Developing Safer & Smarter Cities with Detailed Transportation Data
San Bernardino County covers an area of over 20,000 square miles, making it the largest county by area in the contiguous United States. It’s home to over 2 million people, ranking as the 5th largest county by population in California and the 12th largest in the US1. Maintaining and improving transportation infrastructure for such a large population and geographic area is no small feat, not to mention the added complexity of complying with government regulations.
San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) is responsible for transportation planning and development across the county’s 25 member jurisdictions. One of SBCTA’s main initiatives is furthering the development of multimodal transportation networks in an effort to increase both accessibility and sustainability in the community2. Offering multiple methods for getting around the county provides more opportunities for residents to leverage non-motorized transportation, such as biking or walking, contributing to sustainability initiatives and encouraging healthy lifestyles. To prevent traffic-related injuries or fatalities, biking and walking paths need to be carefully planned, mapped, and marked. Additionally, making non-motorized and public transportation accessible for all residents is top-of-mind for SBCTA as they continue to develop transportation infrastructure compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
To meet these goals and develop compliant infrastructure keeping up with community demands, SBCTA partnered with consulting firm Fehr & Peers. Together, the organizations set out to build a comprehensive view of the area’s different transportation networks, how they connect to each other, and how people can access them - all with the end goal of a data repository for member jurisdictions to leverage in their transportation planning initiatives.
Specifically, Fehr & Peers and SBCTA sought to expedite progress on major transportation corridor projects, such as taking an inventory of all sidewalks throughout the county, complying with ADA regulations, and improving the county’s mass transit system. They quickly realized that acquiring the level of detail they needed across such a large geographic area would be manual and time consuming.
San Bernardino County contains over 17,000 miles of sidewalks; manually surveying and measuring compliance of a subset of just 750 miles of these sidewalks took Fehr & Peers six months to complete. While the output of the survey was highly accurate, it was not feasible to scale across the entire county under the defined schedule of the project. To fully understand compliance with government regulations and develop safer and smarter transportation networks, member jurisdictions needed more features than what was collected in the sidewalk survey.
Digitizing Pedestrian Right of Way Features with Ecopia AI
As stakeholders from member jurisdictions increasingly asked for detailed data of sidewalk networks and other transportation features, SBCTA and Fehr & Peers knew they needed to partner with a data provider that could enable them to effectively scale without having to manually measure every feature in the county. As a top consulting firm in the transportation industry, Fehr & Peers was familiar with Ecopia AI (Ecopia)’s high quality feature extraction. After evaluating a few providers, SBCTA and Fehr & Peers decided to partner with Ecopia to digitize the expansive and complex transportation networks of San Bernardino County.
Through the partnership with Ecopia, SBCTA and Fehr & Peers have made a comprehensive record of all transportation features in the county available to member jurisdictions. Because Ecopia’s in-house artificial intelligence- (AI) based process ingests high-resolution geospatial imagery and digitizes features into vector maps just as a human GIS technician would, all of the advanced transportation features SBCTA member jurisdictions need, not just sidewalks, are delivered in the output dataset. This includes:
- Left turn lanes
- Middle turn lanes
- Right turn lanes
- Slip turn lanes
- Through lanes
- Marked bike lanes
- Unmarked bike lanes
- Truncated domes
- Planting strips
- Painted medians
- Raised medians
- Medians with trees
- Street trees
- Tree canopy
“Ecopia was able to extract all of the features needed for county-wide transportation planning,” said Sean Reseigh, Senior Transportation Planner at Fehr & Peers. “Their AI was able to digitize even the most specific transportation features, all with the level of detail you’d expect from diligent manual digitization.”
Tree canopy has turned out to be a particularly useful feature for member jurisdictions. In a county like San Bernardino, where temperatures can often become dangerously high, an accurate representation of tree canopy enables GIS departments to measure how much shade pedestrian features receive and how that impacts community safety and pedestrian comfort.
A sample of the advanced transportation features provided to SBCTA and Fehr & Peers by Ecopia.
Working with Ecopia allowed SBCTA and Fehr & Peers to rapidly scale the digitization of the entire county’s transportation network, a process which would have taken years if manual digitization was required. Ecopia’s AI was able to extract all necessary transportation features in just three months, enabling member jurisdictions to expedite using the data for real projects in the community and work towards a safer future.
With the high-definition vector maps provided by Ecopia, SBCTA member jurisdictions have been able to advance several of their high priority initiatives to enhance the safety and quality of life of county residents, such as:
- improving multimodal neighborhood mobility by analyzing existing and planned sidewalk networks and how they facilitate access to schools, parks, retail centers, recreation areas, and community services;
- increasing the safety of pedestrian transportation corridors by identifying gaps in sidewalk coverage and similar active transportation features;
- making public transit more accessible via active transportation features such as sidewalks and bike lanes by locating existing barriers and areas for network expansion;
- providing more opportunities for students to walk or bike to school by identifying and developing safe routes, and sharing them with county families.
“Ecopia’s data helps us foster livable communities and promote social equity. Without having to manually digitize the thousands of features needed for our various projects, our member jurisdictions can instead focus on building a sense of community in San Bernardino County through pedestrian infrastructure.” - Tricia Vivian, GIS Administrator for SBCTA
When SBCTA and Fehr & Peers decided to source data for these projects, they were surprised to find that many of the features they needed were simply not available. Transportation networks are more than just roads, and while there are many providers of street data, only Ecopia provides the advanced transportation features SBCTA member jurisdictions need to meet project goals. No other data provider offers the depth and breadth in coverage of transportation features that Ecopia is able to extract from geospatial imagery using AI.
“We needed accurate and complete data to effectively allocate taxpayer dollars to transportation infrastructure improvements,” Vivian said. “Ecopia was the only data company we found that could deliver the exact features we were looking for at the level of quality we require to justify funding our projects.”
“Fehr & Peers has an extensive internal validation process for partnering with data providers,” continued Reseigh. “Ecopia’s ability to extract the complex and detailed features we needed across such a large area, in such an efficient amount of time, and without sacrificing quality, made it easy for us to justify the investment.”
The creation of a countywide database of transportation features extracted by Ecopia delivers local and regional agencies with more accurate pedestrian infrastructure data to use for active transportation planning, policymaking, and construction of priority projects. Much of this data has been made open to the public through interactive maps that identify safe walking or biking routes, and encourage county residents to choose more sustainable modes of transportation. As San Bernardino County and government regulations continue to evolve, SBCTA and Fehr & Peers are equipped with the data needed to adapt transportation networks accordingly.
“Ecopia is excited to see how SBCTA and Fehr & Peers will continue to improve transportation infrastructure with this data,” said Bill Singleton, VP of Sales at Ecopia. “One of our core principles as a company is to use AI for good, so we are honored to be part of this initiative to improve the daily lives of San Bernardino County residents.”
To learn more about Ecopia’s advanced transportation feature extraction, get in touch.