Trafficturk app to get a workout at the Farm Progress Show
The throngs of visitors to the popular annual Farm Progress Show in Decatur typically bring equally sizeable traffic jams. But help is on the way this year in the form of a traffic study being conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on behalf of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). Researchers will deploy a new system, TrafficTurk, to study traffic patterns around the show with the goal of giving organizers information that will lead to better traffic management strategies in the years to come.
This year’s Farm Progress Show—the nation's largest outdoor agricultural trade show—will be presented Aug. 27-29. For the first two mornings of the event, more than 30 data collectors will be stationed around the area at critical points to monitor traffic congestion using a new smart phone application developed by Dan Work, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Coordinated Science Laboratory at Illinois.
Big events like the Farm Progress Show are precisely what Work designed the TrafficTurk system for, Work said.
“We designed TrafficTurk as a quick and cheap way to collect traffic during ‘extreme congestion events’,” Work explained. “Special events like the Farm Progress Show can create temporary but significant traffic congestion that can cause long delays to travelers. Because the traffic congestion occurs only during the event, measuring the traffic with expensive but permanent sensors is usually cost prohibitive.”
In the past year, Work has successfully deployed the system to monitor traffic in New York City after Hurricane Sandy, as well as during the 2012 Illinois Homecoming football game. News of those deployments caught the eye of Macon County Engineer Bruce Bird.
“I found it interesting because they were measuring a large amount of traffic at a large number of intersections going to a single point location,” Bird said. “I thought this would be perfect for the Farm Progress Show.”
Show organizers, IDOT and the Illinois State Police agreed. Since 2005, when the Farm Progress Show found a permanent home on a designated site near Richland Community College in Decatur, managing the traffic pouring into town from all directions has proved challenging, Bird said. The worst jam has been along Interstate 72, he said, where traffic can be backed up for four or five miles on the mornings of the show.
The hope is that the TrafficTurk study will offer a critical regional birds-eye-view of the traffic patterns, enabling the county to evaluate the efficiency of the current routes and assess the impact of traffic on alternate routes, leading to a strategy for smoother traffic management in the future.
“Data collected by TrafficTurk will allow us to see in great detail the causes of the congestion at the Farm Progress Show,” Work said, “and we'll also be working with the Illinois Department of Transportation to see if TrafficTurk could help improve traffic at other special events in Illinois.”
The traffic counters—identifiable by their bright yellow shirts—will be stationed at 31 locations throughout the area using smart phones to count cars on the freeway and along the main routes into the show.
“If anybody sees them out there, it’s just a traffic study trying to make things safer for the traveling public coming to the Farm Progress Show,” Bird said.
This study is being funded by IDOT through the Illinois Center for Transportation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For more information on TrafficTurk, visit http://trafficturk.com.