the study and its aftermath [state.mn.us] on their web site.
        • Hey, I think the study was an EXCELLENT and much needed experiment. Traffic metering (the pre-study way) did NOT work well at all.

          I certainly was one of the meter detractors: I always knew that the meters did nothing but increase my personal travel time. I commuted from the south metro (up Hwy 77) to Minneapolis and was affected by the meters both coming and going. And sure enough, shutting off the meters improved my morning commute by 10-15 minutes or more! But it increased my evening commute by about the same amount. What it did show was that the metering system was out of touch with reality, and that improvements were both possible and needed.

          Most of us long-time commuters always saw those meter lights as wasteful delay devices. They actively discouraged us from trying alternate routes (if you ever took side-streets south and then tried to use the Old Shakopee Rd ramp to southbound 77 on a snowy day, you would have experienced over an hour of frustratation.) They also encouraged some people to waste gas by "cheating" meters -- driving a few miles out of the way to a never-busy meter. Meters were just a piece of incompetent 1970's legislation that had just been forced on the citizenry, a managerial "quick-fix" reaction to traffic problems. The study forced MnDOT to take a good look at how they were operating their meters, and to actually tune them to improve the way traffic really flows.

          More than that, it gave us all a needed dose of acceptance that something actually had been done. Someone looked at problems, and someone tried to fix them. Even if the metering had been restored to exactly what it had been like before (even though it was immediately obvious when they fixed it) the fact that they actually studied the problems and tried to address them made us all feel a lot better about those red-eyed cyclopses.

          It was one of those rare cases of a frustrated citizenry actually getting a legislator to listen and to try something new and it produced a tangible good. Not only are my commute times improved, but I don't get angered by the metering lights any more.

      • Just a followup to evilpenguin's fine description.

        Each of the metering lights in the Twin Cities are uniquely preset with three metering rates: light, medium and heavy. This means that one on-ramp might release cars every two seconds in light, fast-moving traffic conditions; but the next ramp down the same stretch of freeway might be releasing cars only once every four seconds in the same conditions.

        Also, the DOT is easily able to identify misfiring sensors. On their old web page, you could see that they had "greyed out" the failed sensors.

        What this means is that a single metering light won't just decide to sit there for 10 minutes if a glitch happens. It might switch to its "heavy" setting, but it won't take ten minutes to change.

        Finally, as an aside, around here running a ramp meter light carries the exact same penalty as running a red light at any intersection. Moving violation, $80 fine, 3 points, the whole nine yards. I won't do it. Ten minutes seems really excessive, though. If you have to wait 10 minutes for a light to change, call your highway department and report a broken signal. They should fix it.

    • Yeah, the bay area has traffic sensors all over the place, and you can (sometimes) get the data at the Caltrans [ca.gov] website. Frequently though, the web site is broken, and only a few of the speed sensors are returning any data.

      What the hell is the point when the system is more broken than functioning?
  • by ThundaGaiden (615019) <reaper66@hotmail.com> on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:03AM (#5269627)
    It's great when someone finally implements new and
    inventive stuff in real life IT environments. Now
    if they could just do it in my country.

    I love the idea of getting a sms saying that it's
    going to be 3 hours in traffic before you get home :)
  • Wonder what's the news here? In Copenhagen, most highways have sensors already (except the one I'm using :( ), linked directly to the national radio.

    The reporters can sit in their studios and follow the congestions real-time and will report it with regular intervals on the news. Works fine.

    Aren't similar systems in use in lotsof other places?

  • by MattWeth (228379) on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:04AM (#5269631)
    The really scary thing is that the 'vehicle counters' use fighter aircraft target aquisition radar! - Wonder if they have the high speed cannon's to go with them?
    • Why use radar? Systems with induction loops are also available (used e.g. in the Netherlands), and I expect those to be much cheaper. At least it'll be easier to measure traffic over multiple lanes.

      • Doppler (Score:2, Informative)

        by anubi (640541)
        Radar is really neat for checking velocity because the motion of the object causes a doppler shift in the reflected microwave energy... at traffic speeds it will be in the mid audio range.

