March 31, 2022

Traffic Analytics 101: What It Is and Why You Should Care

All across the world, cities are filled with people trying to get somewhere. Each city authority has its own approach to helping people get around, with greater or lesser degrees of success. Indeed, if you speak for long enough to any local about their city, the question of transportation and traffic is likely to come up, because it's very much a part of living in a city. A city can gain a reputation for being choked by traffic jams, challenging to navigate, and filled with chaotic roadways. This is why any self-respecting municipal authority is studying traffic analytics.


You can gain quite a solid understanding of the way a town works just from such analysis: where people are going, when most people are leaving an area, how many are relying on public transportation, and more besides. This kind of information is hugely beneficial for town planning, allowing decisions to be made on traffic control, infrastructure investment, and much more besides.


How is traffic data gathered?

The collation of location data weaves together multiple strands from many sources to give a clear picture of how populated an area is. Anonymized, aggregated data can provide a realistic, live picture of whether an area is overwhelmed with traffic, as well as potentially highlighting alternative routes that are less busy. From a single snapshot, traffic analytics can tell us when acute action is needed. When taken over a more extended period, analytics can highlight the need for additional traffic infrastructure in an area.


Who can access traffic data?

With such a wealth of data available, access to this kind of information is not privileged. Certainly, local authorities can collate and use it for their purposes, but it is also accessible by anyone else who is interested. Location intelligence services can provide a business with information as required, which can range from details on footfall within an area to the rate of traffic movement on a major freeway. This may be of interest to a wide range of businesses; within the transportation industry, most obviously, but also hospitality businesses that can target an outlet where they know it will experience more footfall.


The anonymous nature of this information is an essential point. No individuals can be identified from location intelligence data: the questions that such data pose. The answer is more a matter of "how many," not "whom."


Why is traffic analytics useful for businesses?

To take a simple example, let's imagine that you are a restaurateur looking for new premises to open a new location. You are expecting to receive most patrons between 8 - 10:30 pm. If you have narrowed your search down to a few different sites where you are happy with the view and physical space for your facility and are seeking to make a final decision, then location intelligence can be what makes or breaks a decision for you. If a stretch of road is busy at a specific time of the evening, then motorists may be minded to stop and get something to eat. Comparing traffic analytics between your potential locations can be illuminating.


That's just one example.

For another, you might be planning to open a new office, hoping to staff it with as many as twenty new hires. Your opening hours will be between 8 am and 8 pm - will that be suitable for the commuters you intend to hire? Is there likely to be a problem with lateness because transit data shows that traffic slows to a crawl there between 7:30 and 8:30 am?


No business can thrive without a comprehensive analysis of a wide range of details - and this includes a great deal of information germane to transportation planning.


How traffic analytics benefit "driving" businesses

Trucks, vans and smaller vehicles take to the road every single day, with hundreds of items for delivery, needing to make that many stops in a single stint on the road. If you allow, conservatively, five minutes per stop on a journey where 100 items need to be delivered, then you're saying that 500 minutes - or eight hours and twenty minutes - will be spent driving and dropping off. Now allow for driver fatigue, and you can see how important it is to take the right route if you work as a delivery driver. The DOT cites explicitly fatigue as a factor in 13% of crashes involving Commercial Motor Vehicle drivers.


Planning a route requires careful analysis of where traffic is, and when. If your driver is spending time sitting in traffic jams, this will only add to the amount of time that they are on the road, impacting their safety; that's before you consider the effects of cumulative fatigue on drivers who may work up to 25,000 hours a year. The use of traffic analytics can keep them away from the worst-affected areas and give your drivers the best chance of making all their drops without undue stress.


Perhaps most importantly, traffic analytics allow for changes to be made to a route while it is being followed. If an accident leads to roads being closed or traffic diverted, knowing about it and being able to react may well be essential to complete a day's route or, equally importantly, to make alternative arrangements if it is not possible to complete the journey in a single day. Access to location intelligence is pivotal to making the correct decisions in what can be a minimal time frame.


One of the key benefits of traffic analytics is that it allows you not only to know where things and people are and where they have been, but - if you have the right data - it lets you predict where they will be at a given time of day. This is useful for pretty much any land-based business, as they can make decisions on promotions, menus, and even opening hours.


The wealth of opportunities offered by location data is hard to overstate; suffice it to say that you can never have too much information, whether you're a town planner looking to set the timings on traffic signals or a haulage consultant looking to get as much volume as possible into a day's consignment.


How AirSage Tackles Traffic Analytics

Here at AirSage, providing the transportation industry with the highest quality location intelligence has been our bread and butter for over twenty years. Our Nationwide Trip Matrix (NWTM) application is the perfect tool for those looking to analyze traffic for their city, state, or even nationwide. This web-based, self-serving UI takes the difficulty out of conducting trip matrix queries and provides you with detailed data in only a matter of minutes.


Think this tool sounds like something you or your business needs? Learn more about our NWTM application here on our Solutions page.

Interested in learning more about location Intelligence? Check out our other blog posts.

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