For the past several months Associate Professor of Urban Planning Anne Dunning and doctoral student Fred Combs have been reviewing state traffic sampling and estimation procedures for the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Traffic data are vital for such things as congestion management, snow plowing, and road maintenance, as well as highway design, truck weight enforcement, project programming, and long-range planning.
The way motor-fuel taxes and motor-carrier property taxes are allocated is also based upon traffic volumes.
“The objective of the research,” said Dunning, “is to evaluate KDOT’s traffic sampling plan and estimation procedures in light of the state’s needs and resources.”
Her study will review KDOT’s current procedures for estimating traffic volume as well as reviewing best practices in literature, and those used by peer states. This will help with an evaluation of KDOT’s existing sampling program.
She will also investigate potential for working with local jurisdictions in Kansas that collect similar data to see if partnering with them could help eliminate redundancies.
Dunning, Combs, with the help of an Urban Planning student will put their theory into practice by conducting a pilot test on Franklin County this spring. They will take traffic counters to the streets to gather real data that will test the results of their estimation procedures.
The recommendations of the study could have many positive outcomes. Cost can be reduced, and efficiency increased by eliminating redundant data collection. And, close consideration of sampling and estimation procedures may indicate how the state can best allocate scarce staff and equipment while making the estimates as accurate as possible.
"With staff reductions in state governments since the recession,” said Dunning, “departments of transportation across the country are looking to work smarter. If modern statistical theory and computing power can improve traffic estimation where human resources to collect data have disappeared, policymakers can better distribute tax revenue according to state regulations.
“The roads of Kansas need to lie down and be counted,” she said.