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Traffic situation now available online

/ 11:12 AM July 15, 2013

If you want to know Cebu’s traffic situation, take out your smart phone and go to www.cebutraffic.org.

You may also want to check the Internet from your computer before hitting the road.

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The site gives Internet users an idea of traffic movement in a specific road based on data provided.

The traffic stream in Cebu’s thoroughfares are either marked red if the traffic speed is less than 20 kilometers per hour, yellow if the flow is between 20 to 30 kilometers per hour or green if the flow of traffic is more than 30 kilometers per hour.

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The system is part of the Bus Rapid Transit project and funded by World Bank (WB) to crowd source information through Global Position System (GPS) technology to help manage traffic.

The WB provides Samsung Galaxy Y cellphones equipped with the Android application Traffic Probe, to more than 300 taxi drivers of nine taxi operators as well as Cebu Traffic Operations (Citom) personnel.

The cellphone when online acts as the GPS transmitter that sends real time data to the server and tracks down their travel speed.

When the taxi driver passes a certain street, it records its speed. The data is then stored in the historical data of the server and is updated once another data of the same street enters the server.

The first cellphone deployment was done in November last year and since then traffic data has been recorded.

“The core concept behind this is to crowd source data. The World Bank’s objective was to provide transport planning tools to low income countries. Ordinarily this kind of technology is only available in high income countries,” said Citom Executive Director Rafael Yap.

Taxi drivers, unlike public utility jeepneys, have longer travel data as they only stop when they pick up or drop off a passenger.

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“The taxi data is more reflective of the actual state of the traffic. Most of the time they are moving around the city, they are always traveling (long distances) and their average log in time is 24 hours because of their shifts. Since they are always travelling, we get a lot of data,” Yap explained.

The data gathered can become a tool to monitor traffic online.

Traffic not bad

Seven months after they first dispatched smartphone cum GPS instruments to taxi drivers, Cebu’s traffic has improved, except for two-lane thorougfares or secondary roads and roads that are designed for commercial use like those in Colon or in Cebu Business Park.

Looking at data from www.cebutraffic.org Cebu’s highways like Cebu’s north and south road, North Reclamation Area, pier area, M.J. Cuenco Avenue are still colored ‘green’.

However the roads like in the downtown area in Colon, Carbon, Cebu Business Park, inner roads in Mabolo among others are colored ‘red’.

“My standard why Cebu’s traffic is still okay is because the roads designed for ‘through’ traffic are not that heavy. The corridors that are designed to move a lot of vehicles quickly is not congested except for certain areas that need traffic intervention like road widening,” he said.

Yap further explained that corridors that are meant for commercial use are not supposed to have vehicles passing through at a rate of 50 kilometers per hour.

“If you don’t want traffic that means you don’t want people to come to your area. Corollarily, I would be very worried if my North Reclamation Area in in red or orange. That would be a true indicator of congestion,” he explained.

Open source

As of now, data available for the public is just the speed data.

However for users like taxi drivers, operators and Citom personnel, it becomes a tool where they can monitor traffic accidents, road repairs, road closures, taxi movement and Citom personnel dispatch.

The cellphone is attached to a car charger and is placed at the dash board of the taxis. As they go on their route, they see signs and alerts on the phone’s GPS map.

“It is very useful, we know where the traffic is and whether the road we are heading is under repair or if there is an accident nearby,” says one cab driver who asked not be named.

In times of emergency, they can also tap one icon in the phone that automatically alerts the police and Citom personnel of possible hold-up or other kinds of emergency.

Citom personnel can easily plot out traffic accidents and crowd source the data giving them a picture which area in the city is accident prone.

Because of this, Yap said we can show the city officials how bad an area is and can lobby for funding to prevent accidents or improve a certain area.

If they believe that the cause of accident is the narrow sidewalk or a limited pedestrian refuge or a lack of railings, we can ask the city and show them the data based on actual records. /Marian Z. Codilla, Senior Reporter

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