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Check Traffic Congestion Online

Hemos posted more than 11 years ago | from the testing-the-traffic dept.

Technology 199

braddk writes "Looks like traffic helicopters will slowly become unnecessary in Denver, as an ongoing construction project implements online traffic data. The traffic is monitored via "vehicle counters" placed at the onramps and in between interchanges. Although only a 10 mile section is currently monitored, plans are to add more sensors as they complete sections of the larger project. They also have a lighter version for mobile phone users. Click here to see the Flash version and to check out the current traffic in Denver. Now I can check whether I really want to head to work in the morning." Kinda like that project in Finland.

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nothing new... (5, Informative)

MagusAptus (456895) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269620)

Atlanta's traffic [] Sure it is not in pretty flash, but is is much more extensive.

Re:nothing new... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269640)

All The Netherlands roads (main roads) already have this system, take a look:

Amsterdam []

Before I leave my work I always check it!

Overview of The Netherlands []

Re:nothing new : france (5, Informative)

olip (203119) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269800)

Nothing new in France either.
Roads have had sensors for at least a decade.
Used for different purposes :
- traffic monitoring (accidents, etc.)
- driver information by huge screens on the road, telling how long to this and this direction ; and I find it really nerve calming to know how long it will take and be able to organize (once it only said how long - in distance - the congestion is, which I don't care about)
- website [] for 4 years.

Here we have two type of sensors :
- simple loops, which only give information about the "coverage rate" (that is, proportion of time there is a vehicle on the loop. Funnily, this figure is heavily correlated with the state of traffic and the speed of the vehicles. 0.1 is heavy traffic and 0.2 is congestion. I do not recall exacly the figures but you get the highest throughput for a magic "coverage rate" which corresponds to around 57 kmph (~37 mph).
- double loops are simple loops 1 meter away ; correlating data from the two gives you the time decay between them and so the speed of vehicles, in a more reliable fashion than just simple loops ; in particular with these you can ajust the nominal traffic model with observed speeds so your model integrates real road conditions (snow, rain, saturday night...) and single loops can then give you very accurate information.
On heavily trafficked roads (eg Boulevard Peripherique in Paris) you have a single loop every 400m and a double every 2km AFAIR.

Re:nothing new... (1)

geschild (43455) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269947)

Where's the Mod points when you need them.

This system is very nice. It is in use on all of the highways in our densest populated area and it shows you how fast traffic is moving through the lanes too! Much more detailed than what this plan encompasses. Do check out the link in the parent, they make for nice pics even if you'll never ever use them because you won't drive those lanes.

I just hope they'll make try to make them update faster and put some derivates online like small time-loops that show traffic patterns.

The info can certainly be used in many other interesting ways too.

Re:nothing new... (1)

DesiDudette (647655) | more than 11 years ago | (#5270471)

That's ok...Atleast we're getting there!

Re:nothing new... (1)

shadoelord (163710) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269884)

And would you look at the three wreck already down town! Fsck! :( Looks like I might just ride down peachtree again.

Re:nothing new... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269989)

Houston has had their system running for almost two years now.

Most of the time it just makes me not want to leave for work...

Re:nothing new... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5270078)

For a city our size (metro: 1 million), there is a pretty nice traffic site up for Louisville/Southern Indiana.

Sensors are only in places at the heaviest points, but still nice to have for our area. There are plenty of regular cameras as well.

Re:nothing new... (3, Informative)

blackbyrd (254594) | more than 11 years ago | (#5270181)

Toronto's got it too, but real (downtown) Torontonians don't drive! Remote Traffic Information System: and cameras:

Denver's has a 'special feature' though (1)

missing000 (602285) | more than 11 years ago | (#5270257)

I live in this congested city, and although the real-time map is cool, the fact that they link the data collectors to the on-ramps is fucking awful.

Many times during rush-hour, I have seen traffic backed up for a mile or more trying to get on a relatively fast moving highway because a data collector isn't seeing any moving traffic for some unknown reason.

After a while people get the idea and just drive through the light, but you still get the occasional asshat who sits there for the ten minutes it takes to change.

Sometimes technology just can't integrate with old processes efficiently.

Re:nothing new... (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 11 years ago | (#5270485)

Yeah, the bay area has traffic sensors all over the place, and you can (sometimes) get the data at the Caltrans [] website. Frequently though, the web site is broken, and only a few of the speed sensors are returning any data.

What the hell is the point when the system is more broken than functioning?

Awesome ideas everywhere (4, Funny)

ThundaGaiden (615019) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269627)

It's great when someone finally implements new and
inventive stuff in real life IT environments. Now
if they could just do it in my country.

