Leveraging Existing Traffic Signal Assets to Obtain Quality Traffic Counts

State DOTs, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and counties manage extensive traffic count programs and continue to have a need for adequate coverage of traffic count data, including bicycle and pedestrian counts. These counts support decision-making with the aim of enhancing safety and mobility for the traveling public. Meanwhile, there are thousands of existing traffic detection devices throughout the nation that serve traffic management operations. However, many other customers of traffic count data such as traffic engineers, traffic monitoring staff, transportation and active transportation planners, data scientists, and other non-transportation stakeholders need traffic counts to combine data sets in new ways to support various business processes. As sensor detection technologies mature in assisting traffic operations and intelligent transportation system (ITS) programs, traffic count program providers recognize the potential benefits of using existing infrastructure and data to supplement their counts. However, issues arise concerning the diverse efforts underway that are not summarized, publicized, or leveraged. Furthermore, there are concerns associated with using the data from traffic signals gathered for traditional traffic volume measurement that are not fully understood. Typical issues often encountered with capturing and harnessing data from traffic signal equipment include (a) inconsistency in data quality that varies across vendors and technologies; (b) inconsistency in availability of sensors at all intersections; and (c) variable configuration of sensor equipment causing possible gaps in data availability and quality even though the equipment itself may be capable of counting vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians. This research will determine if existing traffic equipment can be used to collect, store, and disseminate data for purposes other than traffic operations and how suitable are traffic count data from already installed and existing traffic devices. The research will evaluate a minimum of five types of currently installed traffic devices and provide an assessment of traffic count data suitability for non-operational traffic data usage evaluation. Further, the research should address the following questions: (1) Is it possible to obtain accurate (±10%) traffic count data from existing traffic signal assets? If yes, the method of obtaining traffic counts should be documented. If not, the reason why traffic count data cannot be obtained should be documented. (2) What is the quality and completeness of traffic count data obtained from existing traffic signal assets? (3) What is the appropriate use of traffic count data obtained from existing traffic signal assets? (4) Is the traffic signal data limited to operation usage only, why or why not? (5) What methods of data handling, storage, and quality assurance and quality checking (QA/QC) need to be implemented to obtain traffic counts from existing traffic signal assets? (6) What challenges exist in obtaining traffic count data from existing traffic signal devices? (7) What agencies are currently collecting traffic count data from existing traffic signal devices? (8) What are the incremental costs for these efforts? The objectives of this research are to (1) gather the active support and participation of agencies across the nation that include city, county, state, federal, and private entity partners; (2) identify and summarize existing and in-development methods for obtaining traffic counts from existing traffic signal assets including, but not limited to, signalized intersections, cross walk signals, video, loops, magnetometers, radar, and traffic detection cameras; (3) identify good practices that can be adopted by the traffic monitoring community; (4) identify challenges associated with leveraging the data from these devices; (5) summarize improvements or solutions to these challenges including, but not limited to, standards, pooled fund studies, or additional research needs; and (5) prepare a final report documenting the results of the research in a form to be used as a best practice guide for obtaining traffic counts from existing traffic devices and disseminate the results through webinars, training, and peer exchanges.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $450000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 03-144

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Harrigan, Edward

  • Start Date: 20210525
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01772461
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 03-144
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: May 24 2021 3:13PM