Unique public-private partnership to keep traffic moving during SXSW
With more than 150 people moving to Austin each day, you can expect traffic on any weekday to be a challenge. But each Spring, traffic throughout Austin swells regardless of the day or time due to South By Southwest (SXSW)--and annual two-week conference that draws in over 75,000 registrants and artists from around the world. Massive street closures, competition for limited parking, and the sheer volume of people navigating to and from conference venues keep the City of Austin’s safety and mobility departments busy protecting the safety of participants and residents.
For both the 2015 and 2016 SXSW conferences, Metropia partnered with the City of Austin’s Transportation Department (ATD) to better communicate traffic incidents to the public and help improve mobility for Central Texans and event participants. For the duration of the event, Metropia’s traffic operations team colocated in the City of Austin Transportation Department’s Traffic Management Center. This partnership also shortened the incidence response time by integrating multiple traffic data sources into the Metropia incident management system in real-time.
- Metropia stationed a special traffic operations team within the COA traffic management center to monitor traffic and unexpected incident reports from Metropia’s real-time user data and other sources available in the COA TMC, including traffic cameras and live twitter feeds. Other sources of data included reports from the Austin Police Department and the Texas Department of Transportation traffic cameras.
- In collaboration with the ATD operators, Metropia verified reports of traffic incidents using the TMC cameras and shared the status of confirmed incidents via twitter.
- Verified incident data was instantaneously included in Metropia’s mobile application routing system using it’s proprietary incident management system. Users of the app were re-routed around incidents and those who had reserved a trip in advance received alerts of potential delays due to unexpected road closures and emergencies and were appropriately rerouted.
- This partnership also benefitted the general public; Metropia and the COA transportation department disseminated verified traffic conditions to the general public through Twitter using the twitter hashtag #sxswtraffic.
- As a result of this partnership, Metropia was able to inform its users of unplanned incidents via Twitter and update the traffic network via the Metropia Incident Management system so that routing and travel time estimations would accurately reflect current traffic conditions.
- Further, this partnership shed light on the extent of discrepancies in the accuracy of information tweeted by source--e.g., crowdsourced by public, news reporters and Austin Police Department (APD). A number of findings were drawn:
- Percentage of incidents that were tweeted and that Metropia and/or ATD cameras were able to verify: 25%- 40%
- Percentage of APD tweets that were verified by ATD cameras: About 20%
- Number of times per day that the ATD camera did not verify an APD tweeted incident: between 2-6
- There is often significant lag time between social media and APD tweets
- Finally, this partnership also benefitted the general public at large as Metropia and the COA transportation department disseminated verified traffic conditions to the general public through Twitter using the twitter hashtag #sxswtraffic.