In 2016, Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) Associate Transportation Researcher Phil Lasley came to James Moughon, TTI software applications developer, looking for a way to make the congestion-mitigation strategy website, developed for TTI’s Transportation Policy Research Center, more user friendly. At the time, the website listed more than 100 congestion-mitigation strategies using static graphics, but Lasley wanted to make it more interactive.
“One thing we realized is that while that first site was great for getting out raw information, it didn’t do a very good job of helping users participate in the process — truly get at the interactive nature of our research. So, we developed the second site to be a tool that allows users to immerse themselves in the strategy-selection process,” Lasley explains.
The website provides users with a package of strategies to reduce congestion while providing context for those choices that facilitates meaningful discussions of multiple nontraditional approaches.
“Data visualization is important because, when done correctly, it can take complex concepts and make them easier to understand,” says Moughon. “If it’s something that we’ve put together for stakeholders or governing agencies, they are then able to advocate for research we’re conducting because they better understand it.”
The tool does two different things: It helps narrow down the long list of strategies to a more manageable size while making them more relevant to the area or problem to be solved. Then the tool shows how each strategy is related or interconnected with the others.
Lasley says, “This is important because some strategies work best (or only work at all) when combined with another. The tool first allows users to input the context of the area or corridor, which narrows down the list of strategies to only those that would make sense in that area. Then users can interact with those strategies and see how other strategies might work well with or enhance one another.”
The tool also allows users to filter by cost, time to implement, impact, strategy type (e.g., congestion, technology, freight or policy), common hurdles to implementation, and the entity is responsible for implementing the selected strategy or strategies.
“Transportation funding shortages constitute a reality for cities just as they do for states,” says Ginger Goodin, director of TTI’s Transportation Policy Research Group. “And no two cities are exactly alike, so it’s very important that they have tools like this one to help them address traffic congestion in a way that’s both cost efficient and customized to their unique local needs.”