DfT uses 'data dashboard' to monitor long-term travel impacts

13/05/2020
Dominic Browne

The Department for Transport (DfT) is using a 'dashboard' of local authority transport data to oversee the relaxation of the lockdown as well as understand potentially longer-term impacts on travel habits.

The central analysis, which integrates a large and diverse amount of local data, will help analysts monitor traffic increases, regional variations, and understand the types of vehicles most frequently on the road.

This follows a DfT-led effort to collect, collate and integrate transport data from local authorities across England in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The DfT and Arup, as promoters and administrators of the Transport Technology Forum, worked with ITS (UK) to appeal for data at the beginning of lockdown so they could accurately track transport use.

A mainstay of the daily Downing Street briefings, transport data has been used as a proxy for how well people have observed social distancing guidelines and will continue to be monitored to demonstrate how the UK gets back to work.

ITS UK said in a statement: 'As restrictions are eased, the data gathered will be invaluable in understanding how public behaviour is changing, whether travel patterns are returning to normal, or what different patterns are being experienced. This information will be vital for traffic management and future planning.'

Local authorities across the country have provided urban traffic control and automated traffic counter statistics, video analytics and Wi-Fi data from the roadside, as well as information on car park usage.

TTF chair Steve Gooding said: 'The data local authorities provided has been a vital element in reassuring national government about compliance with the lockdown. I am very impressed by and grateful for how seriously local authorities have taken this call to action and how rapidly they have risen to the challenge.

'Like the dashboard in your car, the key has been for DfT first to harvest data from a variety of sources, and then to combine and present it clearly to enable those taking the decisions to see at a glance what’s happening, and where they might need to act. This dashboard of data will be a key input to decision-making as restrictions are lifted.'

The data from local authorities is augmenting the data from Highways England and the department's own automated traffic counters to provide a better picture of current road travel behaviour.

This is combined with data on rail, air, public transport, freight and maritime transport to summarise how, where and when people and goods are moving around the country.

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