        It is very precise, as not only are the microwave oscillators very stable, and the speed of light itself is very constant.

        If you find yourself near a microwave doppler supermarket-type door opener that has the mixer-out indicator visible, you can see the indicator dim and brighten as you cross wavefronts in the microwave beam, meaning the phase of the waves reflected from you arrive back in time to either aid or oppose the oscillator transmitting the microwave energy.

        There is a lot of cool stuff you can do with microwaves. They are really bouncy things.. they bounce off of darned near anything conductive.. and deriving the doppler is as simple as using a plain junction diode which is exposed to both the transmit and receive side of the microwave beam.. the multiplication of "local oscillator" and "RF" occurs at the diode itself and the resulting "IF" will be in the low audio region ( for human velocities anyway ) and quite easily processed by simple amplifiers.

        • I'm sorry I have to comment: very constant? ;)
          • Yes, very constant, but not absolute. The speed of light varies with the media it travels through. For a familiar example, light travels at a different speed through air than water. That's why when you stand above a swimming pool and look at something on the bottom, it is not actually where it appears to be.
            • It was a joke. There's no such thing as very constant. Something is either constant or not, there are no degrees. The speed of light is nearly constant.
              • Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nukuler warfare (I love Bush, but that accent begs the joke). Yes, after thoroughly destroying your joke, I get it. Sorry 'bout that.
  • Old hat... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:04AM (#5269634)
    We've had this in the UK for a decade. It's called traffic master. Speed senors are mounted on freeway bridges all around the country and provide constsnt traffic flow information, which can be relayed to a map display on the dash.

    Speed sensors give rather better information for this purpose than car-counters. See http://www.trafficmaster.co.uk/
    • Re:Old hat... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:23AM (#5269689)
      I used to work at Traffic Master. This is going to sound like an ad, for which I apologise, but I was impressed with the company.

      Traffic master use two kinds of technologies. On most motorways (as we call our freeways), infrared sensors measure the speeds of vehicles as the pass the sensor. These sensors can be fooled by stationary traffic. On other roads, cameras partially read car number plates, and the central trafficmaster servers compares data from neighbouring locations to work out average traffic speed. The network covers all motorways and major roads nationwide.

      The results of the data can be sent to paying users in a number of ways. The web site offers live maps. Users can register routes online, and be notified by mobile phone messages or email when this routes become clogged up. Their WAP service is the only useful WAP service I have ever encountered (but then, I never liked WAP). You can enquire about a particular road over the phone. You can buy kit to install in your car with live maps; many cars such as larger Citroens and Vauxhalls (GM), come with such kit pre-installed.

      All in all its impressive technology, and was a fascinating place to work. But I received this offer...

      • I used to use a traffic master YQ fitted to a pool car at previous company, it featured an LCD map of the road network, showing hot spots and hold up and average traffic speeds, it covered the major for the whole of the uk. You pretty quickly learn about hot spots to avoid, whilst it may not particularly improve journey time, it does really reduce the stress of sitting in a traffic jam.

        Here is the manditory link: http://www.trafficmaster.co.uk/
  • Trafficmaster (Score:2, Redundant)

    by tjensor (571163)
    In the UK and Europe we have the Trafficmaster [trafficmaster.co.uk] system. There are blue camera posts at signifcant points along major roads that take you number plate - the system then compares the time between two cameras for each plate to work out congestion. You can subscribe to get the data real time, and its displayed at motorway service stations, etc.
  • by rherbert (565206) <slashdot.org@nOspAm.ryan.xar.us> on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:09AM (#5269643) Homepage
    This sounds like the Coordinated Highways Action Response Team [state.md.us]. It has an interactive map with colored arrows indicating the speed of traffic on both sides of the highway for a variety of roads in the DC/Baltimore area.

    (But please don't Slashdot it, or I won't know if it's safe to leave for work!)
  • Click here to see the Flash version

    You're right, that will cause congestion!

