GIS Application in Transportation Planning for Better Traffic Management


In your job as a planner, we know you're often fielding basic questions about public transit. We hope this Remix Primer blog series offers another resource as you educate your constituents.

Traffic congestion is a problem that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. In fact, the issue is spreading from megacities into small towns. Today, virtually every city and town in the world needs to be concerned with traffic management. That’s why it’s a good idea for city planners to learn about the potential uses of technology in traffic management.

Traffic management is an umbrella term which covers everything relating to moving or stationary vehicles. Highway maintenance, route planning, and accident analysis are all components of traffic management. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can take on many of those tasks, making them run more quickly and more easily. Want to understand more? Read on to learn how a GIS application in transportation planning can help city planners manage traffic effectively.

Seven Ways that GIS Can Help in Traffic Management

1. Highway Maintenance

‌Traffic can’t flow smoothly when roads are in need of repair, but keeping track of every pothole on miles of highway is a major challenge.

Fortunately, satellites can produce images of highways on a constant basis, so that planners can scan whole sections of highway from a distance, checking for maintenance issues. Those images can then be stored in a database which government officials can access whenever they need them. Because the images are digitized, they are easy to store, access, and share.

2. Accident Analysis

‌Even minor accidents can cause traffic jams and significant delays, as drivers unconsciously slow down their vehicles so that they can get a look at the accident. It’s probably impossible to prevent rubbernecking, but it’s certainly possible to get accident victims the help the need right away.‌

GIS integrates seamlessly with CCTV in most of the United States, even in small towns. Working with a combination of CCTV and GIS, officials can pinpoint the exact location of traffic accidents in near real time. This makes it easy to send first responders to the scene so that they can take care of the problem quickly.

Not only does this mean that accident victims will receive speedy assistance, it also ensures that accidents won’t lead to a traffic pile-up on the roads, with rubberneckers slowing down traffic.

3. Traffic Modeling

A traffic model is a mathematical model which allows planners to study how traffic flows along a particular stretch of road. The idea is that, by studying it in isolation, planners can find a way to improve traffic conditions.

Traffic modeling involves mapping all the factors that can impact traffic, including road width and shape, vehicle use, and even construction projects. GIS can supply satellite imagery which — when combined with capabilities like surveying, cartography, and data analytics — can carry out the kind of detailed mapping needed for effective traffic modeling.

4. Route Planning

‌Planning new roadways and transit routes is often an effective way to improve traffic management and reduce the strain on existing transit routes. GIS can make the planning process run more smoothly.‌

GIS can help determine soil quality, especially when it comes to drainage and slopes. That makes GIS a valuable tool when it comes to route planning and modeling, since these are features that will make a significant difference in planning out future routes or amending existing routes.

5. Environmental Impact Assessment

‌Experienced planners know that it’s important to carry out a thorough environmental impact assessment before building roads, railways, or airports. It’s important to assess the potential damage that human structures could have on the local ecosystems and on animal life.

GIS can help gather a picture of the existing ecosystems before any construction even begins. GIS can also help make predictions of the likely impact of construction, which is crucial in creating an environmental impact assessment.

6. Construction Management

‌GIS is capable of performing structure simulations before construction ever begins. The resulting three dimensional images can then be continually updated with drone photographs of the ongoing construction, so that planners can monitor progress to see whether it is keeping pace with the goals. ‌

This structure also makes it possible to look for any errors in the construction process, no matter how large the construction site is, so that they can be corrected right away. GIS makes it possible to create design templates to be used for constructing future highways, airports, or ports.

7. Transport Safety Management

‌GIS can help determine the causes of accidents after they happen, so that future accidents can be prevented. GIS can also be valuable in gathering information about any point on a roadway, on a patch of railroad track, or near a transportation facility. Having access to detailed information also makes it easier to plan ahead and prevent harm from coming about.

Remix Brings Your Transportation Picture Into Focus

Remix is partnering with Swiftly to incorporate historical traffic speeds for more effective planning. This partnership will make it possible to get an extremely granular view of any city’s traffic issues, identifying the exact route segments and intersections where avoidable traffic slowdowns take place.‌

The new tool also allows city planners to visualize speed data anywhere in the city or the surrounding area, and to create highly intuitive visualizations of both vehicle speeds and dwell times for any route and direction in the area.

Thanks to the Remix and Swift partnership, planners will be able to spot bottlenecks so they can work on finding methods to prevent them before they happen. They’ll also be able to see exactly how vehicle speeds change throughout the day and over the course of the week, providing insight into the patterns of traffic during peak, off peak, and weekend service times.‌

The result? City planners will be able to predict behavior and traffic patterns, which means that it will be far easier to plan for city dwellers’ future transportation needs.

Working with Remix

Remix builds software for local governments. We focus on all things transportation, and we chiefly work with local transit agencies and departments of transportation. Get in touch today to learn more about how Remix can transform your urban planning.