Question: My thought when reading last week’s question about the lack of travel-time signs between Tacoma and Seattle is: Why bother?
I can get travel times on my phone that are more accurate and use exact starting and ending points instead of just “Tacoma” and “Seattle.”
Better questions might have been: How do these new mobile apps work, and why doesn’t WSDOT get with the program?
Those highway signs can’t be cheap. — Jared, Tacoma
Answer: You are correct. “Big data” systems that use crowd-sourced traffic data can be more accurate than the road sensors WSDOT uses.
That’s because crowd-sourced data — gathered from in-vehicle navigation systems, mobile phones, and fleet vehicles such as delivery trucks and taxis — uses many more data points than road sensors. Additionally, the cost to maintain the sensors is expensive and the cost to maintain crowd-sourced information is much cheaper.
WSDOT has worked on occasion with a Kirkland-based traffic information company, INRIX, to augment its data, and according to WSDOT spokeswoman Claudia Bingham Baker, the department has begun to emphasize Web-based presentations.
Jamie Holter, an INRIX traffic analyst who formerly worked for WSDOT, is a big fan of crowd-sourced traffic data. But she says, “I don’t think it’s really fair to question the value of all travel-time signs, because not everyone has access to mobile apps or in-vehicle navigation systems at this time or in the near future.”
“It’s still valuable data,” Holter added, “and the state is smart about locating the travel-time signs at key decision points.”
Rob Carson: 253-597-8693