  • Speed vs Count (Score:2, Informative)

    by karevoll (630350)
    A simple car count will yield garbage data because it is the speed of the cars that passes a given point that really matters.

    If 10 cars pass a certain point in 5 minutes, that EITHER means that the traffic is fine and smooth, OR slow as hell.

    But if one could get the average speed of the cars passing the point, on the other hand...
    • Re:Speed vs Count (Score:5, Informative)

      by Limited Vision (234684) on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:18AM (#5269671)
      Seattle's had maps like this for years, and they work quite well:

      http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/PugetSoundTraffic/

      They don't read speed directly, but rather chart traffic density by measuring the changes in inductance of 6 foot metal loops embedded in the highway every 1/2 mile or so. They count cars passing over the loops and measure the time a car spends over it.

      From the WSDOT FAQ:

      "How are "Stop and Go", "Heavy", "Moderate", and "Wide Open" defined?

      Their definitions are based on a measurement called "loop occupancy". This is the percentage of time that a 6 foot square loop sensor is activated, or occupied, by vehicles traveling over it. Loop occupancy is measured by sampling the loop detector at a rate of 60 times per second. Each sample results in a "loop occupied" or "loop not occupied" response. A counter is incremented once for each "loop occupied" response. After 20 seconds, the total number of "loop occupied" responses is divided by 1200 (the total number of samples in a 20-second period) and then multiplied by 100 to get a percentage. The result is known as occupancy. On the map, "Stop and Go" (or BLACK) is defined as occupancy greater than 35%, "Heavy" (or RED) is 22-35% occupancy, "Moderate" (or YELLOW) is 15-22% occupancy, "Wide Open" (or GREEN) is below 15% occupancy. "
    • A simple car count will yield garbage data because it is the speed of the cars that passes a given point that really matters.

      If it's a car counter, yes. But if you can measure how long the car is above the sensor then you can distinguish between light traffic and stalled traffic. A typical car traveling 60mph will be over a sensor for about 1/4h to 1/5th of a second. If the car is over the sensor for 2 seconds you know a typical car is going about 7mph.

      Sure, you'll get a little messed up by long cars or trucks, but for the most part it will work given the proportion of trucks to cars in most major cities.

  • by sivann (322011) on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:10AM (#5269649) Homepage
    Check that:
    http://www.transport.ntua.gr/map/
    It works for years now, and is very accurate :-)
  • Old news (Score:2, Redundant)

    by CvD (94050)
    Here in Holland many of the highways have these sensors in the road, that can tell traffic density. There are a number of websites that provide you with realtime traffic density data. See this picture [www.anwb.nl] for an example. This is a JPG which is recreated every 5 minutes or so.

    Cheers

    Costyn.
  • Why not this way? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by insecuritiez (606865) on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:13AM (#5269657)
    This plan, although interesting is stuck in the Stone Age. Use GPS transmitters to monitor density. Sure it would require fitting vehicles with a unit but eliminating the cost of expensive sensors and helicopter time could really balance things out. Has anyone done any research in this area?
    And on a side note...
    I've always wondered why with cheep GPS availability the ever encroaching government doesn't just monitor speeds and mileage from in the car. I know Oregon was thinking about a mileage counter with GPS systems but there was no mention of speed tracking. I am not an advocate of such a thing, privacy is a good thing, but there is no doubt that if drivers know they will get caught the roads would be a safer place.
    • Re:Why not this way? (Score:2, Informative)

      by MattWeth (228379)
      The modern radar systems that are used to count the traffic are capable of resolving and tracking down to individual vehicles in very dense traffic flows.

      These things (based on military targetting radar) probably work out cheaper than fitting gps and associated hardware to every single vehicle.
    • Re:Why not this way? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dr_labrat (15478)
      ANother good mechanism to identify high density traffic is to measure the number of GSM cell users for given areas.

