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Advanced Training - Traffic Calming Analysis
Advanced Training - Traffic Calming Analysis

Quickly determine if a road segment requires traffic calming interventions from your Urban SDK account.

Jonathan Bass avatar
Written by Jonathan Bass
Updated over a week ago

One of the biggest benefits of having an Urban SDK account is the ability to quickly diagnose roadways. In this training webinar, our Planning Team walks through how to quickly pull up a map and determine whether a road segment is eligible for traffic calming interventions, along with some inferences to make while analyzing the speed data.

Watch full training webinar

TL;DR: 9 steps to review speeds for traffic calming analysis

  1. Sign in to your Urban SDK account

  2. Select Insights from the left hand navigation

  3. Select your community boundary

  4. Choose your county or a specific census tract

  5. Select the month you'd like to study

  6. Search for a road name or click a road segment

  7. Review the Traffic Speed Link Report

  8. Determine if the reported speeds require traffic calming measures

  9. Save your report to Workspace to post traffic calming implementation analysis

Transcript of training webinar


So a majority of our customers here at Urban SDK tend to use our platform to help with their traffic calming programs. And a couple of the more recent examples that we've seen how our customers use our platform is to determine whether a roadway is eligible for traffic calming and to justify the need for a speed table.

That is to say, breaking out speeds by time of day, by day and week, and so on to really hone in and zero in on how traffic calming might be useful or might be effective for your community. We're here today to show you how Urban SDK can and really should be an essential part of your traffic calming program. Now, this is going to include using your account to quickly diagnose a road and see if there are any troubling segments for traffic calming, using the analysis in your account to determine the best approach for calming traffic as well as your local context to help determine that approach, and of course, saving the report so you can share these findings with stakeholders in your organization or within your community.

Now, our goal today is to be able to use what we've covered here to streamline some of the more tedious parts of your traffic calming program. So with that being said, we're going to dive right in and begin.

Getting started

So beginning at the Urban SDK splash screen, the portal page here, and I've pre-entered my account credentials, so I'm going to sign in. I'm glad my internet was quick today. So immediately, we're going to open to the homepage here on your Urban SDK portal.

I'm going to click the top left here to bring up the side menu, and something important I believe we noted in our last webinar, but I'll reiterate here as well for anyone who wasn't able to attend. When you open up your account, oftentimes you're going to default to the personal workspace in the top left, which as you can see right here, personal workspace with the star icon. Now, the personal workspace is essentially a sandbox environment where if you want to try out any of the features of your account, any of the aspects of the Urban SDK platform, you can do so, but all the work and the reports that you build in your personal workspace stays in your personal workspace.

This is something that doesn't get shared to other members of your team or your organization or stakeholders or the public. Think of it as a sandbox environment, so you can really get familiar with our product, but if you're intending to build a report that you can then share with other members of your team or with stakeholders, you're going to want to switch to your organizational workspace. So you click at the menu right here, and I'm going to join Urban SDK.

Navigating your Workspace

It's our internal Workspace. Yours should show up on the left with your organization's name, and that'll switch to the organizational workspace where if we save a report, it'll be shareable among other members of your team. So immediately when we do so, we're going to be greeted with a list of our recently built reports.

So these are some reports we can work on with and for our customers, but today's traffic controlling example, we're going to be going into our insights tool, insights beta on the left here, which is the same tool we covered in our last webinar as well. So I'm going to click on the insights tool, and we're immediately greeted with a list of possible geographic areas. So these are a lot of the different geographic areas in which our customers are located.

Today we're going to be focusing in on an example from Santa Fe County. I don't know if there's anyone from Santa Fe on the call. If so, great to see you again.

Selecting your location

We're going to be focusing in on an example of traffic calming within Santa Fe, New Mexico. So immediately greeted with again, the opportunity to change between county or census tract. Now, if you know within your community, if you know within your community where the issue in question is located, where the traffic calming question segment you want to be looking at is located, you can click census tract, and then you can zero in on specific list of census tracts and only load the data into the platform for those census tracts.

