The Transportation Research Board (TRB) Highway Traffic Monitoring Committee is a standing committee that was originally formed in 1985 as a Weigh-In-Motion Task Force and that developed into an ITS-oriented committee that studies all functions of traffic monitoring programs. In anticipation of the release of a new Transportation Research Circular, the committee surveyed the state of the practice, best practices, current issues, needs, and research gaps for topics covered in the Circular.
The collection and use of bicycle and pedestrian data on a broad scale is an emerging field within traffic monitoring. It is not yet institutionalized or nationally mandated like motor vehicle data is. Many agencies that collect non-motorized count data do so for special projects or research study needs and may use manual methods to acquire the data.
The TRB researchers offered a number of identified Best Practices associated with collecting and monitoring bicycle and pedestrian travel:
- Be consistent with counts. Short duration counts should be collected for a minimum of seven continuous days in months where higher travel rates are expected. For continuous counting equipment, at least 12 hours of observation per day per site for one weekend day and one weekday are needed to ensure equipment functionality and calibration.
- Monitor data streams. Data should be verified actively to identify problems or needed maintenance. Data verification is more challenging to difficult for non-motorized vehicles owing to high variability and low scale.
- Promptly address issues with the data stream. Equipment may malfunction, be vandalized, or suffer mechanical issues. In order to minimize the impact of equipment-related failures, agencies should aggressively monitor the well-being of any deployed equipment.
Additionally, the Committee identified major issues and research gaps that remain to be addressed. Some possible solutions for the identified gaps include:
- Improve detection technology to differentiate pedestrians in crowds and bicyclists in shared-lane situations.
- Integrate data operations with traditional traffic monitoring programs and transportation partners. Additionally, the researchers suggested sharing data with non-traditional partners who may be more experienced in key technical areas such as data security or privacy.
- Create and enforce consistent standards for data structures and formats to support compilation of data collected through different technologies, vendor equipment, and agencies.
- Develop best practices for incorporating non-motorized data into performance measures, program evaluations, and funding decisions.
- Use data to understand equity considerations and transportation-disadvantaged populations.
- Explore the value of nontraditional data sources such as bikeshare vendors and crowdsourced travel-monitoring data. Many organizations have significant resources that could be of use.
- Mainstream non-motorized volume data into regular local and state DOT business practices by incorporating them into safety, maintenance, and operations analyses.