City of Vancouver turns to tech to help ease traffic congestion
Published Saturday, November 9, 2019 6:50PM PST
VANCOUVER – The City of Vancouver is hoping technology can help ease congestion and is enlisting the help of strategists, designers, technologists and transportation professionals to participate in a three-day collaborative workshop.
"Hackathon decode congestion" asked participants to work in teams to develop a data-based solution that will improve the city’s transportation network.
A 2017 list of Canada's 20 worst bottlenecks included several Metro Vancouver intersections. Highest on the list commissioned by the Canadian Automobile Association was Granville Street at Southwest Marine Drive.
“Regardless of where we end up on a list like that, its always great to get that feedback and know where our difficulties lie and find what we can do to solve those,” said Sherwood Plant, senior traffic engineer for the City of Vancouver.
Plant says the city is hoping to maximize the use of its roadways, finding ways to use road space reliably, efficiently and safely.
"We are a built-out city," Plant said. "It's very challenging to add additional capacity in our streets."
So, the Hackathon aims to put that challenge to bright young minds with a knack for tech.
Yin Bai, one of the participants in the event, is pitching a not-for-profit ride sharing app.
“We give incentives to car owners to start carpooling with other car owners to reduce the overall number of cars on Vancouver streets,” said Bai.
Another idea being pitched at the hackathon is an interactive map that shows people where in the city construction is occurring, as well as previous collision data and high traffic counts.
"We have a filter so we can select, 'Oh, here is where the collisions are at or this is where the construction is happening,' and they can click on whatever they want to see,” said Jasper Gao, another participant.
The top three ideas at the Hackathon get cash prizes. First place gets $5,000, second place gets $2,000 and third place walks away with $500.
Last year’s Hackathon, which focused on safety, resulted in one of the teams signing a contract with the city to develop an app for safe walking routes to school.
In some parts of the U.S., technology is already at the forefront of traffic solutions. Atlanta implemented its first "smart corridor" in 2017. Using adaptive traffic signal technology connected to video cameras, bike and pedestrian sensors, traffic lights change to adapt to traffic patterns in real time.
The concept aims to reduce travel times on the corridor by 25 per cent.
“It’s certainly something that is interesting that we have heard a lot about and that we will explore in the future as we move forward with our transportation technologies,” said Plant.