Now, of course, this is faster considering our platform is a browser-based solution. But if you want a countywide perspective or just a larger scale perspective, or you're not sure where the issues may be arising, it's just as easy to click the county and load the data for the entire county, which is what we're going to do today. We'll present with the county name.

Of course, the only county in question here is Santa Fe County in New Mexico. So I'm going to click continue again. We'll be looking at traffic speed analysis to take a look at these speeds on the roadway and determine if it's eligible for traffic calming.

Selecting a time period

And then this is important as well. We're going to select a month of data to analyze. So in this example, we're going to be taking a look at August 2022 during the height of the summer.

But what's very important is that when we click the one month of data that we're going to be pulling and click continue, immediately we notice that the platform automatically pulls two supplemental months as well. We picked August 22, and it's automatically pulled June and July, the previous two months of data as well. And the purpose of pulling the two previous months of data is to be able to compare across a three month period how trends in speeding, trends in traffic calming measures, and so on evolve.

So with that being said, we see we have August 22 and two supplemental months. We're going to build our report. We're going to dive right in.

Now we just let it take a second because the platform is loading the speed data for the entire county, which appears to have gone pretty quickly today. So again, that's another thumbs up for my internet today. I'm going to collapse the sidebar, and immediately we're greeted with this map here.

Reading your Traffic Calming Insights report

So the map here, again, is the average speeds Monday through Friday average across the entirety of the county in question. These colors, the yellow, green, red, are automatically colored to see whether the speeds are 10 miles per hour lower than the urban SDK speed category. And I'll explain a little bit more about speed category in just a second.

Normal green values are values that are close to the speed category, and then red is values that are 10 miles per hour or greater above the speed category. Now speed category, which I've been mentioning, we discussed on our previous webinar as well, but to refresh anyone's memory if you haven't listened to our previous webinar series, speed category is a product that's been developed by urban SDK to estimate posted speed limits on a nationwide scale. Something that we discussed with I'm sure a lot of you before, and I'm sure you found in your own work as well, is that there isn't really a good source of ground truth on a nationwide scale for what posted speed limits are in the wild, essentially.

So rather than try to work with a incomplete or incorrect sets of data that could be available from other data providers, what we've done is we've developed urban SDK speed category, which is essentially a model to estimate the most appropriate and most likely speed limit on a roadway, given its physical characteristics, its functional class, and of course also the free flow speeds that are observed in off-peak periods to give a good sense of what speeds traffic are actually traveling at.

So speed category is meant to be interpreted as a plus or minus five mile per hour sort of measure, rather than an exact measure of the speed limit, but what we've already, what we have discussed with some of our customers and what we would be more than willing to do with any of you on the call as well, is to load in your speed limits into the platform if you have a geospatial file of them, so you can compare against your speed limits rather than the estimated speed category.

But for the moment we're going to be using speed category. On our left we can see the control panel here, we can look at average speed or which is what we're seeing up here, or if I click 85th percentile, this will switch to 85th percentile instead of average. We can also take a look at some filters where we can look at our month of data, and then interactions where we can change the base map.

In fact I'm going to change the base map away from the default black background to the FHWA streets background, which when we zoom in a bit more to our point of interest today, is going to reveal to us a little bit more data about the community. So I've already pre-selected the location we're going to be taking a look at for traffic calming today. The location is 2801 West Zia Road.

Analyzing land use

If I search it in the bar at the top left here, I can immediately just click it and the map automatically zooms into the location in question. So the location that I picked for today is a very interesting one. This is a location that Urban SDK's planning team has done some work with the Santa Fe MPO before to discuss and analyze traffic calming and speeding trends within the community.

Essentially this is a location where if I zoom out a little bit further we can see all the building footprints. It's primarily single-family residential neighborhoods, but right in the middle of the neighborhood we see this plaza.