      Not everyone has a mobile phone, but nevertheless a higher than "normal" number of GSM associations would indicate either a traffic jam or an angry mob...
    • Re:Why not this way? (Score:4, Informative)

      by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes AT xmsnet DOT nl> on Monday February 10, 2003 @09:03AM (#5269813)

      The Dutch government plans to introduce something like this, mainly for road pricing ("kilometerheffing")(make the use of congested roads more expensive to fight that congestion).

      there is no doubt that if drivers know they will get caught the roads would be a safer place

      No, there would be less speeding. But there are loads of other ways to endanger fellow road users, and these other traffic offences can't be monitored automatically.

      Fully automated speed traps don't lead to better road behavior, they just lead to annoyance at the government for placing a lot of emphasis on only one factor in traffic accidents.

      We've seen this in the Netherlands, where about 90% of traffic tickets are now automatically generated by speed traps. These speed traps have triggered a tenfold increase in the number of traffic tickets over the past 10 years, to the point where on average every Dutch car driver will get one ticket a year. Are our roads safer now? Hardly. The number of road fatalities has dropped a bit, but there are so many factors contributing to that (safer cars and roads, more congestion leading to a lower average speed, etc.), that the increase in speeding tickets can't have helped much.

      Meanwhile, respect for the law has plummeted, and road rage increased, due to speed traps and speed limits that are perceived as pointless.

      • Meanwhile, respect for the law has plummeted, and road rage increased, due to speed traps and speed limits that are perceived as pointless.

        Ah, yes, but... if a bad law isn't enforced, it will remain as-is. But when you start enforcing a bad law, people understand that it needs to be changed.

        That's why automated speed citations will lead to better speed laws. So, get out there and tell your politicians ;-)
    • but there is no doubt that if drivers know they will get caught the roads would be a safer place.

      You may find this [safespeed.org.uk] interesting.
  • you can find it here [wa.gov]
  • Not too useful (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dybdahl (80720) <[kd.lhadbyd] [ta] [ofni]> on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:16AM (#5269663) Homepage Journal
    Copenhagen (Denmark) has that already, but I don't know anybody that uses it. Your plan for the day is made the day before - when you set your alarm clock. When you've eaten breakfast you drive to work. You don't turn on your PC to check the traffic - that wouldn't get you faster to work.

    Once you're on the road, traffic radio takes care of redirections in case of special problems, and even though they use sensors today instead of helicopter - who cares?

    Last week the sensor system was down btw, so they asked people to phone in with their mobile phones, and the information given in the radio based on those phoners was very good - if not better than when they use the sensors, simply because the cause for problems was included in the messages.

    Dybdahl.
    • I also tend to question the usefulness of such a system. It's worthwhile for long-term road capacity planning, but its value for short-term usage is very limited.

      As the parent poster indicated, you're going from A to B no matter what, checking the traffic for the most part won't change that. I've also found that traffic patterns are pretty predictable, and plannable trips are planned around this information. It's also pretty limited in that for the most part, there aren't that many routes one can take from A to B. So you find that the primary, most-direct route is crowded -- I've found that taking alternative routes (longer freeway routes or same-distance street routes) results in less stop-n-go sometimes, but generally is never faster time-wise and sometimes ends up being longer. I often do this just to avoid the freeway, but its purely a psychological tactic -- I use more gas and generally spend more time on the road, but it feels better because I'm not at a dead stop.

      The map data would be more useful as a general route planning tool if you could see congestion data over a years time for given dayparts. Eg, show me the congestion averages, congestion variances over the past year so that I can plan my routes or timing. If a given road is highly variant in its congestion or always congested during a period of time I can learn to avoid it.

      But telling me X is crowded right now isn't that valuable.
      • Not too useful to some people, but I'd love it -- I live about an equal distance from two different highways I can take to my office, and traffic radio only warns me if there's a major accident on one of them, not when one of them is running a little slower than the other. I'd check a system like this every day. (And I already check my PC before going to work, to see if there's any urgent E-mail that needs taking care of before I hit the road.)
  • Atlanta Area (Score:3, Informative)

    by Accipiter (8228) on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:16AM (#5269664)
    The Atlanta area has had something similar [georgia-navigator.com] for awhile. It's pretty handy if you want to check traffic on your way home.

