Managing existing and providing for future traffic flow is a major objective of spatial planning. This exercise is governed not only by political and other normative considerations but predicated on empirical measurements of traffic flows.
Traffic planners at various levels and jurisdictions use a plethora of different collections of traffic data to direct their planning efforts. Consequently the conclusions those planning groups arrive at are oftentimes not consistent, sometimes even contradicting each other.
To address this situation in the Alpine region the Transport Departments of Austria, France and Switzerland launched the Cross Alpine Freight Transport Survey (CAFT) in 1994; Italy joined these efforts as of 2004. (Declaration of Zurich). The CAFT survey is performed periodically every four years; its scope is restricted to freight traffic. Thus although the results of the survey represent a homogeneous collection of statistically reliable evidence it covers only parts of traffic volumes – it does not include private nor tourism induced traffic -, it is expensive and the data ages rapidly.
The ALPCHECK project was predicated on the assumption, that the existing CAFT survey can be improved considerably by combining them with existing data sources from regional and national statistical offices and the addition of new, automatically, continuously and unobtrusively collected data using existing telematic systems.
Among those new sources of relevant statistics ALPCHECK attempted to
- Incorporate data captured at tollbooths on major highways crossing the Alps using both existing technologies
- Using video captured information from section-control installations as well as from security systems to infer traffic streams
- Deploy new interoperable IT technologies to obtain transport related documents (i.e. bill-of-lading) from freight-forwarders and consigners to either replace or supplement existing data collection efforts of national statistical offices.
A set of field trials with new technologies were performed by the consortium,
- the tracking of goods vehicles through important transport nodes (such as ports and/or interports);
- the monitoring and precise localization of vehicles carrying hazardous goods;
- the monitoring of traffic generated by commuters to/from the relevant urban agglomerations within the Alpine territory;
- the deployment of weigh-in-motion systems at gates of ports;
- the impact of tourist flows on local transport networks.
Given a commonly accepted standards to annotate statistical data in general, the multitude of heterogeneous collections of traffic data sets in the countries of the Alpine regions were described using the concept of an ontology of statistical descriptors and attributes achieving comparability of the different surveys.
Repositories, containing metadata descriptions, registries as well as the combined data from different surveys have been developed. The resulting statistical knowledge has been instrumental in reducing the complexity of the statistical data collections, making the data easily accessible to spatial planners, policy makers and the informed public alike.