Arkansas Department of Transportation leaders think a recent investment is already paying off.
They gave everyone access to their real-time traffic cameras through the IDriveArkansas platform over Labor Day Weekend.
The agency released data about the most-watched cameras in its network from its first month of operations, which provided insight about the system and its users.
“The one on I-30 in Alexander, at the county line, that’s a very popular camera,” said Danny Straessle, a spokesman for ARDoT. “Lots and lots of traffic coming into the Little Rock metro area from Saline County.”
The camera at Exit 126 reported more unique visitors than any other in the state, with 1,991 people clicking on it at some point during September. The camera at the I-430/I-630 interchange was the second-most viewed, with 1,841 unique visitors.
But the two most-watched cameras, in terms of the amount of data fed out of ARDoT’s servers, were from Northwest Arkansas. The top-ranked camera is on I-49 in Fayetteville, at the exit most fans take to approach Razorback Stadium.
Straessle said people are very interested in watching cameras during special events, such as Arkansas football games and the Arkansas State Fair. “We had two portable cameras on I-630 in advance of the one Razorback game that was played (in Little Rock) back in September,” he added. “Those got a lot of views, as well.”
While ARDoT’s data show how many people clicked on a camera feed, Straessle mentioned that they do not show how many times each person viewed the same camera. He suspects many drivers check the conditions on their preferred cameras often.
“When winter weather comes calling in a couple of months, you’ll be able to take advantage of all these wonderful views of the highway system covered in snow,” he said. “Or, as we clear them of snow, is really how that’s gonna work out!”
Straessle said he expects usage levels to pick up in central Arkansas as more people learn about the cameras’ availability. He said ARDoT employees introduced many drivers to the system from the agency’s booth at the fair. Plans to add more cameras to the network will likely expand viewership, too.
“We have yet to bring on cameras in Northeast Arkansas, the Jonesboro area,” Straessle said. “That’s our Phase II.
“We’re getting ready to widen I-630 to four lanes in both directions between Big Rock Interchange and University Avenue. When that project’s done, we’ll have cameras about every half-mile all the way down that corridor.”
Along with I-630, the I-40 corridor from Little Rock to Conway is another section ARDoT plans to focus on, in an effort to make morning and evening commutes more bearable. “The corridor management aspect of that will allow us to watch the traffic, and then program the message boards that we have up on some of the overhead sign gantries,” Straessle explained.
ARDoT officials are also learning more about how people use its roads because of the camera system. For instance, it seems drivers don’t like merging from I-430 onto I-30 headed west. Straessle mentioned that drivers often do not use all the space available to them, which increases congestion.
“We now have two lanes on the exit ramp that carries traffic from I-430 South to I-30 West there,” he mentioned. “We’re seeing that drivers are not taking advantage of the full length of those lanes. They’re coming around the curve and they’re almost stopping and trying to get onto 30, instead of going the distance, the mile distance of the ramp, and then merging when the traffic is less congested.”
The camera system is available view on the IDriveArkansas website as well as the mobile app. Straessle said upgrades to the app will also likely persuade more people the check the cameras.
“If you have it on your phone, and you’re about to leave your house, and there’s a traffic jam on your route that you usually take to work or to school,” he stated as an example of a future upgrade, “you’ll get a push notification that says, ‘consider an alternate route. Here’s what’s going on.’”