The objective of the I-95 Corridor Coalition’s Vehicle Probe Project is to create a seamless traffic monitoring system that spans the eastern seaboard delivering travel times and speeds on freeways and arterials using probe technology. Data from various sources are fused to present a comprehensive picture of traffic flow. Member agencies have found numerous uses for the data beyond simply travel information, which was the original use at the project inception.
Currently, there are 19 agencies which have access to vehicle probe data. Several agencies are using the Vehicle Probe Project (VPP) data to support their 511 web and phone service. Some agencies use the vehicle probe data to calculate travel times and post them on message signs. Performance measures and travel time reliability, particularly in congestion prone areas, are being calculated using real-time and archived VPP data. I-95 Corridor Coalition member agencies use the project monitoring site to observe traffic patterns within its boundaries, but especially across state lines to anticipate incidents and congestion. VPP data are also used as input for the Coalition’s long-distance trip planner website (www.i95travelinfo.net) and variable message signs to enhance traveler information.
Based on Coalition's experience, a publication entitled I-95 Corridor Coalition - Vehicle Probe Project General Benefits White Paper, August 2010 offers valuable guidance on the use of probe data in traffic management. Lessons learned are identified and presented below.
Since 2008, the Vehicle Probe Project (VPP) has been providing data to I-95 Corridor Coalition agencies. These agencies recognize the benefits of the VPP to their respective departments of transportation and traffic management centers in managing traffic and enhancing mobility. The experiences of these agencies with the VPP have produced to the following lessons learned.
Enhance traffic flow in a regional, multi-state corridor by using vehicle probes to monitor real-time traffic conditions. Vehicle probe data help manage traffic within a state but also across state boundaries, accruing regional benefits along a multi-state corridor. Examples include:
- New Jersey through North Carolina during the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. More than a million visitors converged on Washington, D.C. to attend the presidential inauguration events in January 2009 and then soon departed from the District at the conclusion of the events. Regional traffic monitoring, provided by the Coalition’s VPP, was crucial to ensure that the traffic kept moving across jurisdictional boundaries. The VPP vendor offered the Coalition an opportunity to use an enhanced version of the congestion-monitoring website, which provided an increased number of features and metrics to monitor traffic in real time. Access to the site was provided for a two to three day bracket around the event. A Coalition executive monitoring traffic on the vendor’s enhanced website during an extremely busy time period noted: During the Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday/Inauguration weekend, the VPP enabled the Maryland State Highway Administration (MDSHA) monitor speeds in real time on the freeway and major arterial network in the greater Baltimore/Washington corridor for the entire weekend. Using maps that showed real-time speed data, MDSHA determined the locations with congestion problems, provided real-time information to travelers, and deployed resources for proactively managing traffic in the metropolitan area.
- South Carolina. In January 2010, the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation conducted a prescribed burn to reduce the threat of wildfire in the Kings Pinnacle area of Crowders Mountain State Park near the South Carolina border. When winds carried the smoke westward, visibility was reduced on I-85 causing northbound traffic from South Carolina to slow down dramatically along a ten-mile stretch of the roadway in the vicinity of Crowders Mountain State Park. The South Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) responded by activating their variable message signs with the message “Low Visibility Mile Marker 5-15.” Coordination between North and South Carolina helped to improve safety and decrease traffic congestion by getting information out to the motorists along I-85.
- North Carolina. The North Carolina DOT scanned the probe-based monitoring website for traffic flows in Virginia, South Carolina and Tennessee. As a result, North Carolina Traffic Management Center (TMC) staff was able to see traffic congestion building into Virginia on I-85 southbound due to a construction project. The staff checked that sufficient capacity existed on the parallel route of I-95 and then coordinated with Virginia to redirect traffic from I-85 to I-95. The detour back from I-95 included U.S. Route 64 and I-40 which ultimately reconnect with I-85.
The VPP has fostered cooperation and coordination among the Coalition member-agencies. VPP data have been useful to various state DOTs and TMCs in managing traffic efficiently along the I-95 multi-state corridor traversing the Eastern United States seaboard. The I-95 Corridor Coalition members using the VPP data have reported accruing benefits by saving money, improving travel time, reducing delay and decreasing driver frustration.