Tubes in the Road and Other Ways to Count Traffic, and Why

Tubes in the Road and Other Ways to Count Traffic

(SEMCOG, orig. SEMCOG BLOG, July 12, 2017)

Michigan – Have you driven around the SEMCOG [South East Michigan Council of Governments] region and noticed a tube in the roadway, or a diamond shape cut in the pavement, or even a camera attached to a pole? Well, these devices have contributed to our regional collection of traffic counts at over 50,000 locations, over the past 35 years.

Safe and efficient movement of people and goods is essential for a prosperous region. Making decisions about our transportation system is tough and requires, among other things, a lot of data. As you can imagine, knowing how many vehicles are on the road is a key piece of the puzzle.

SEMCOG recently released its 2016 traffic count data. This data is very important for decision makers in the region as it supports grant applications, promotes economic development, and helps with prioritizing road projects. We place a high priority on the quality of the data we provide, and we are proud to have been recently recognized by the Federal Highway Administration for our work on quality assurance and control as well as our process for estimating annual average daily traffic counts.

In addition to decision makers, road agencies throughout the region are using traffic counts to help with timing signals, managing congestion on high-count roadways, prioritizing snow plowing, enhancing policing and safety on roadways, prioritizing construction projects, and establishing alternate routes around construction. SEMCOG uses the data for planning and modeling purposes, including validating the regional transportation travel demand model and air quality analysis.

SEMCOG, along with its members and partners, are finding new ways to create traffic counts and use the data. Soon, we will begin a pilot project to collect bicyclist and pedestrian counts. As technologies continue to develop, we remain eager to provide information that enables sound decisions for the region. If you have an innovative story to share about how your community has used traffic count data, let us know.

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