Louisiana Acquires Probe Data to Shed Light on Congestion and Road System Performance Real-time data alerts drivers of travel times and assists DOTD in planning and research

Featured in Technology Today (Volume 34, Issue 2), a quarterly publication of the Louisiana Transportation Research Center.

Louisiana drivers may have noticed new travel prediction time messages appearing on signs along interstates, especially at upcoming exits. These predicted travel times are connected to an intricate data-streaming network of real-time positioning and speeds of commercial vehicles, passenger vehicles, and mobile devices—also known as probe data. Through a newly acquired contract with the University of Maryland, DOTD and LTRC now have access to local transportation data updated every minute daily for 72,300 road segments in the state that gives accurate snapshots into congestion, road performance, and travel patterns.

Collection process

The data is gathered using connected vehicles data streaming technologies and other mobile device positioning (location intelligence) technologies, data fusion, and artificial intelligence. All data streams are completely anonymized because the platform does not receive or handle data that are personally identifiable.

More specifically, the probe data is collected by a company called INRIX. Then, a platform called RITIS or Regional Integrated Transportation Information System archives the data and makes it available through a series of web-based visualization and analytics tools to any DOT, MPO, or consultant working on behalf of these agencies for use in planning, operations, and research activities. The RITIS platform is managed by the University of Maryland’s CATT Lab (Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory). Through this partnership, DOTD is able to not only install accurate travel prediction signs across the state but give decision-makers clarity into deeper transportation issues and expand Louisiana’s planning and research efforts for years to come.

Benefits and uses

Special Studies Research Administrator and data facilitator Julius Codjoe, Ph.D., P.E., explained, “By archiving those data streams as they come in, and then fusing them with other agency data sets like the location of crashes, weather data, signal systems locations, etc., users of the RITIS platform can view or produce compelling visualizations about the performance of Louisiana’s roadways and answer many tough questions. This data provides deep insights into congestion and systems performance on Louisiana roadways, and is particularly innovative in that nearly all roads are covered 24/7/365.”

For example, access to RITIS data and data tools will help DOTD staff accurately report to media or elected officials about roadway incidents and subsequent impacts, plan for future events by analyzing past events in detail, and make the case for funding future projects or which projects should be prioritized over others. Similarly, planners and researchers can use these data tools to document the movement patterns of people and goods and monitor where mobility or safety is improving or degrading. And agency executives and senior managers, who need to communicate visions about where their agencies are headed, can use the RITIS data and tools to help them understand the present and recent past, choose and articulate realistic goals and objectives, select performance metrics and targets, and then monitor reports on progress.

Low-cost solution

This technology also comes with a lower cost than other alternatives (such as installing costly sensors) because of its infrastructure-free operation, saving taxpayers a considerable amount of money. “This [RITIS data tools] makes the decision-making process more transparent and defensible, and can help to reduce wasteful spending,” Dr. Codjoe added. “The use of these modern sources of information and technologies ultimately solve congestion issues that enable the public to move around—themselves or shipments—much more freely and efficiently than otherwise possible at cost levels that provide an enormous coverage extent everywhere that people or goods can travel.”

Any DOTD personnel with an la.gov email address can automatically get access to the RITIS platform by requesting an account at https://www.ritis.org/register/. Metropolitan planning organizations (or MPOs) from Louisiana and consultants can also request an account by following a few additional steps.

If you have questions about this technology, RITIS account access, or training options, please contact Julius.Codjoe@la.gov.

LTRC would like to thank and recognize the late Kirk Zeringue, who first began exploring probe data opportunities for Louisiana almost 5 years ago in response to local drivers’ ongoing questions and concerns involving congestion, performance, investment strategies, and even safety. He spent many hours researching and lobbying data options to the Department for all Louisiana citizens to benefit.