Use of archived data for "existing conditions" analysis is more time efficient and cost effective than collecting new data.

Results from the Planning for Operations Case Study from the Metroplitan Transportation Commission in San Francisco, California

September 2009
San Francisco,California,United States

Summary Information

As part of an effort to prioritize highway improvements to reduce bottlenecks and congestion, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) of the San Francisco Bay Area in California, utilized archives to provide the data for the "existing conditions" portion of the analysis that enables the MTC to prioritize projects. The MTC relies on several different data capture methods in order to provide a broad view of their ongoing traffic conditions. Many of these data sets have several years of archived data.


The use of archived data is a time efficient and cost-effective use of resources to produce an "existing conditions" analysis when data are available. By eliminating the need for data collection beyond what they were currently collecting, the MTC resources were spent analyzing the data rather than collecting it, especially because the corridors being analyzed were between 30 and 60 miles in length. With so many lane miles to cover, data collection by hand would have been costly.

Some advantages of using archived data are:
  • Availability of data sets dating back to 2001.
  • Existence of a large amount of historical data to understand traffic trends.
  • Contribution of available data in reaching consensus among stakeholders regarding existing performance of the corridors.
  • Ability to identify and distinguish recurrent and nonrecurrent congestion when adequate detector data was available.
  • Significant time savings since data were readily available.

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Applying Analysis Tools in Planning for Operations: Case Study #3 – Using Archived Data As a Tool for Operations Planning

Author: Lin Zhang and Krista Jeannotte, Cambridge Systematics

Published By: U.S. DOT Federal Highway Administration,

Source Date: September 2009

Other Reference Number: FHWA-HOP-10-004



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Goal Areas


Typical Deployment Locations

Metropolitan Areas


data archiving, sensor data, congestion

Benefit ID: 2011-00732