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final report

Lessons Learned: Monitoring Highway Congestion and Reliability Using Archived Traffic Detector Data

1.0 Introduction

The Mobility Monitoring Program ( started in 2000 with archived freeway detector data from 10 cities. In 2004, the Program has grown to include nearly 30 cities with about 3,000 miles of freeway. In the first four years of the Program, the project team has gained valuable experience in the course of gathering archived data from State and local agencies for national congestion monitoring. The team has interacted with and had numerous informal conversations with transportation staff and managers in State departments of transportation (DOTs), metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and cities.

In this report, we have compiled lessons learned with respect to using archived traffic detector data for monitoring highway performance (e.g., traffic congestion and travel reliability). We believe these lessons learned will be instructive to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as they continue to develop a national congestion monitoring program, as well as for State and local agencies engaged in developing congestion monitoring capabilities.

The top ten lessons learned are summarized here. More extensive discussions of each are included in this report, as well as an overview of current performance monitoring practices.

Analytical Methods

1. Don't wait for a "silver bullet."
2. Travel time modeling and estimation will always be necessary.
3. Visualize the data, pictures are cool!
4. Whatever affects traffic should be part of performance monitoring.

Data Quality

5. Use can improve quality.
6. Support for operations can be built with quality archives.
7. The devil is in the details.

Institutional Issues

8. Find and fix the barriers that hinder performance monitoring.
9. Performance monitoring may be a "killer app" for archived data.
10. Local knowledge contributes to national interpretation.

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