The land uses in this area are very interesting because although we have a lot of low-density single-family residential, there's a lot of reasons why someone living in this area may want to visit the plaza and they may want to do so without a car. They may want to use walking or cycling or any other form of non-automobile, non-transit mobility. If you look and zoom in a little bit further into the plaza, we can see that there are land uses here that do support those trips.

There's restaurants, there's cafes, bars, medical uses in the top right-hand corner, and a dry cleaner as well. So there's a lot of land uses here where someone who lives in the surrounding community may want to walk and they may want to run errands in the day or before work. They may want to get a cup of coffee.

They may want to go to the brewery, the brewing company here and have a drink responsibly without driving impaired. There may be seniors or families who live in the area who may have medical appointments. There's a lot of reasons why someone from the surrounding area may want to walk to this plaza.

And in fact, if you zoom out a little bit more, we can also see there are other aspects of the land use here that inform why someone might want to walk to this plaza. There's parks nearby, there are schools just to the north, and there's this quite robust network of off-road trails through this sort of arroyo network behind the neighborhoods as well. So again, we're seeing a lot of land uses that encourage walking or cycling.

But if a member of the surrounding community wishes to walk to the plaza, we can see the plazas bracketed by these two arterial roads, which show up as green at first glance, but which we're going to take a little bit closer of a look at to understand how traffic calming may support a safer walking environment or safer cycling environment for members of the community. So this road at the top here is West, this one right here is West Zia Road, and the one to the south is Rovio Road. These are both major arterials, and we're going to zoom in on one segment of West Zia Road, and we're going to diagnose whether it is a candidate for traffic calming, understanding that this is an area where we may be seeing a lot of active transportation trips.

Determining if road segment is a candidate for traffic calming

So we're going to zoom right in to this segment right here to the right of the north-south intersection. Essentially, if someone is coming from the north or from the east, they're going to be traveling through this intersection right here to access the plaza. So when I hover over the road segment, we see the tooltip show up, which shows a number of pieces of information.

We have the road's name, we have its functional class, we have the speed category, and then we have average 85th and 95th percentile speeds. So interestingly, if you remember back when I mentioned speed category just a couple minutes ago, the estimated speed category on this road is 40 miles per hour. Now I've gone on, I've gone and done my due diligence on Google Street View and discovered that the posted speed limit here is in fact 35 miles per hour.

So again, the speed category is meant to be looked at as a plus or minus five mile per hour kind of value. In this case, speed category is estimated five miles per hour above the posted speed limit. But with that piece of local knowledge and local context, we can see that the speeding problems on this road are actually quite noticeable.

The average speed is only about one mile per hour below the speed category, but knowing that the speed limit is 35, that's actually four miles per hour above the posted speed limit. And it gets worse. The 85th percentile speed is almost 45 miles per hour and 95th percentile speed is 49 miles per hour.

Now what's important about these pieces of information, and I'm sure some of you as practitioners have heard these statistics before, is that the relationship between the speed at which a vehicle is traveling when it collides with a pedestrian and the likelihood that a pedestrian will experience a fatal injury from that collision, that relationship is extremely non-linear. At a vehicle traveling 20 miles per hour, there's only a 10% risk of a pedestrian being struck dying from the collision. But if a vehicle is traveling 30 miles per hour, that percentage rises to 50.

If a vehicle is traveling 40 miles per hour, the pedestrian is 80% likely to die upon collision. And if a vehicle is traveling 50 miles per hour, which in this case, the 95th percentile speed is close to, that percentage likelihood that a pedestrian will experience a fatal injury is greater than 99%. It's almost a certainty.

Reading traffic speed data

So with those pieces of information in mind, we can really quickly look at this segment of roadway and say, given the land use, given our local context, and our planning experience, this is a roadway that could be eligible for traffic on program. We can actually go a little bit closer and pull out the sidebar upon clicking that piece of roadway and take a look at the stats in a bit more detail to confirm our suspicions. So again, we have speed category, average 85th and 95th percentile speeds.