    Plus, you can modify the map [georgia-navigator.com] to display the locations of traffic cameras around the area. When you click a camera, it shows you the current view from that camera.

    It's a pretty nifty system.
  • Chicago (Score:3, Informative)

    by sleeperservice (62645) on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:17AM (#5269667)
    We've had this in Chicago for some time, and it works quite well.

    http://www.ai.eecs.uic.edu/GCM/chicagoland.html

    It's a good place to do a quick check before you head out, just to be sure. However, once you're already in your car, I still think nothing beats the radio stations' traffic people telling you how it is.
    • I believe Chicago was the first US city to build to the traffic sensors into all of its major freeways. Most of it was done about 10 years ago.
    • This goes north into Milwaukee as well. The cool thing is that in Milwaukee, there are also traffic cameras that are viewable by clicking icons on the map.

  • Present in MN, too (Score:2, Informative)

    by rusty_razor (635173)
    http://www.dot.state.mn.us/tmc/trafficinfo/map/ref reshmap.html [state.mn.us] Though it seems that only central Minneapolis/St. Paul is working right now.. could it be the mounds of snow?
    • The Minnesota map has been up since the mid-1990s -- we built an automated version for the Star Tribune Web site when I was online editor there. MnDOT gathers the data from in-pavement capacitance detectors. Star Tribune polls the MnDOT database using a proprietary protocol and constructs the map with bit of Perl and ImageMagick. I don't know when the MnDOT system went live, but I suspect it was in the late 1980s.

      Flash is probably a better tool for doing traffic maps these days. When BRToday.com, Baton Rouge, launches in the next few weeks, it will have a Flash traffic map developed by my group at Morris Digital Works for the Advocate and WBRZ-TV.

      The strength of Flash is that it can plot the information client-side, so regular users only need fetch a very tiny text file that contains status info. The Flash map itself is cached. And since it's vector-based, it's smaller than you might think for the initial transfer. The Baton Rouge city government doesn't have capacitance detectors, so we screen-scrape traffic incident info from a government Web site and plot the results on the map.

  • We have something similar in Connecticut
    This is a Java applet [state.ct.us] that shows average speed of vehicles in the Hartford area.

  • "Looks like traffic helicopters will slowly become unnecessary in Denver"

    Um yeah, as long as everyone has some form of wireless internet (802.11x + Laptop, cellphone, whatever), that has a battery charge, is turned on, and able to be read while driving. Otherwise the traffic helicopters and radios will still be quite useful.

  • Not just on the web (Score:3, Interesting)

    by _Spirit (23983) on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:25AM (#5269697) Journal
    My nav system uses the data collected all over Europe to show me traffic jams and other things that might be handy for me to know while driving. It's been around for years and it's called TMC. In The Netherlands the data for these systems is captured by a similar system as mentioned in the article. It's just that it has been around here for about 5 years, maybe even longer.
  • Finland? (Score:3, Informative)

    by GeoNerd (166345) on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:27AM (#5269704) Homepage
    Such things have existed for years in the US.

    Here's Houston: http://traffic.tamu.edu/incmap/ [tamu.edu]

    Here's Dallas: http://dfwtraffic.dot.state.tx.us/dfwweb/ [state.tx.us]

    These don't use 'car counters' (sounds expensive), they simply use the RFID tags that the tollway system uses to automatically charge you when you cruise through at 70 mph. They just set the sensors up on the side of the road (cheap), and send the info in. That's why they can afford to have coverage over the entire city, not just downtown like that slow Denver map.

    What would be great is a standardized system to push these maps to LCD screens in your car.

    • What would be great is a standardized system to push these maps to LCD screens in your car.

      Er. Neat idea, but then we'd have people glued to those screens instead of paying attention to the stopped traffic 40 meters in front of them.
  • by macpeep (36699) on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:33AM (#5269716)
    Why not compare to the actual "road service" web site, which has live cameras in a great number of places, that you can check on the web and see what the weather and traffic is like. In addition, there are also actual "trafic data", which shows "cars per hour" counts as well as "average speed" etc. information.

