Traffic surveys during COVID-19

The current lockdown has presented challenges for the collection of traffic survey data. Motion Technical Director David McMurtary explains how through imagination and resourcefulness there may be more options available than at first glance.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has caused distress and pain for many people and businesses. The Motion team is continuing to serve clients as best we can whilst staff are working remotely. One of our biggest challenges in preparing relevant transport material is the ability to provide current and accurate traffic survey data. The significant reduction in traffic flow on all roads means that a typical survey of traffic movements is simply not possible.

This does not, however, mean we cannot acquire useful data from other sources:

  • Many traffic survey companies have opened up their back catalogue of traffic survey data, albeit at a cost to be agreed. Whilst this would require liaison with various survey companies to establish if suitable data is available, it is worth remembering that most survey companies will hold significant amounts of data;
  • TomTom data to inform journey times is a useful resource that some survey companies offer. Whilst this information is limited in its use, it is possible to acquire data from several months ago as it is stored by TomTom on a central database;
  • Many highway authorities carry out their own traffic surveys, whether by way of junction turning counts, or regular automatic traffic counters (ATCs). It is surprising how much data many highway authorities hold which may be released at a cost;
  • Each local authority’s planning portal offers a useful tool for reviewing development proposals, either currently within the planning system or those that have been previously approved or refused. With some time, it may be possible to obtain useful survey information carried out by other consultants. As it is in the public domain, this is typically at no cost (assuming it is appropriately referenced); and
  • Finally, there is no harm in picking up the phone to former colleagues or competitor companies to find out if they can help. There will always be some level of cost involved. However, that is unavoidable with any new traffic survey work.

Whilst many highway authorities are recommending against carrying out most surveys, some suggest early dialogue to discuss the potential for limited survey work to go ahead. For example, a speed survey is more likely to record free-flowing traffic conditions and, therefore, is arguably more robust. We have also found some authorities accepting of overnight parking beat surveys on the basis that everyone is at home. Again, the results are more likely to be robust, although thought needs to be given to whether clients would be happy to accept results that may be higher than the ‘norm’.

The current situation should not be seen as a ‘brick wall’ to ensuring planning submissions contain the required level of traffic survey input. With some research and the right contacts, Motion employees continue to adopt a positive stance in meeting our clients’ needs.

For more information call us on 01483 531300.

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