I love the idea of getting a sms saying that it's
going to be 3 hours in traffic before you get home :)

Re:Awesome ideas everywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269957)

It's just one step closer to big brother, I'm afraid...

Sounds like the system running in Copenhagen (5, Informative)

Frodo420024 (557006) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269628)

Wonder what's the news here? In Copenhagen, most highways have sensors already (except the one I'm using :( ), linked directly to the national radio.

The reporters can sit in their studios and follow the congestions real-time and will report it with regular intervals on the news. Works fine.

Aren't similar systems in use in lotsof other places?

Re:Sounds like the system running in Copenhagen (2, Informative)

anubi (640541) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269652)

I think Los Angeles [] , California has a similar system.

Re:Sounds like the system running in Copenhagen (3, Insightful)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269772)

How do they tell between a pileup and no traffic?

Target aquisition radar (3, Funny)

MattWeth (228379) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269631)

The really scary thing is that the 'vehicle counters' use fighter aircraft target aquisition radar! - Wonder if they have the high speed cannon's to go with them?

Re:Target aquisition radar (0)

Anonymous Hack (637833) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269675)

Anyone else gone out in the middle of the night and driven back and forth over one of those counters?

Re:Target aquisition radar (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269720)

Why use radar? Systems with induction loops are also available (used e.g. in the Netherlands), and I expect those to be much cheaper. At least it'll be easier to measure traffic over multiple lanes.

Re:Target aquisition radar (1)

MattWeth (228379) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269745)

Apparently the radar in question can resolve and track multiple independant targets, providing real time data for onward processing. - Counting big slow moving metal boxes must be a peice of cake really, when you consider its original purpose.

Re:Target aquisition radar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269758)

Although counting big slow metal boxes may only just be within its capacity, if you consider its original performance.

Re:Target aquisition radar (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269832)

But still, a radar is a lot more expensive (and complicated, thus more error-prone) than an induction loop.

Doppler (2, Informative)

anubi (640541) | more than 11 years ago | (#5270017)

Radar is really neat for checking velocity because the motion of the object causes a doppler shift in the reflected microwave energy... at traffic speeds it will be in the mid audio range.

It is very precise, as not only are the microwave oscillators very stable, and the speed of light itself is very constant.

If you find yourself near a microwave doppler supermarket-type door opener that has the mixer-out indicator visible, you can see the indicator dim and brighten as you cross wavefronts in the microwave beam, meaning the phase of the waves reflected from you arrive back in time to either aid or oppose the oscillator transmitting the microwave energy.

There is a lot of cool stuff you can do with microwaves. They are really bouncy things.. they bounce off of darned near anything conductive.. and deriving the doppler is as simple as using a plain junction diode which is exposed to both the transmit and receive side of the microwave beam.. the multiplication of "local oscillator" and "RF" occurs at the diode itself and the resulting "IF" will be in the low audio region ( for human velocities anyway ) and quite easily processed by simple amplifiers.

Re:Doppler (1)

jgerman (106518) | more than 11 years ago | (#5270177)

I'm sorry I have to comment: very constant? ;)

Old hat... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269634)

We've had this in the UK for a decade. It's called traffic master. Speed senors are mounted on freeway bridges all around the country and provide constsnt traffic flow information, which can be relayed to a map display on the dash.

Speed sensors give rather better information for this purpose than car-counters. See

Dumbing down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269655)

Freeway? Don't you mean Motorway?

Re:Old hat... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269689)

I used to work at Traffic Master. This is going to sound like an ad, for which I apologise, but I was impressed with the company.

Traffic master use two kinds of technologies. On most motorways (as we call our freeways), infrared sensors measure the speeds of vehicles as the pass the sensor. These sensors can be fooled by stationary traffic. On other roads, cameras partially read car number plates, and the central trafficmaster servers compares data from neighbouring locations to work out average traffic speed. The network covers all motorways and major roads nationwide.

The results of the data can be sent to paying users in a number of ways. The web site offers live maps. Users can register routes online, and be notified by mobile phone messages or email when this routes become clogged up. Their WAP service is the only useful WAP service I have ever encountered (but then, I never liked WAP). You can enquire about a particular road over the phone. You can buy kit to install in your car with live maps; many cars such as larger Citroens and Vauxhalls (GM), come with such kit pre-installed.

All in all its impressive technology, and was a fascinating place to work. But I received this offer...

Yrgh (1)

TheViciousOverWind (649139) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269637)

Guess I'll have to find another excuse for my boss, rather than "The reason I was late was because of heavy traffic".

Re:Yrgh (1) (647348) | more than 11 years ago | (#5270145)

How about: they asked me to pull over?

