Web site fosters happy driving in Alberta

If you have access to the Internet and live in Alberta, gettingstuck in traffic may soon be a thing of the past thanks to a newWeb site.

The “Drive West” Web site was launched early December 2005, andprovides travellers with real-time information on road conditions,highway closures, construction zones, delays and incidents.

The information currently covers Trans Canada Highway 1 and theQueen Elizabeth II Highway between Edmonton and Calgary.

Trent Bancarz, spokesperson for Alberta Infrastructure andTransportation with the Government of Alberta, said it’s somethingthey’re test-driving.

quot;We’re seeing how the technology works and if it’s somethingthat’s going to suit our needs, and of course the public needs aswell,” said Bancarz.

Drive West is a pilot project that will run until March 31, 2006with a total investment of $447,000 from each partner involved,including various cash and in-kind contributions.

The project is a partnership between the government of Canada,Alberta, British Columbia, the Alberta Motor Association (AMA), andIBI Group Inc.

Bruno Peters, associate director for the Edmonton branch of IBIGroup, said they identified the opportunity and brought thepartners together.

“We (IBI) are the project managers and also the developers and theapplication service providers. So we’re hosting, building,operating and maintaining the Web site,” said Peters.

Bancarz said they ran a similar test project last year, and areusing a slightly different technology for the Drive West site.”We’re going to evaluate how the technology responds, how easy itis to update, technical things like does it crash all the time, anddoes it work well,” he said. “A big part of it too is going to bepublic reaction, because that’s who the Web site is for.”

Visitors to the site are able to provide feedback via an onlinesurvey, including the routes for which they’d most like to receivetravel information.

Peters said the technology used for the site is an integration ofmultiple systems originally stemming from some of the originaltraffic management systems.

quot;These systems are used by major departments of transportationor cities to monitor conditions and events along the road network,”said Peters. “Whether that’s manually through human interventionusing cameras, or using automated devices such as road censors forweather or traffic movement, you’re monitoring events happening onthe roadways.”

He said there were several challenges to implementing Drive West.

“Technologically, some of the tricks are bringing in data sourcesfrom multiple agencies, which is one of the unique things about theDrive West site.”

Another technical challenge was receiving and obtaining consistentdata on road networks for different agencies, as well as creating auser interface for the operators, said Peters.

Bancarz said it’s an improvement on information they previously hadavailable, which was hours or more old. With the current systemthere is only about a 20 to 25 minute lag, he said.”These sites aregoing to be common in a very short time.”

He expressed the hope that other jurisdictions – not just Alberta –adopt the common technology. “We could link all our sites together,and travellers no matter where they were could access theinformation.”

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