In Australia, we have three tiers of government: federal, state and local. While local government is often overlooked, it plays a critical role in creating better local amenities. Any local councillor will tell that if a local council doesn’t deliver on the three R’s – rates, roads and rubbish – then their re-election prospects are low.
Councillors are therefore under tremendous pressure to deliver for their constituents, and council offices are charged with the challenge of achieving this by optimising the use of available resources. It’s all about getting the greatest outcome at the best price. But finding smart solutions – or even identifying the problems that you are trying to solve can often be challenging.
Progressive LGAs understand that digital transformation is a vital part of creating a sustainable future for their council as well as an avenue to add value for their constituents.
In a world where everyone may have an opinion, facts are sacred. So how do we find facts and figures to identify problems and apply solutions?
Some of the most common challenges faced by almost all councils include:
- Resolving constituent complaints quickly
- Ensuring road safety
- Prioritising and validating projects and project funding in a transparent manner
- Assessing the impact of any upcoming infrastructure projects on the road traffic in the area
- Keeping constituents informed about any possible movement disruptions
In my post today, I have tried to look at some of these challenges and look at how Intelematics INSIGHT, Australia’s newest road traffic analysis software can help overcome these efficiently and cost-effectively.
Let’s look at a few scenarios.
Let’s say a council officer receives a phone call from a concerned constituent. They believe cars are tearing down their street at high speed regularly. The street isn’t designed for high-speed traffic. It’s a residential street in a built-up area, with cars backing out of driveways and kids running around and a posted speed limit is 50 km/h.
How should the council respond? It could refer it to law enforcement. But is it a fair use of Police resources having a patrol car set up for a few days? It’s just one complaint at present, so should that require time and money to investigate? A typical efficient response may be to note the complaint and investigate if further complaints arise. While this approach may be efficient, it does put the community at risk.
That’s where Intelematics’ INSIGHT portal offers a solution. Insight allows local governments to search for the street in question and see average speeds of vehicles travelling along a section of road. In just a few clicks, the council can see whether a problem exists and if the pattern of behaviour identified by the constituent is a regular occurrence and can decide on the next steps – whether it be police action or street design changes.
The same principle applies if a constituent were to complain about additional traffic on their street. INSIGHT would allow the council to look up the street, and follow the trail to where the traffic is coming from. The more data you have, the better decision a council can make. INSIGHT suddenly becomes a great way to respond to constituent requests.
Proactive road safety
The vehicle speeding example can also be used in proactive planning. INSIGHT allows urban planners to find out average speeds across the municipality. This gives councils the ability to identify streets that may need design alterations to change road user behaviour.
For example, suppose one shopping strip is identified through INSIGHT as having cars travel at speeds that pose safety risks to pedestrians. In that case, the council may choose to install speed humps, raised platforms or roundabouts, forcing drivers to slow down. INSIGHT becomes part of the road safety solution.
Another sore spot for councillors is deciding on whether to approve a planning permit or not. A new sports centre may be a boon for one family, but a congestion nightmare for another. Intelematics’ INSIGHT allows for traffic evaluation to take place that goes far beyond one simple hotspot.
For example, let’s say a new sports centre is built and a condition for building was that traffic has to be monitored to see if further road upgrades are required. Traditionally, this would have either required the laborious task of sending out a crew to manually count cars or setting up a tube sensor, taking weeks to get an accurate count. That count would only cover the period in which the site was set up and wouldn’t include connecting roads. For most councils, such an approach would be cost prohibitive.
But with INSIGHT, historical traffic data can be accessed quickly, to evaluate the before and after impact of the project not just on the concerned road but also all other feeder roads and intersections. Accurate project impact evaluation can be achieved.
Plus, historical data can also be used to assist in future projects, offering councils a way to predict the likely impact of a project based on the historical implications of similar projects on traffic. INSIGHT becomes an urban planner’s best friend.
Saving the environment
Most councils have an environmental plan that sets out ways that can help the council become greener and more sustainable. Some are even committing to net-zero emissions. Such a plan might include reducing landfill or changing their fleet vehicles to greener alternatives.
In addition to doing their bit internally, councils are also influencing and engaging their constituents, in driving down total lower emissions. In the United Kingdom, many councils have adapted low traffic neighbourhoods, taking traffic out of certain districts. The scheme offers an excellent opportunity for councils to reduce harmful greenhouse emissions and contributes to their net-zero plans.
Having access to reliable data becomes a key factor when measuring the success of such initiatives. Unless you know how much traffic you have removed, and whether the traffic you have sought to remove has been removed, or has only shifted, it is impossible to know the success of such a proposal.
INSIGHT monitors traffic flow, volume, and in the soon to be released version, origin/destination and vehicle class breakdown. This is important as vehicle speed and stop-start behaviour (flow); coupled with the number of cars (volume), vehicle class and the length of trip (original and destination) all produce different environmental outcomes. Unless you have this data available, it is near impossible to measure emissions correctly. In such a scenario INSIGHT becomes a vital tool in helping measure and reduce emissions.
Road maintenance schedules
Every councillor knows that roads with potholes cause complaints. But it can often be challenging for councils to identify where these potholes exist and when potholes are likely to be formed.
Many councils implement a road maintenance schedule for inspection and repairs. This schedule is usually based on estimated traffic, but this estimated figure is not always accurate as it is often based on road classification type or pipe data taken irregularly, making the guess haphazard at best.
But with INSIGHT, councils can know exactly how much traffic each road is subject to. Plus, the data can also be exported and overlayed with other contributing factors. For example, road surfaces can get damaged due to heavy and consistent downpour, leaving us with water-filled potholes, making driving in such conditions hazardous. Overlaying traffic data with weather data can create a more accurate picture of the likely road surface – all without the expense of sending a crew out.
Moreover, Intelematics’ predictive services business can tailor solutions that take data such as weather, traffic and other factors and create an automated solution tailored for councils’ maintenance divisions. INSIGHT suddenly becomes a vital tool for timely road maintenance.
INSIGHT – a traffic analysis tool made for local government
INSIGHT is a product that is born out of years of experience covering and informing the users of the Australian road network and a deep understanding of why and how people use data – especially local governments.
We know this because we have listened to and developed contextual products that work for our customers.
Data-led decision making is the future and we are committed to better-informing government. A better-informed government means better outcomes for constituents.
Try INSIGHT today, and see how it could help your council make better decisions.
Want to check if Intelematics INSIGHT is for you? Get access to the portal for free
At the moment on the free version, you get weekly traffic data aggregations for NSW traffic flow and count data. And we are in the process of rolling out national traffic coverage soon.