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 US. 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 community. 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.