Trafficmaster (1, Redundant)

tjensor (571163) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269639)

In the UK and Europe we have the Trafficmaster [] system. There are blue camera posts at signifcant points along major roads that take you number plate - the system then compares the time between two cameras for each plate to work out congestion. You can subscribe to get the data real time, and its displayed at motorway service stations, etc.

Re:Trafficmaster (1)

CBravo (35450) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269708)

in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, you get tickets that way. Speed is measured with two spools of wire in the road instead of one.

Re:Trafficmaster (2, Interesting)

tjensor (571163) | more than 11 years ago | (#5270047)

Yup - they also have some traffic cameras that issue spead tickets that way here too. Most Speed cameras are still the old radar trap ones, but there is also the SPECS system which uses your average speed. There are some in Nottingham, and I wouldnt have known unless I had been in my Bosses car - he has widget with a database of all known speed cameras linked up to a GPS antenna, so his car tells him if he needs to slow down. Immoral but clever.

Maryland CHART System (4, Informative)

rherbert (565206) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269643)

This sounds like the Coordinated Highways Action Response Team [] . It has an interactive map with colored arrows indicating the speed of traffic on both sides of the highway for a variety of roads in the DC/Baltimore area.

(But please don't Slashdot it, or I won't know if it's safe to leave for work!)

Neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269830)

It has an interactive map with colored arrows indicating the speed of traffic on both sides of the highway for a variety of roads in the DC/Baltimore area.
Plus you can view live streaming video from many of the cameras. That's really a neat feature, instead of just relying on the color codes you can actually see how the traffic is flowing at specific points. Maryland, you rule! I wish they'd put up something like that here.

Net traffic congestion too (2, Funny)

worst_name_ever (633374) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269645)

Click here to see the Flash version

You're right, that will cause congestion!

Re:Net traffic congestion too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5270133)

That flash version is neat. I appears to even update as you are looking at it. Do that with your precious gif/jpg/png (without refreshing he he he).

Can't find the url now, but I have seen a site that shows the mouse cursors of ALL people currently on the site. You can chase other cursors around. If someone isn't ready for it, it is really weird because things move not really randomly (because they don't).

Speed vs Count (2, Informative)

karevoll (630350) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269647)

A simple car count will yield garbage data because it is the speed of the cars that passes a given point that really matters.

If 10 cars pass a certain point in 5 minutes, that EITHER means that the traffic is fine and smooth, OR slow as hell.

But if one could get the average speed of the cars passing the point, on the other hand...

Re:Speed vs Count (5, Informative)

Limited Vision (234684) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269671)

Seattle's had maps like this for years, and they work quite well:

They don't read speed directly, but rather chart traffic density by measuring the changes in inductance of 6 foot metal loops embedded in the highway every 1/2 mile or so. They count cars passing over the loops and measure the time a car spends over it.

From the WSDOT FAQ:

"How are "Stop and Go", "Heavy", "Moderate", and "Wide Open" defined?

Their definitions are based on a measurement called "loop occupancy". This is the percentage of time that a 6 foot square loop sensor is activated, or occupied, by vehicles traveling over it. Loop occupancy is measured by sampling the loop detector at a rate of 60 times per second. Each sample results in a "loop occupied" or "loop not occupied" response. A counter is incremented once for each "loop occupied" response. After 20 seconds, the total number of "loop occupied" responses is divided by 1200 (the total number of samples in a 20-second period) and then multiplied by 100 to get a percentage. The result is known as occupancy. On the map, "Stop and Go" (or BLACK) is defined as occupancy greater than 35%, "Heavy" (or RED) is 22-35% occupancy, "Moderate" (or YELLOW) is 15-22% occupancy, "Wide Open" (or GREEN) is below 15% occupancy. "

Re:Speed vs Count (1)

LucidityZero (602202) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269672)


Moderated wrong. Posting to negate this! :)

Re:Speed vs Count (1)

Chep (25806) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269685)

Easy: on each lane, you put two magnetic loop sensors 50 cm apart from each other. You get count, and speed for each vehicle per lane at the point of passage. Sure, you don't get the speed of each individual vehicle like across the channel in the UPK, but I guess we'll buy their stuff anytime soon

(the Basel city automated radar fine system is pretty good and could make a hot import soon too).

Re:Speed vs Count (2)

letxa2000 (215841) | more than 11 years ago | (#5270095)

A simple car count will yield garbage data because it is the speed of the cars that passes a given point that really matters.

If it's a car counter, yes. But if you can measure how long the car is above the sensor then you can distinguish between light traffic and stalled traffic. A typical car traveling 60mph will be over a sensor for about 1/4h to 1/5th of a second. If the car is over the sensor for 2 seconds you know a typical car is going about 7mph.