    Here (realtime cameras):

    http://www.tiehallinto.fi/alk/frames/kelikamerat -f rame.html

    and here (realtime traffic data):

    http://www.tiehallinto.fi/alk/frames/liikenne-fr am e.html
  • which is pretty-darn-close to realtime. a friend of mine
    uses this almost as a live tool to tell him when to leave
    work for his cross-paris trip home. paris traffic being
    what it is, he still ends up parking a lot on the
    peripherique, but this helps a bit. :)

    ile-de-france traffic site [sytadin.tm.fr]
  • http://www.sytadin.tm.fr/tempsreel/parisint.gif [sytadin.tm.fr]
    http://www.sytadin.tm.fr/ [sytadin.tm.fr]

    Great time saver, especially with itineraries now being calculated according to the current traffic data.

  • Having just moved to Minneapolis, I'm thrilled to have real-time traffic congestion online. I wish they'd had this in the Baltimore/D.C. area, but alas, they didn't.

    Anyway, this is great, if I'm driving, but what about those of us who take public transportation? There's never any indication of how late something is running.

    When I lived in Helsinki, Finland and worked out in Espoo, they had a great system up some places (Tapiola, for instance) that listed the buses coming and how long it'd be until they got there, and sometimes if a bus was delayed, it even had the delay posted.

    If you want to bring something traffic-wise from Finland to the U.S., that would be incredibly useful (as would on-time road construction projects).

  • Blank CD-RWs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Graymalkin (13732) on Monday February 10, 2003 @08:56AM (#5269786)
    I've been thinking for a while that something like this combined with a combination satellite/digital radio receiver and GPS/map would work wonders at getting people around traffic jams. A lot of high congestion areas in urbanized counties have electronic traffic monitoring, if they'd go the next step and get that data out to everyone, there'd be a real change in the way people commute.

    The way I see it digital/satellite radio is next to useless for music, you just get the same crap you find on the FM dial. Digital/satellite radio has a redeeming aspect in the fact it is a digital stream of information. In between packets carrying Britney Spears and Metalica you can stick useful data like say...freeway information. If traffic advisory stations broadcast easily parsed text streams inbetween their [digital] audio broadcasts a smart box in your car could pick out the text and parse it for display.

    Since people looking down to read text advisories would end up being the sources of advisories themselves the computer could do the hard work for them. If you break up a particular freeway into arbitrary sections and in your text advisory say "101:57:32 101-405:10" (101 for the freeway, 57 for the 57th mile/section, 32 for the speed in mph and 101-405 for an interchange and 10 for the speed) the computer could change that section of the freeway on your simplified street map to being a dark red. The area you were going 75 on would be a nice bright green. It could even do you one better by figuring out via GPS which mile/section you were on and tell you approximatly how long until you got to the jam and possibly give you alternate surface routes past it. If you wanted it wouldn't be terribly difficult to have the computer just give you a verbal warning and alternate route suggestions.

    If you have a decent number of drivers knowing the future road conditions they can be a little more careful when coming to a jam. There'd be less (in an ideal situation) screeching brakes because some jackass is suprised to see a line of tail lights. Also being as this stuff could use digital radio infrastructure which is on its way and not take up much more space or processing power in your card radio it'd be pretty convenient.

    Ultimately a reduction in traffic jams is going to mean a reduction in injuries from them and much less environment impact from having half a googlplex of cars on the road. Current traffic advisories do a good job of giving you fair warning as long as you listen to a station that does regular enough advisories for them to be useful. They're also easily clocked out by playing a CD (and thus not listening to the radio). A digital system could play a CD or any radio station and still provide visual or audible warnings gathered from traffic services. It's no solution to traffic problems but in the long run might save a lot of lives, headaches, and gallons of black stuff.
    • Re:Blank CD-RWs (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hcdejong (561314)

      They're also easily clocked out by playing a CD (and thus not listening to the radio).

      You don't need a digital system for that. Over here (Europe), we've got the 'Radio Data System' that piggybacks on (analog) FM radio.

