Urban Planning for Optimal Citywide Traffic Flows

Driving traffic efficiency 

Most cities have access to video surveillance data, and video content is an important resource in today’s world. Even municipal decision makers use city-wide traffic surveillance infrastructure and evidentiary footage contributed by local businesses to assist in city planning. However, most of the video from these surveillance assets are underutilized due to the sheer magnitude of data and our own human limitations. Video analytics is a solution that empowers cities to harness the wealth of data and information available through video surveillance systems and place untapped potential in the hands of urban planners to optimize city traffic flow. Whether identifying traffic trends over time or responding to real-time congestion, video analytics software can transform the way municipalities address and improve traffic efficiency in their cities.

Improving bottlenecks

In both large and small cities, traffic bottlenecks of any kind – be it vehicular or pedestrian – can be frustrating. A city or town with a reputation for traffic congestion can even be a deterrent to current and prospective residents, visitors, and businesses. It is important for urban planners to understand when and where roadways, bike lanes, or pedestrian paths are experiencing bottlenecks so they can identify ways to make repairs or improvements and ensure safe, efficient city navigation 

For instance, to better protect pedestrians, urban planners and law enforcement agencies can leverage video analytics to identify hotspots for pedestrian traffic violations and – based on increased understanding of pedestrian behavior – determine what infrastructural changes could be implemented to optimize the safe and efficient flow of traffic. An ideal way that city planners can achieve this goal is by using existing video content and turning it into searchable, quantifiable, and actionable data. Powered by Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI), video content analytics software, layered on top of existing video surveillance systems, can identify and classify objects, such as vehicle types, from bicycles to motorcycles and trucks, and differentiate between men, women, children, and animals. With this technology, planners can quickly understand the bottleneck, identify its root causes, and then work to improve the situation and mitigate future traffic jams. 

Video intelligence software also aggregates video data to reveal trends and benchmark traffic norms. Operators can more proactively identify traffic violations, unexpected congestion, and traffic formation by configuring rule-based alerts based on those benchmarks, triggering notifications when predefined thresholds or conditions are detected. These notifications help operators remain attentive and responsive to situations as they are evolving in real-time. Through real-time alerting, law enforcement or municipal agencies can be notified when a bottleneck is forming and deploy the necessary personnel or signage to swiftly alleviate the traffic 

In these cases, video analytics provides high value for specific logistical needs, but it is important to remember that it also delivers critical support to the high-level logistics that keep a city running smoothly. Video analytics can support public safety, prevent congestion, and avert accidents, all while enabling citywide operational efficiency which is rooted in flowing traffic. For instance, traffic jams prevent city maintenance vehicles from doing their jobs; public transit from operating on time; and complicates the experience of navigating the city. If all these things are affected by traffic flow, it stands to reason that traffic flow, supported by the data derived from video analytics, has the greater impact of creating optimally efficient cities 

Monitoring – and reducing – traffic violations 

Common traffic violations such as jaywalking, illegal U-turns, and speeding can reveal significant issues in the overall function of a city. On a surface level they may seem harmless, but they indicate safety hazards that need to be addressed by urban planners or law enforcement who can work to deter violations by improving infrastructure. While many cities already have comprehensive surveillance systems by which they can observe the flow in their cities, when urban planners complement existing video surveillance systems with video analytics software, municipalities can take further action to reduce traffic violations and increase city-wide functionality.  

For instance, video analytics software can help officials track violations through a variety of applications such as rule-based alerts. When someone makes an illegal U-turn, drives the wrong way down a one-way street, or crosses outside of a crosswalk, video analytics software can trigger rule-based alerts to draw attention to the violation. The real-time benefit of these alerts is the ability to respond quickly to the situation; the comprehensive benefit is identifying addressable behavioral patterns in aggregated and visualized video data.  

Path analysis heatmaps, for instance, can help urban planners uncover how people and vehicles are navigating public spaces and facilitate city expansion or renovation planning. By identifying high traffic areas, video intelligence can support decisions regarding how to reroute traffic for optimal city flow. Similarly, long-term aggregated data can identify these trends over time and empower municipalities to make informed decisions to improve roadways and signage. This kind of data-informed planning addresses specific problems while also helping urban planners see the big picture and provide the functionality that a city needs.  

Encouraging a positive visitor experience

When utilizing video data, urban planners and municipal agencies can make better decisions about traffic management, public health and safety, and the overall quality of life for city residents, visitors, and businesses. By leveraging video content analytics and visualizing video data into dashboards, cities are empowered to monitor activity from multiple sources and locations and plan urban improvements and infrastructural changes based on actionable insights over time. If a city park is consistently congested on Sunday afternoons when the farmers market is open, municipal authorities can identify the trend, develop solutions, and make contingency plans. Proactively addressing the congestion promotes a positive visitor experience and encourages return visits.  

Optimizing city traffic is important for creating safe and efficient cities, and video analytics software is an important tool that can be added to surveillance systems to transform the way municipalities address and improve traffic flow. From incident specific problem solving to realizing data from long term trends, urban planners that leverage video analysis are better equipped to make key improvements by overcoming both short-term and long-term logistical challenges.  

Latest News