Engineering firm gathering data for traffic report

The data is in on counts, routes and peak times for traffic in and around Marietta College.

This fall Marietta College and city council and administration partnered for a traffic study concerning the traffic of Butler Street, and surrounding blocks to determine potential outcomes of closing Butler Street to through-traffic.

Then between Nov. 5 and 16, the engineering firm selected to produce the study set up three types of data collection not only on Butler, but also Third, Putnam, Greene, and Seventh streets surrounding the college and even placed one device northeast of the college on Greene Street past Qdoba.

“They’ve completed the data collection and will be working on the study with a check in, with a public meeting planned for Dec. 12 at 7 p.m.,” explained City Engineer Joe Tucker. “Some of the analyzed data will be ready at that point from when they had cameras up and were tracking origin and destination through Bluetooth cellphone trackers.”

Tucker said the final presentation by TEC Engineering will take place at the close of January, with options for council to select between including road upgrades needed over the next 20 years with or without a Butler closure or direction change.

Ed Williams, vice president of TEC, explained that the data collection weeks were accomplished with backstops to confirm data models.

“We started with mechanical counts which just count the traffic in the direction they are traveling,” he began. “In the traffic world, Tuesday through Thursday is seen as average days because Monday’s you’re getting your week started and can be running behind. The same goes for Fridays but you could be leaving your office early for the weekend.”

Then, he explained, those mechanical counts are used to determine the peak hours of traffic in the morning, around lunch, the afternoon and during a major event.

“We timed out evening event counts to coincide with one of the college’s basketball games,” said Williams. “Then a computer processes that video and counts the traffic.”

Meanwhile, another set of equipment went up to study the same surrounding blocks.

“Our origin study checks our model, and gives us a percentage snapshot of the traffic traveling through that area,” described Williams. “Your cell phone has a MAC address like a computer’s IP address, it’s completely anonymous, our sensors picked up the Bluetooth device traveling through the target area and tracked where you came in and where you left the area.”

The third piece of data, to be analyzed next week, is the movement counts at intersections.

“That’s showing simply where people were turning and what’s most used at the intersection,” explained Williams.

By the Dec. 12 public meeting, in room 10 of the Armory, 241 Front St., those preliminary numbers will be available and public comments on that initial data will be taken.

“But what we’ve found in similar projects is not everyone that has an opinion wants to voice that in public or can make it to a public meeting,” noted Williams. “So we’re also hosting a website for the study that we’ll update as we go through the project. And on that site, we also have an online survey for the public to provide input.”

He said in the final report due to the college and city in January, the aggregated data will also include the average responses of that survey.