Sure, you'll get a little messed up by long cars or trucks, but for the most part it will work given the proportion of trucks to cars in most major cities.

14th post? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269648)

missed it by 13.......well, there's always the next article....

Already working in athens for years! (3, Informative)

sivann (322011) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269649)

Check that:
It works for years now, and is very accurate :-)

Old news (1, Redundant)

CvD (94050) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269650)

Here in Holland many of the highways have these sensors in the road, that can tell traffic density. There are a number of websites that provide you with realtime traffic density data. See this picture [] for an example. This is a JPG which is recreated every 5 minutes or so.



Re:Old news (1)

Chep (25806) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269691)

Wow -- I noticed the Variable Message Displays were pretty good, accurate and a numerous in the Netherlands, but in addition these pictures are gorgeous!

Heh, at least this article will help someone to build a site listing all these kind of traffic sites (OK I'm too lazy to google for the already existing such site).

Netherlands already have it! (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269656)

All The Netherlands roads (main roads) already have this system, take a look:

Amsterdam []

Before I leave my work I always check it!

Overview of The Netherlands []

Why not this way? (3, Interesting)

insecuritiez (606865) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269657)

This plan, although interesting is stuck in the Stone Age. Use GPS transmitters to monitor density. Sure it would require fitting vehicles with a unit but eliminating the cost of expensive sensors and helicopter time could really balance things out. Has anyone done any research in this area?
And on a side note...
I've always wondered why with cheep GPS availability the ever encroaching government doesn't just monitor speeds and mileage from in the car. I know Oregon was thinking about a mileage counter with GPS systems but there was no mention of speed tracking. I am not an advocate of such a thing, privacy is a good thing, but there is no doubt that if drivers know they will get caught the roads would be a safer place.

Re:Why not this way? (2, Informative)

MattWeth (228379) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269674)

The modern radar systems that are used to count the traffic are capable of resolving and tracking down to individual vehicles in very dense traffic flows.

These things (based on military targetting radar) probably work out cheaper than fitting gps and associated hardware to every single vehicle.

Re:Why not this way? (1)

insecuritiez (606865) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269702)

You may be right about traffic counting and cost effectiveness. What radar certainly doesn't give you though is speed data over time for individuals as well as mileage and driving habits. Such data could be very useful for planning roads as well enforcing laws. Knowing the habits of the drivers in geographic regions could really do wonders for some of the crazy layouts and counter-intuitive inefficient ways in which roads checker the land. If it were an anonymous system (GPS monitoring) there would, perhaps, be some public support. Privacy is a must.

Re:Why not this way? (2, Insightful)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269729)

If you want to use such a system to enforce laws, you'll have to give up the anonymity requirement.

Re:Why not this way? (2, Interesting)

dr_labrat (15478) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269680)

ANother good mechanism to identify high density traffic is to measure the number of GSM cell users for given areas.

Not everyone has a mobile phone, but nevertheless a higher than "normal" number of GSM associations would indicate either a traffic jam or an angry mob...

Re:Why not this way? (3, Informative)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269813)

The Dutch government plans to introduce something like this, mainly for road pricing ("kilometerheffing")(make the use of congested roads more expensive to fight that congestion).

there is no doubt that if drivers know they will get caught the roads would be a safer place

No, there would be less speeding. But there are loads of other ways to endanger fellow road users, and these other traffic offences can't be monitored automatically.

Fully automated speed traps don't lead to better road behavior, they just lead to annoyance at the government for placing a lot of emphasis on only one factor in traffic accidents.

We've seen this in the Netherlands, where about 90% of traffic tickets are now automatically generated by speed traps. These speed traps have triggered a tenfold increase in the number of traffic tickets over the past 10 years, to the point where on average every Dutch car driver will get one ticket a year. Are our roads safer now? Hardly. The number of road fatalities has dropped a bit, but there are so many factors contributing to that (safer cars and roads, more congestion leading to a lower average speed, etc.), that the increase in speeding tickets can't have helped much.

Meanwhile, respect for the law has plummeted, and road rage increased, due to speed traps and speed limits that are perceived as pointless.

Washington State has had it for a LONG time (2, Informative)

linuxology (54357) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269660)

you can find it here []

Not too useful (3, Interesting)

dybdahl (80720) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269663)

Copenhagen (Denmark) has that already, but I don't know anybody that uses it. Your plan for the day is made the day before - when you set your alarm clock. When you've eaten breakfast you drive to work. You don't turn on your PC to check the traffic - that wouldn't get you faster to work.

Once you're on the road, traffic radio takes care of redirections in case of special problems, and even though they use sensors today instead of helicopter - who cares?

