Improving local highways with open data

Are you already, or keen to improve local highways using open data? Are you developing apps / solutions, but not sure how to pitch them?

Obligatory picture of a road
Could you help improve the condition of our local highways network?

At Open Data Camp Bristol 2016, there’s an ideal opportunity to put your their skills to use to assist local authorities improve the condition of our local highways network. Here are some things we need help with:

  • What open data tools or methods would you recommend to local authorities and contractors?
  • Identify the key issues for collaboration with open data groups (e.g., Open Streetmap) outside the traditional highways industry

To support greater collaboration between open data groups and the local highway sector, the Future of Highways Delivery conference on 5th July 2016 at Innovation Birmingham, supported by ODI nodes Devon and Birmingham, is the first mass exposure the uk local highways sector has had to the open data scene, and how it can help them prioritise user needs.

As well as representatives from within the highways sector, speakers include:

  • Nic Cary, Head of Digital Transformation and Open Data at the Department for Transport,
  • Jonathan Raper, CEO TransportAPI,
  • Martin Howitt, Founder ODI Devon, and IT Architect, Bristol City Council
  • Bjorn Birgisson, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Aston University.
Roads: a vital part of our national and local infrastructure
Roads: a vital part of our national and local infrastructure

It’s a timely, and relevant opportunity for solutions, ideas and feedback generated during Open Data Camp 2016 to be shared directly with a receptive audience of local highways authorities and their providers. There are spaces available for open data speakers to share their inspirational activities/solutions, and also to take part in the afternoon facilitated workshops where local authorities, private sector providers, data and software suppliers, developers, open data experts, monitoring and sensing equipment suppliers and academia can work together to create practical solutions to specific local highways challenges.

Teresa Jolley, secretariat for the independent not-for-profit Future Highways Forum, and Future Highways Programme Lead for local transport event and publishing company Landor LINKS explains the local highways background, and challenges being addressed:

Teresa Jolley will be pitching a session at Open Data Camp 3
Teresa Jolley will be pitching a session at Open Data Camp 3

“Local highway authorities have traditionally relied primarily on technical data from condition surveys to model and plan maintenance activities. With the Department for Transport encouraging local authorities to prioritise user needs, there is a need to combine data from other sources with the technical data to make the most effective choices for our local highway network.

Our local highways aren’t just roads, they comprise a whole range of assets that help us get around our local environments, and support our local economies, and our wellbeing:

  • roads (carriageways, or often referred to technically as pavement)
  • bridges and structures
  • footways and cycleways
  • highways drainage
  • public rights of way
  • streetlighting
  • signs and street furniture
  • environmental assets
  • CCTV / monitoring / sensing equipment / signals

With greater foresight of funding available between 2015 and 2021 from the Department for Transport, local authorities are investing in creating more accurate and accessible virtual models of the local highways assets, to help them plan and prioritise maintenance activities and the design / alteration of the network.

To do this, local authorities are in need of more easy to use but powerful modelling tools, capable of processing a greater number of, and more diverse datasets. The challenge is to combine and utilise asset inventory (where things are), technical / engineering data (what condition assets are in) and user behaviour data (use and need of local highways), with a wider range of economic, climate, education and other data to understand and predict more accurately where money and effort is best spent for the benefit of local communities.

In time, this highways asset condition and inventory data will I’m sure be available as licensed open data, which will mean it is available for anyone to access, use and share.

What local highways authorities need in the meantime, is to collaborate with others who have a shared interest in improving the local highway network. Local highways teams and their private sector suppliers need to find and connect with those who have the skills, capabilities and fresh insights so together we can identify and utilise datasets to understand user needs, and balance this with engineering, political, social wellbeing, economic and financial considerations. This year’s Future Highways conference on 5th July 2016 has been designed specifically to catalyse this collaboration.”

In the meantime, if you’re interested in more information, take a look at http://futurehighways.net/ – a community site bringing together the work of the Future Highways Forum, Landor LINKS events (the conference) and members of the open data community.

Photo credits

The rolling English road:
Keith Edkins [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

#ODCamp powerhouse by Matthew Buck of Drawnalism at Open Data Camp 2

Teresa Jolley photo, courtesy of Ion Mates

2 thoughts on “Improving local highways with open data

  1. Sorry you missed OdCamp Gregory. A good point, I have a sense that quite a few councils do use tools like https://www.fixmystreet.com/ but there is a need to raise awareness in general terms of the tools available, what they can do, and how people can use them (and by use I mean use by councils, service providers and the public).

    This lack of awareness for those unfamiliar with available data tools was raised in the Open Data for Newbies session run by Simon Redding http://odcamp.org.uk/open-data-for-newbies/

    The outcome of this session was a desire to start collating a top 10 or so of data tools and resources for the key interest areas. Here’s a few for Highways / local roads, but there are more. Can you/others help?

    Elgin (roadworks.org) for live and planned traffic information: http://www.elgin.org.uk/en/

    TransportAPI (mostly public transport related information):
    http://www.transportapi.com/

    Crashmap, road safety data
    http://www.crashmap.co.uk/

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