Consider Alternative Approaches and Sources for Collecting and Using Traffic Data

The USDOT evaluated Eight National ITS Application Test Sites to determine whether these projects met goals and to extract lessons learned in development and deployment.

March 31, 2011

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

The SafeTrip-21 Initiative demonstrated the feasibility of alternative approaches to collecting and using traffic data. One aspect of this evaluation was an exploration of alternative approaches to collecting and using traffic condition data. In some cases, applications demonstrated new sources of traffic condition data. In other cases, applications made use of traditional data in new ways. The SafeTrip-21 Initiative highlighted, for example, how the mass-market availability of GPS-enabled smart phones complements traditional fixed sensors as a new data source, as well as offers the potential to deliver personalized travel information. Below are some of the lessons learned during the evaluation of the SafeTrip-21 Initiative that focuses on improving mobility with the deployment of these applications:
  • Use new and traditional data sources to enhance traffic models. Traffic model development can benefit from integrating traffic probe data with other data sources for both freeways and arterials.
  • Use new and traditional traffic data sources to help solve problems related to mode shift and travel demand. Several SafeTrip-21 tests showed that ITS technology is capable of collecting the data needed by traffic and transit operations agencies to collaborate and better understand mode shift and travel demands across modes.
  • Consider procuring traffic data and information, rather than building in-house data collection systems, to reduce costs. Agencies have traditionally procured hardware, software, and systems that allowed them to collect, analyze, and produce traffic data, which likely proved to be a laborious effort. An emerging alternative is to procure data and/or information services as a more cost-effective, resource-efficient alternative to developing the data and/or end product internally. An increasing number of private sector companies already collect, or have access to, transportation data such as travel time, origin and destination, and other measures on a regional or national scale. However, transportation agencies do not typically have experience purchasing transportation data, meaning that new approaches to procurement need to be explored in more detail.
  • Explore the potential of new consumer devices, applications and services for collecting new traffic data and combining it with traditional traffic data to be used in new and innovative ways. For example, cell phone GPS systems can alter the way traffic data is collected by leveraging the existing cell phone infrastructure to collect traffic data and transmit traffic information directly back to drivers.
  • Assess traffic data and information services carefully to ensure the quality and quantity of data and information needed. The ability to deploy a traveler information concept is only as successful as the availability, timeliness, and accuracy of its data sources. Also, practical concerns of transportation professionals should govern their acceptance of new traffic data services and devices.
  • Consider leveraging emerging data sources to solve transportation problems. Emerging sources for traffic data can complement traditional sources to provide more robust data sets.
  • Leverage remote monitoring and management capabilities to enhance operations and maintenance capabilities. For example, ITS technology provides the means for remote monitoring and maintenance of traffic signal plans.

The evaluation findings in the National Evaluation of the Safetrip-21 Initiative final report indicate that the SafeTrip-21 Initiative has advanced its goals of expanding research related to vehicle connectivity in the wireless communications environment; advancing ITS applications; and exploring benefits of deployment-ready applications that provide enhanced safety, real-time information, and navigation assistance. These findings along with the lessons learned provide a valuable resource to those considering the implementation of ITS applications for improved traffic operations and management.

Lesson Comments

No comments posted to date

Comment on this Lesson

To comment on this lesson, fill in the information below and click on submit. An asterisk (*) indicates a required field. Your name and email address, if provided, will not be posted, but are to contact you, if needed to clarify your comments.


National Evaluation Of The Safetrip-21 Initiative: Combined Final Report

Author: Miller, S.; J. Rephlo; C. Armstrong; K. Jasper, K.; and G. Golembiewski

Published By: U.S. DOT Federal Highway Administration

Source Date: March 31, 2011

Other Reference Number: Report No. FHWA-JPO-11-088

URL: https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/34568

Other Lessons From this Source

Lesson Contacts

Lesson Analyst:

Dawn Hardesty


Average User Rating

0 ( ratings)

Rate this Lesson

(click stars to rate)

Lesson Categories

None defined


None defined


None defined

Systems Engineering

Show the V

Concept of Operations

Focus Areas

None defined

Goal Areas



None defined

Lesson ID: 2013-00649