02 Dec 2019

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Street Justice: What a Traffic Study Camera Looks Like

Gordon Chaffin is a freelance journalist who focuses on infrastructure and traffic news and insights for Street Justice. You can support independent journalism by subscribing to Gordon’s newsletter. He’s offering a 20% discount to THIH readers.  –Maria Helena Carey

The video monitor and control unit for a traffic study camera system. (Gordon Chaffin / StreetJustice.news)

What a Traffic Study Camera Looks Like

On Friday, November 15th, I was lucky enough to run into a contractor for DDOT putting up several cameras for traffic studies. They were placing one at the intersection of Kenyon and Warder Streets NW, and also installed one at Northeastern end of Harvard St NW’s 500 Block. Both locations are in the Park View neighborhood. Kenyon/Warder may be related to the North/South section of DC’s Crosstown Cycletrack, about which DDOT is currently negotiating with stakeholders about resident parking.

The Harvard block is dangerous for many reasons. Traffic comes one-way eastbound from the intersection with Georgia Avenue and races down a steep incline toward 5th Street NW next to the McMillan Reservoir. The block has housing on both sides, and parking lanes, but all of the road markings are worn down currently and street sweeping keeps much of the parking width free. The sidewalks on either side are narrow, made more so by the stoops of residential buildings and bisected by utility poles.

Anyway, about the traffic study camera. The camera itself sits atop a telescoping pole, with a height that appeared to max out at about 25 feet. The stationary unit from which it rises has a chest-height Pelican Box with a live video monitor, buttons to adjust settings, and slots for two memory cards. Below this box, which is weatherproof and lockable, is a solid pole going down to a heavy base. Think about it like a child’s basketball hoop with sand on the base to hold the unit upright. The unit has arms that grapple and lock onto a traffic signpost. The video feed down to the monitor/recorder is wired, ensuring high quality.

The manufacturer’s website and units I observed showed options for remote control via Bluetooth and 4G LTE data connection. It did not appear these camera units were capable of speed detection. Though, the manufacturer’s website markets lots of automated data analysis, including counts done by a computer.

In the future, I would like to do a story on all the data-collection methods for traffic studies. These cameras are one, modern method to collect counts of cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. There are other ways to collect traffic data. Human counters are used and rudimentary mechanical counters have probably been used for a long time.

ANC in Ward 7 Forms Transportation Group

On Thursday, November 12th, I spoke to ANC 7E (Benning Ridge/Capitol View) during that body’s transportation-themed meeting. I said the most successful ANCs on transportation matters have standing committees of interested residents, usually coordinated by one Commissioner. Those ANCs hash out specifics of resolutions so that, once a motion gets to the full ANC meeting, there has already been a negotiation. ANC 7E did set up a transportation working group after this meeting. The working group met Tuesday 11/19 and includes 7E Chair Delia Houseal coordinating. Resident Eshalla Merriam is coordinating, also. At the first meeting, they “took time to develop norms and a mission statement,” said Merriam. The Working Group meets again Tuesday, December 3rd. [Full Story]

DDOT Planning K St Near NW Bike/Ped Improvements

The Transportation Advisory Committee for ANC 6E (Shaw/Mount Vernon Square) met on Tuesday, November 26, right before Thanksgiving. DDOT staff presented study results to a proposed road diet and safety improvement project from 1st Street NE west to 7th Street NW. The agency hopes to install protected bike lanes and higher-quality pedestrian crossings Summer/Fall 2020. [Full Story]


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