Last week the sensor system was down btw, so they asked people to phone in with their mobile phones, and the information given in the radio based on those phoners was very good - if not better than when they use the sensors, simply because the cause for problems was included in the messages.


Re:Not too useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5270180)

Not sure about your area/drive, but in my area, there are MANY ways I can travel to work. Heck of a pert chart.

Re:Not too useful (1)

swb (14022) | more than 11 years ago | (#5270239)

I also tend to question the usefulness of such a system. It's worthwhile for long-term road capacity planning, but its value for short-term usage is very limited.

As the parent poster indicated, you're going from A to B no matter what, checking the traffic for the most part won't change that. I've also found that traffic patterns are pretty predictable, and plannable trips are planned around this information. It's also pretty limited in that for the most part, there aren't that many routes one can take from A to B. So you find that the primary, most-direct route is crowded -- I've found that taking alternative routes (longer freeway routes or same-distance street routes) results in less stop-n-go sometimes, but generally is never faster time-wise and sometimes ends up being longer. I often do this just to avoid the freeway, but its purely a psychological tactic -- I use more gas and generally spend more time on the road, but it feels better because I'm not at a dead stop.

The map data would be more useful as a general route planning tool if you could see congestion data over a years time for given dayparts. Eg, show me the congestion averages, congestion variances over the past year so that I can plan my routes or timing. If a given road is highly variant in its congestion or always congested during a period of time I can learn to avoid it.

But telling me X is crowded right now isn't that valuable.

Atlanta Area (2, Informative)

Accipiter (8228) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269664)

The Atlanta area has had something similar [] for awhile. It's pretty handy if you want to check traffic on your way home.

Plus, you can modify the map [] to display the locations of traffic cameras around the area. When you click a camera, it shows you the current view from that camera.

It's a pretty nifty system.

Million years old stuff!!! (1)

Chep (25806) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269665)

People in Denver are probably like the old cartoon dinosaur: pretty outdated.

Like a million other fellow Europeans, I'll point out my favourite service, opened for over half a decade now: This stuff is also linked to the information the FM stations relay, and more importantly to the variable message displays (one every 500m, on the Périphérique, the inner ring you see out there). There are displays to this map at every major subterranean parking place in business centres (La Défense etc.). Years ago, one company was broadcasting it into a display embedded into the (passenger's, duh!) sun shield.

(in fact, I had this very GIF in my slashbox in... say...1999? Hemos, you can really wear cowboyneal's donkey helm today).

What's important is that today, this stuff is refined to the point they're able to accurately tell you how accurate they are. And they are.

And of course, today, you can access this on i-Mode phones (those from Bouygues), and you can bet the UMTS offers will trumpet it like it's legal marijuana... uh, when they are ready to roll, that is.

(by the way, the Detroit (Michigan) VMD system pretty sucks; from my limited experience with it, times are accurate at an order of magnitude, no better (ie, if it says 5 minutes, you're going to be anywhere in the 2-30 minutes range or almost... if you can dodge the potholes, that is). I hope for the Denver folks that the outdated system announced by Hemos works better -- poor tax dollars otherwise).

Re:Million years old stuff!!! (1)

Chep (25806) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269713)

OK, so I was wrong; everybody but the Denver area already had got it for years (maybe Mogadishu, Somalia is not yet equipped; excuse me while I rush to check).

By the way, again the Paris link, I'm rusty on extrans rules and too lame to hit Preview: Sytadin (Paris/IDF system) []

Re:Million years old stuff!!! (1)

Bill Privatus (575781) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269774)


Yes, the Detroit system was $20M last count, and it's basically a flashing billboard system. None of the time estimates are "real", they are calculated based on someone sitting with a (AAA?) map and a calculator :-)

Worse, the estimates are way off - a 70-MPH zone shows "15 minutes" but you get there in 6. It's as if they didn't recalculate since the speed limit was 55...!

It's a big joke, but I understand it was going to be the hallmark of "The Motor City" (20 years ago...or whenever they had the Eureka thought).

Chicago (2, Informative)

sleeperservice (62645) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269667)

We've had this in Chicago for some time, and it works quite well.

It's a good place to do a quick check before you head out, just to be sure. However, once you're already in your car, I still think nothing beats the radio stations' traffic people telling you how it is.

Re:Chicago (1)

J0ey4 (233385) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269876)

Bravo, I was using the UIC site from 1998 until 2002 when I moved away from Chicago, so it is at least five years old. Nothing depresses you more when you are about to leave work then seeing that the O'hare to downtown delay estimated at 95 minutes :-)

Re:Chicago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269948)

...Chicago's traffic monitoring system works if you have to take any of the interstates and tollways. But it absolutely sucks for any other commute pattern in the Chicago area.