      Among its functions are channel identification, EON (changing frequency as you drive through the coverage range of multiple FM transmitters with the same program), and TP (interrupting whatever you're listening to, when the traffic information is aired).

  • Artimis [artimis.org] provides both the traffic guys and the general consumer information about current average speeds over many of the highway links. Plus it has many webcams in place so that the user can get a feel for the traffic visually.
  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Monday February 10, 2003 @09:21AM (#5269879) Homepage
    If I can just get the internet in my car, I can make use of this.... and then I'll find out that there's a traffic jam being caused by some idiot motorist trying to use a laptop to check traffic reports. D'oh!
  • by dieman (4814) on Monday February 10, 2003 @09:33AM (#5269939) Homepage
    We've had the traffic mapping info for a long time Here! [state.mn.us]
  • by j1mmy (43634) on Monday February 10, 2003 @09:35AM (#5269949) Journal
    The Gary-Chicago-Milwaukee corridor [gcmtravel.com] has had real-time reporting for years now. It covers the major interstates in and around Chicago.
  • Houston has one as well. [tamu.edu] This one works by passively reading the identifications off those handy little tollway ez-tags, and sees how fast the traffic is moving on average. I always thought it was kind of funny how it would often read 70 mph in places even though the speed limit was 55. The map looks pretty crappy like now. This is typical rush hour. I used to take 45 minutes to get to school, (8 mi. trip) worst case was an hour and a half. Stupid Houston, yay college.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Never posted so excuse any faux pas.

    I've been watching the Toronto Highway system for a few years now. I'm not sure when they went live but the Ontario Governments Ministry of Trabsportation has made their cameras accessible to the public when I head they revamped their web site. (http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/traveller/compas s/camera/camhome.htm)

    Even the Weather Network here in Canada has a feed you can access. (http://www.theweathernetwork.com/camera/toronto/)
  • Next the cars will be identified, not just counted..

    Then pedestrians will be counted.. then tracked by 'national ID number'.

    Wake up people. its al part of a slow progression to gain acceptance of constant monitoring of all activities of the citizens..

  • "Now I can check whether I really want to head to work in the morning."
    • I reach my conclusion every day when my alarm goes off. No need to check a website.
  • why is this article here? is this really "news" to anybody?

    seems like the slashdot editors are easily impressed by decades-old technology.
  • It seems that Speer Boulevard has been slashdotted. I knew I should have caught the bus.
  • Did they really mean to sound state-of-the-art by assuming the name of a dinosaur?
    • They just thought it was a cool way to write "Transportation Expansion." Of course, T-Rex is gobbling up a few businesses along I-25 through the Narrows area (from Broadway south to about Evans)...

      Another helpful service for Denver commuters is MyTrafficNews.com [mytrafficnews.com]. Sign up, and they send you a customized E-mail message every work day telling you what traffic is like out on the roads; you choose what sectors of the metro area you want reports on, and what time you want the report mailed to you. Just the thing to help you figure out your route home before you leave the office.

      (The above is an unsolicited testimonial; I'm a satisfied subscriber to their service.)

  • In Nashville, we have 16 webcams set up so that we can just look at the roads for ourselves. I'm not going to tell you the link because I don't want them to get slashdotted.

    MDC
  • For those who don't know, Bill Gates and Paul Allen made a traffic metering device back in the day, and they were pretty successful at selling it too.

    No reason it couldn't be used today, is there?
  • by David Leppik (158017) on Monday February 10, 2003 @12:18PM (#5271005) Homepage
    ...and the data is available [smartraveler.com] from many [startribune.com] sites. [twincitiesexpress.com]
  • http://traffic.tann.net/ (mostly CA)
    http://www.sigalert.com (CA)
  • We've had this in the phoenix area for quite a while now. It isn't fully implemented on all of our freeways, but ADOT (Arizona Dept. of Trans.) is working on upgrading the roadways to have sensors embedded in them (and running fiber along them all!) and wiring up dynamic road signs for traffic warnings. http://www.superstitionfreeway.com/webcam [superstitionfreeway.com]
  • "Light or No congestion has been reported for this location with an average speed of 65 mph."