We also have a breakdown of speeds by day of week and by time period. So these seven time periods are essentially typical time periods that one would use in transportation planning. They all have a defined start and end point throughout the day to sort of break the speeds throughout the day down into different time periods.

We can see actually that the speeding problems on this roadway are the most noticeable in the morning and in the AM peak. And then again, they begin to rise a little bit more towards the evening for many days as well. So this kind of makes sense intuitively with what we understand.

These are probably periods of time when traffic volumes are lower and where vehicles are incentivized to travel faster. We can also scroll down a little bit more and see that same data displayed graphically here by time period. And then again, we can see the trend across the three months that I mentioned previously.

That's August 22, which is the date that we're looking at here, and the two supplemental months of June and July. We're not noticing a lot of change in the speeds over time. They're fairly consistent.

And again, if we look average 85th and 95th percentile speeds are fairly consistently above the speed category, the thresholds that we've been discussing. So knowing what we know here, we can diagnose fairly quickly that West Zia Road in this location, particularly given the land use context, could be a candidate for traffic calming. Now, I've never been to Santa Fe.

Unfortunately, I'd love to go. But I have, however, taken a look at this road on Google Street View. And in the local context of understanding what the cross section of this road is, this is a five-lane arterial road.

It has very few intersections and even fewer protected intersections. For instance, these two intersections right here, we can see with minor streets are unsignalized and therefore not protected for pedestrians to cross. So with this piece of information, we can start to go down the list of potential mitigation or traffic calming measures, understanding this road is eligible for traffic calming.

Such measures may include more protected crossings, potentially signalization, pedestrian crossovers like PXOs, a potential road diet or lane narrowing to physically incentivize traffic to slow down and travel at a more reasonable, slower rate of speed, or alternatively, an increase in speed enforcement in this area, particularly considering that the average speed on this road link is already above the posted speed limit. This may be a location where we simply need more enforcement to incentivize drivers to slow down and travel the speed limit as they're moving through the area.

Saving a report and sharing your findings

Now, with that being said, if we'd like to go and save this report so that we can share it with stakeholders, other members of our community or other members of the organization, that's quite easy. At the top left of the Insights 2.0 tool here, we're going to see the Save Report button. You click that and I'm going to type title for this report.

And then I'm going to pick a category. There's a number of pre-loaded categories here that you can pick. This is essentially just a way of organizing, categorizing your reports for a reference layer.

I'm going to click traffic, but you can also create your own category here, giving it a name, giving it a color, giving it an icon. But we're going to save it under traffic. And I'm going to click the Save button and it'll be saved to your workspace so you can very quickly go and pull it back out.

I'll give it a sec to save to the workspace. And it's been saved, which means that if we go back on the left bar here to the Home button, like now, it'll show up under the workspace right there. So when we click that, it'll then bring us back into the report exactly where we were and with the exact same settings for the Insights 2.0 tool that we were just looking at.

Recap: Performing traffic calming analysis

So in summary, if we want to take a look at a traffic common complaint here within our community, I'm just going to run through the steps one more time quickly so we can take a look. I'm going to go to the left sidebar. I'm going to click the left sidebar here.

I'm going to click the Insights beta, pick the boundary, pick county or census tract, choose the county. Traffic speed analysis is the report type that we want. Choose our month of data, confirm the two supplemental months, and then click Build Report.

We let it have a second to build the report, and we're right back where we were with the traffic common report. So I hope that this has been an important or this has been a good demonstration for you to understand how to use our platform to investigate traffic calming, to investigate whether and diagnose whether a roadway makes sense, and whether it makes sense for traffic calming, whether the speeding issues pose a threat to vulnerable road users, and whether quite importantly as well, I hope this has been a good way for you to understand the relationship between speeds, land use, and vulnerable road user safety.

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