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.
Made Public Date


United States

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


Through the U.S. Department of Transportation's (U.S. DOT) SafeTrip-21 Initiative, the U.S. DOT tested a variety of technologies in a number of locations in California as well as along the I-95 corridor on the east coast. The work was summarized in a final report dated March 2011. This report presents the findings of the independent national evaluation of eight ITS applications. Part I of the report provides an overview of the initiative and the evaluation activities. Part II summarizes each application that was tested and the related evaluation findings. Part III synthesizes the evaluation findings across four topics relevant to the ITS community - collecting and using traffic conditions data, providing real-time traffic information to drivers, providing multi-modal travel information to travelers, and providing safety information to drivers.

Lessons 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.

Goal Areas
System Engineering Elements