For years, data used in traffic operations came from sensors and cameras that monitor traffic conditions at fixed locations. Now, State and local transportation agencies can use crowdsourcing for operations to turn system users into real-time sensors on performance, providing low-cost, high-quality data on traffic operations, road conditions, and travel patterns. Integrating crowd-sourced data (e.g. data concerning speed, travel time, and incident type, such as a crash, a stalled vehicle, or debris on the road) with an agency’s existing systems, can help expand geographic coverage, improve the timeliness of data feeds, and overcome jurisdictional stovepipes, which will lead to more effective operations strategies.
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) developed a smartphone app, The Citizen Reporter, that provides a conduit for the traveling public to report road and weather conditions in real time to the agency’s traffic operations center. The Citizen Reporter mobile app supplements the multiple social media accounts UDOT was previously receiving such information through. UDOT’s Citizen Reporting Program works to enlist and train volunteers to use the app to consistently report weather and pavement condition-related issues along mountainous and rural terrain. Incoming data from the app is then integrated with road weather information system, meteorological, and other data to send out information to travelers. During the data integration phase, the system "decays" citizen reports based on time elapsed since the report was made and discounts reports previously flagged as inaccurate.
The Citizen Reporter Program helped UDOT advance operations by providing them granular, timely data that they did not have previously. As a result, UDOT saves about $250,000 a year from the reduced need for road weather instrumentation and more efficient storm forecasting.