Ever wish you could see which surface streets are the most congested in the East Valley before you set off on your travels?
A partnership among the cities of Gilbert, Mesa and Tempe along with the Maricopa County Department of Transportation has made that wish come true.
The East Valley Arterial Travel Time Map allows drivers to see which streets are congested, closed due to construction, experiencing temporary closures and more.
The map is hosted on the Az511.gov page.
Federal funds paid for 90 percent of program
The program installed 130 Anonymous Re-identification, or ARID, sensors throughout the three cities on arterial roads. The sensors collect data on speed and congestion, which is then used to create the map.
Federal funds paid for about 90 percent of the program, according to Tricia Boyer, Mesa intelligent transportation systems engineer.
Mesa began installing the sensors in 2014 in west Mesa, where traffic engineers were seeing the most congestion, Boyer said.
The sensors pick up signals from smartphones or other wi-fi-connected devices to collect data to access travel times. Sensors in your vehicle such as electronic tire pressure sensors and in-engine computers are picked up by the sensors as well, Boyer said.
The digital addresses of these signals collected is then made anonymous to protect the users’ identity. When a person with a device passes a sensor it takes a note of the signal before it is picked up again by another signal. The difference in speed is then used to determine congestion and other factors.
This way of monitoring traffic aims to allow real-time adjustments to traffic signals in local municipalities.
Device tracking and privacy concerns
Hearing that your wi-fi-connected devices may be tracked can cause some to question the program, but Boyer said the cities have taken appropriate steps to ensure the data is secure and anonymous.
The software used scrambles the data and frequently changes up the way it does so, Boyer said. The cities also do not have direct access to the data, she said.
It is kept on a secure server housed in Gilbert, which is then sent to the Maricopa County Department of Transportation to create the travel map. The data is not on a cloud server, meaning it is more secure, Boyer said.
Program could help reduce congestion
The map is compatible in mobile formats as well as on desktop web browsers.
Allowing residents to see which streets are congested isn’t the only benefit of the new program.
Traffic engineers will be able to see which areas of the cities have the heaviest congestion, what times of day are the worst and even will be able to tell how much traffic patterns change month-to-month. This could allow them to re-adjust traffic control strategies to reduce congestion.
To see the travel map go to Az511.gov and click on the “pick a region” menu, which will give you a prompt to choose “East Valley.”
Other cities have already been reaching out to Mesa about the program to try to implement it in their area, Boyer said.
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