Re:Chicago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5270205)

Radio stations must be better in your area. Seems this area just has someone sit and monitor the police band. Very lame and very useless.

The best and most efficient solution would be to have drivers give the status.

Present in MN, too (2, Informative)

rusty_razor (635173) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269670) reshmap.html [] Though it seems that only central Minneapolis/St. Paul is working right now.. could it be the mounds of snow?

Re:Present in MN, too (1)

yelvington (8169) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269740)

The Minnesota map has been up since the mid-1990s -- we built an automated version for the Star Tribune Web site when I was online editor there. MnDOT gathers the data from in-pavement capacitance detectors. Star Tribune polls the MnDOT database using a proprietary protocol and constructs the map with bit of Perl and ImageMagick. I don't know when the MnDOT system went live, but I suspect it was in the late 1980s.

Flash is probably a better tool for doing traffic maps these days. When, Baton Rouge, launches in the next few weeks, it will have a Flash traffic map developed by my group at Morris Digital Works for the Advocate and WBRZ-TV.

The strength of Flash is that it can plot the information client-side, so regular users only need fetch a very tiny text file that contains status info. The Flash map itself is cached. And since it's vector-based, it's smaller than you might think for the initial transfer. The Baton Rouge city government doesn't have capacitance detectors, so we screen-scrape traffic incident info from a government Web site and plot the results on the map.

Connecticut... (1)

Heem (448667) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269678)

We have something similar in Connecticut
This is a Java applet [] that shows average speed of vehicles in the Hartford area.

dunno about unnecessary... (2, Funny)

torqer (538711) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269686)

"Looks like traffic helicopters will slowly become unnecessary in Denver"

Um yeah, as long as everyone has some form of wireless internet (802.11x + Laptop, cellphone, whatever), that has a battery charge, is turned on, and able to be read while driving. Otherwise the traffic helicopters and radios will still be quite useful.

Re:dunno about unnecessary... (1)

sn0wcrash (223995) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269738)

I think the point here is that the news services can use this system and report it over the radio as they do now. Just no choppers in the air.

Houston has had this for years (1)

aelfwyne (262209) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269690)

There's been online traffic monitoring, updated automatically in the Houston TX area for at *least* five years. I believe it was part of an A&M project that just stayed in place.

Re:Houston has had this for years (4, Interesting)

kamikasee (607348) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269851)

Yeah, the ***creepy*** thing about Houston's system is the way they calculate the speed of traffic flow. The toll system has a little gadget called EZ-TAG that lets you zip through the toll plazas without even slowing down. It has a little radio transmitter that talks to a reciever in the plaza. The traffic monitoring system has checkpoints that monitor these, and since it can uniquely identify you, it knows your average speed for that segment. They ***say*** that they won't ever use it against you (ie to write speeding tickets) but if they ever start, if will be back to coins for me. Or at the very least, a special RF blocking case to protect me from the eye in the sky...

the parent post was probably right, given that the link is:


Re:Houston has had this for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5270175)

a special RF blocking case

Try using a lead box.

Re:Houston has had this for years (1)

706GL (172709) | more than 11 years ago | (#5270236)

I wouldn't go back to coins any time soon since they have phased out tokens in an effort to force people over to EZ-TAG. The system seems to produce much more reliable data since you can get segment times rather than times at a point. For instance if you put a counter-type reader inbetween an off ramp and on ramp you would read people going much faster than the average. Only bad part of the system is the off chance that no one with an EZ-TAG is going through a segment at a given time, but that never happens during heavy trafic times (All the time in Houston) since everyone has the tags.

As for the "creepyness" of the system I wouldn't worry about tickets any time soon since hundreads of people drive through the high-speed EZ-TAG lanes on the tollways without a tag and the Tollroad authority never bothers to try and send them tickets.

Not just on the web (2, Interesting)

_Spirit (23983) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269697)

My nav system uses the data collected all over Europe to show me traffic jams and other things that might be handy for me to know while driving. It's been around for years and it's called TMC. In The Netherlands the data for these systems is captured by a similar system as mentioned in the article. It's just that it has been around here for about 5 years, maybe even longer.

Finland? (3, Informative)

GeoNerd (166345) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269704)

Such things have existed for years in the US.

Here's Houston: []

Here's Dallas: []

These don't use 'car counters' (sounds expensive), they simply use the RFID tags that the tollway system uses to automatically charge you when you cruise through at 70 mph. They just set the sensors up on the side of the road (cheap), and send the info in. That's why they can afford to have coverage over the entire city, not just downtown like that slow Denver map.