    • Avg driver breaks speed limit?
      "Light or No congestion has been reported for this location with an average speed of 65 mph."


      Given that the speed limit here in California is 65 mph on most highways, and 70 out in the boonies... I'd say no.

      It's 75 in Nevada, and even higher in some less-populated states.
  • Hmm, depends if I want to get paid.
  • And with sound effects! It's also much easier to add new roads using their interface. Maybe the Denver DOT should check it out.
  • This is old news where I'm from, the company that makes the in-road traffic data system is headquartered here; they have US offices as well.

    International Road Dynamics (IRD) has been installing these systems worldwide for over 20 years. They are a spin-off firm based on research at the University of Saskatchewan during the late 1970-early 1980's.

    They also make the systems that incorporate GPS to track transport truck & trailers in realtime.

    They have a competitor based in Europe (Germany, I think, but don't quote me) which does similar things across the pond.

    Here's a news release page; you'll get the idea of exactly how common these sytems are, in general, as well as the various types of systems that can be installed and the various applications for the data generated.

    http://www.irdinc.com/english/html/ir/news/index .h tm

    You may have to fix the link, I can't seem to properly display the end where it shows as h[space]tm instead of htm

    As far as the readers used to charge tolls at speed, again this is old news and like IRD, is based in Canada (in this case, Vancouver, although I don't recall the company's name. I do know they installed the Illinois system many years ago).
  • There is absolutely nothing new here. My last job was working on a system similar to this in Australia [itsq.com.au] which has been running in various stages of development for at least 30 years now (the original implementation was on a HP-1000 minicomputer). From changing the signal timing on surface streets dependant on traffic flow to adjusting ramp metering to provide the optimal flow of traffic on a freeway to predicting and displaying the time the next busses are due at a stop - it's been done and works damn well.

    Honestly, it's about time the US caught up with the rest of the world in traffic management.
  • Here's one more city, of out the many that have already been posted, that have had traffic monitors hooked to websites for a while now:

    Utah Commuter Link, Salt Lake City and surrounding area [utah.gov]

  • by willith (218835) on Monday February 10, 2003 @02:33PM (#5272198) Homepage
    Houston Transtar does traffic monitoring, as well. They use the signals from EZTags (you know, those things you stick on your window that automatically pay a toll for you on toll roads) to measure aggregate traffic speed, and then display it all on a nifty, color-coded map. Accidents get notated with little "!" marks and you can see information on lane closures. They also have histograms available, so you can see what the average speed at any given time of day is supposed to be, and live views from the traffic-monitoring cameras all over the city. Check it out [tamu.edu].
  • As mentioned above, Denver is behind the curve on this type of system.

    Heck, in Los Angeles, we even have such a system for city streets. [lacity.org]

    But the idea that it will really help with congestion is pretty much a pipe dream. Congestion happens because of something called latent demand -- there's always more people who *want* to be driving than there are actually out on the road. Therefore, for everyone who leaves the road because it's "too congested," someone else joins because now, it's at an acceptable level for them. This is also why increasing road capacity has no long-term effect on congestion. It's simply not feasible to provide enough road to meet demand, because when you think you have, you find out there's more demand.

    However, if we get a really coherent system that can predict your travel time on a route, and at the same time have dedicated bus lanes and report the bus travel time for the same trip... maybe we actually can do a little something ;-).
  • San Antonio's Transguide [state.tx.us] is probably the best of any of these systems. Much of the city's infrastructure is covered, the signs are accurate, provide travel times, and are posted everywhere.
  • In the L.A. area, check out the free TrafficDodger [slashdot.org], which has been around for some time now. I used to go to school/work where it was developed: it's got some nice AI search algorithms.

  • by p3d0 (42270) on Monday February 10, 2003 @04:35PM (#5273300)
    I have only been to San Antonio once, but IIRC they had an "estimated time to exit X" display on the highway signs. Traffic information just couldn't be any more relevant and useful than that.

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