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More roads – less congestion?

Building a higher number of roads and road junctions has long been considered as a panacea for traffic congestion problems. Although undoubtedly over many decades it helped to make the transportation system more efficient in recent years the number of city managers and the European Commission itself underscored more important role of intelligent transport systems and the vehicles themselves for a more efficient traffic management. Thereby, the European Commission initiated the number of policies and research projects to raise awareness of the issue and develop new ways to tackle the congestion including in projects within the frameworks of EU Horizon 2020.

Construction of the road infrastructure is rather expensive process for the government and requires elaborate planning. For instance, in 2017 alone the UK government plans to allot USD 1.5bn on building and maintaining roads. Recent research of Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) of 86 road schemes in the UK completed between 2002 and 2012 has revealed that in most of the observed roads the construction failed to relieve traffic in the long term. This situation may be at least partially explained by the phenomenon “induced demand” when the increased capacities attract more people to drive cars. The reverse effect (“reduced demand”) was prominently confirmed in New York when the parts of Embarcadero Freeway and West Side Highway were closed and the traffic, instead of being redirected to neighboring streets, disappeared almost entirely. Therefore, smart planning may be vitally important for decreasing congestion levels and especially concerning large infrastructure projects. As the urban areas are becoming more and more intertwined the opportunity for such road infrastructure projects (new highways, junctions) becomes increasing limited. That is why, advanced methods in traffic monitoring and optimization should offer additional cost-efficient tools to tackle traffic congestion.

In this perspective the VaVeL project is to be considered as a vivid example of the progress in this direction when modern advancements in Big Data and Visual analytics are directed for improvement of urban traffic management. The VaVeL delivers not only significant scientific achievements but also a real positive change to the cities of Warsaw and Dublin. The City of Dublin will utilize its vast CCTV network for automatic detection of highly congested streets and anomalies on the road thanks to the Video Analytics solution currently developed by the VaVeL. In its turn Warsaw will incorporate the real-time intelligent route planner for public transportation enriched with crowdsourcing capabilities which take into consideration the feedback and preferences of the citizens.