What would be great is a standardized system to push these maps to LCD screens in your car.

Re:Finland? (1)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269898)

What would be great is a standardized system to push these maps to LCD screens in your car.

Er. Neat idea, but then we'd have people glued to those screens instead of paying attention to the stopped traffic 40 meters in front of them.

If you want to compare to Finland... (2, Interesting)

macpeep (36699) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269716)

Why not compare to the actual "road service" web site, which has live cameras in a great number of places, that you can check on the web and see what the weather and traffic is like. In addition, there are also actual "trafic data", which shows "cars per hour" counts as well as "average speed" etc. information.

Here (realtime cameras): -f rame.html

and here (realtime traffic data): am e.html

InfoTraffic in France (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269724) &AC=873773407 F& AC=873773407

Re:InfoTraffic in France (1)

Chep (25806) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269743)

For IDF, better use directly Sytadin (whose information they resell), Sytadin is slightly more complete (and you don't need to download adverts, you already paid for the service).

For the other regions... Huh. Don't you get better service from 107.7 FM ?

GoatSex? (0, Flamebait)

Peridriga (308995) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269737)

Anyone else have to stare at the url just a second longer than usual wondering if an editor actually put *that* link on the front page :-)

paris has a fansastic version of this (1)

mysticbob (21980) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269764)

which is pretty-darn-close to realtime. a friend of mine
uses this almost as a live tool to tell him when to leave
work for his cross-paris trip home. paris traffic being
what it is, he still ends up parking a lot on the
peripherique, but this helps a bit. :)

ile-de-france traffic site []

Online traffic data=worse congestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269769)

The system itself is a good idea, but the distribution of the info needs to be reconsidered.

Talking on the phone while driving already causes enough accidents each year. Now you will have to actually LOOK at your phone and figure out yourself where the traffic jams are. How many more accidents will that cause?

And who actually believes that the traffic report you see online before you leave from home has any relationship to the trafffic by the time you get there? You might very well end up taking an unnecessarily long detour.

Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, they should look at the system in Germany. Each bridge has a radar station on it that monitors the traffic flow below. The data is distributed electronically to radio stations and more importantly to GPS navigation systems. No helicopters, yet still a timely flow of information. Even better are the GPS navigation systems which take this data and plan your route based on up-to-the-second traffic data.

The Information Superhighway is great to drive on, but parking traffic information there should be avoided as much as parking cars on a normal highway.

Congestion & Bus Delays (1)

bildstorm (129924) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269783)

Having just moved to Minneapolis, I'm thrilled to have real-time traffic congestion online. I wish they'd had this in the Baltimore/D.C. area, but alas, they didn't.

Anyway, this is great, if I'm driving, but what about those of us who take public transportation? There's never any indication of how late something is running.

When I lived in Helsinki, Finland and worked out in Espoo, they had a great system up some places (Tapiola, for instance) that listed the buses coming and how long it'd be until they got there, and sometimes if a bus was delayed, it even had the delay posted.

If you want to bring something traffic-wise from Finland to the U.S., that would be incredibly useful (as would on-time road construction projects).

Caltrans in CA (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269785)

In Los angeles and most of california, caltrans has been doing that for a while. Everyone has been saying "nothing new", but the downside of this is, it's usually driven by demand and bad traffic. I thought telecommuting was suppose to make it so less people need to commute. What happened to the idea of flex hours, to reduce the "rush hour" effect? Me thinks driving culture needs to change. Same with western disposable culture. while we're at it, lets get rid of Dodge Ram and other cars that get 4mils per gallon.

Blank CD-RWs (3, Interesting)

Graymalkin (13732) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269786)

I've been thinking for a while that something like this combined with a combination satellite/digital radio receiver and GPS/map would work wonders at getting people around traffic jams. A lot of high congestion areas in urbanized counties have electronic traffic monitoring, if they'd go the next step and get that data out to everyone, there'd be a real change in the way people commute.

The way I see it digital/satellite radio is next to useless for music, you just get the same crap you find on the FM dial. Digital/satellite radio has a redeeming aspect in the fact it is a digital stream of information. In between packets carrying Britney Spears and Metalica you can stick useful data like say...freeway information. If traffic advisory stations broadcast easily parsed text streams inbetween their [digital] audio broadcasts a smart box in your car could pick out the text and parse it for display.

Since people looking down to read text advisories would end up being the sources of advisories themselves the computer could do the hard work for them. If you break up a particular freeway into arbitrary sections and in your text advisory say "101:57:32 101-405:10" (101 for the freeway, 57 for the 57th mile/section, 32 for the speed in mph and 101-405 for an interchange and 10 for the speed) the computer could change that section of the freeway on your simplified street map to being a dark red. The area you were going 75 on would be a nice bright green. It could even do you one better by figuring out via GPS which mile/section you were on and tell you approximatly how long until you got to the jam and possibly give you alternate surface routes past it. If you wanted it wouldn't be terribly difficult to have the computer just give you a verbal warning and alternate route suggestions.

If you have a decent number of drivers knowing the future road conditions they can be a little more careful when coming to a jam. There'd be less (in an ideal situation) screeching brakes because some jackass is suprised to see a line of tail lights. Also being as this stuff could use digital radio infrastructure which is on its way and not take up much more space or processing power in your card radio it'd be pretty convenient.

Ultimately a reduction in traffic jams is going to mean a reduction in injuries from them and much less environment impact from having half a googlplex of cars on the road. Current traffic advisories do a good job of giving you fair warning as long as you listen to a station that does regular enough advisories for them to be useful. They're also easily clocked out by playing a CD (and thus not listening to the radio). A digital system could play a CD or any radio station and still provide visual or audible warnings gathered from traffic services. It's no solution to traffic problems but in the long run might save a lot of lives, headaches, and gallons of black stuff.

Re:Blank CD-RWs (2, Interesting)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269968)

They're also easily clocked out by playing a CD (and thus not listening to the radio).

You don't need a digital system for that. Over here (Europe), we've got the 'Radio Data System' that piggybacks on (analog) FM radio.

Among its functions are channel identification, EON (changing frequency as you drive through the coverage range of multiple FM transmitters with the same program), and TP (interrupting whatever you're listening to, when the traffic information is aired).

Oh great... (1)

NotTheNickIWanted (614945) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269791)

They also have a lighter version for mobile phone users.

...just what everyone needs. Another excuse for people to sit behind the wheel and pay more attention to their cell phone than the driving conditions around them.

Cincinnati's had this since I've lived here (4 yr) (2, Interesting)

Whispers_in_the_dark (560817) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269795)

Artimis [] provides both the traffic guys and the general consumer information about current average speeds over many of the highway links. Plus it has many webcams in place so that the user can get a feel for the traffic visually.

Transguide (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269828)

Transguide []

Transguide is San Antonio's answer to the same problem. Be sure to check out the cameras. Once in awhile you get lucky and catch a flaming car or an 18-wheeler on its side.

They also transmit the camera video on a local low power station that's carried on the cable. Full motion video of wrecks? You bet!

Now all I need is net access in my car (2, Funny)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269879)

If I can just get the internet in my car, I can make use of this.... and then I'll find out that there's a traffic jam being caused by some idiot motorist trying to use a laptop to check traffic reports. D'oh!! (2)

dieman (4814) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269939)

We've had the traffic mapping info for a long time Here! []

that's nothing (2)

j1mmy (43634) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269949)

The Gary-Chicago-Milwaukee corridor [] has had real-time reporting for years now. It covers the major interstates in and around Chicago.

Me too! (2)

aechols (443299) | more than 11 years ago | (#5269954)

Houston has one as well. [] This one works by passively reading the identifications off those handy little tollway ez-tags, and sees how fast the traffic is moving on average. I always thought it was kind of funny how it would often read 70 mph in places even though the speed limit was 55. The map looks pretty crappy like now. This is typical rush hour. I used to take 45 minutes to get to school, (8 mi. trip) worst case was an hour and a half. Stupid Houston, yay college.

Ontario has been doing it for years. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5269973)

Never posted so excuse any faux pas.

I've been watching the Toronto Highway system for a few years now. I'm not sure when they went live but the Ontario Governments Ministry of Trabsportation has made their cameras accessible to the public when I head they revamped their web site. ( s/camera/camhome.htm)

Even the Weather Network here in Canada has a feed you can access. (

More tracking, just what we need. (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 11 years ago | (#5270139)

Next the cars will be identified, not just counted..

Then pedestrians will be counted.. then tracked by 'national ID number'.

Wake up people. its al part of a slow progression to gain acceptance of constant monitoring of all activities of the citizens..

Pittsburgh: all that and nice graphics, too (1)

barries (15577) | more than 11 years ago | (#5270325)

See [] .

- Barrie

No need to be stuck in traffic anymore! (1) (647348) | more than 11 years ago | (#5270368)

There is no need to be stuck in any traffic on this planet anymore, now that I have the URLs of all traffic-websites in the world. Oh, by the way, we had this for years where I live too. I wouldn't want to be left behind.

It takes a website? (1)

telstar (236404) | more than 11 years ago | (#5270446)

"Now I can check whether I really want to head to work in the morning."
  • I reach my conclusion every day when my alarm goes off. No need to check a website.
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