Back in 2015, the city of San José, California decided to change its city’s vision when it came to traffic. The city’s local government joined the growing list of US cities implementing the Vision Zero initiative.

Vision Zero Initiative

The city of San José has a population of one million people and is projected to grow by around 50% by 2040. In 2015, when the city’s local government started the Vision Zero initiative, the city has 60 traffic related fatalities. This was the highest annual total being experienced in the city in more than 20 years.

By implementing the Vision Zero initiative, the local government aimed to reduce traffic fatalities. The local government of San José started this initiative as they saw street safety as a priority to improve the safety in the city. Furthermore, to make this initiative possible the city created a Data Analytics Team. In fact, this team works closely with the Department of Transportation. This ensures that important data is shared between both entities. Having both identities working together is an integral part of the Vision Zero work plan.

Data Analysis

With the use of data analysis and GIS analysis, the Department of Transportation (DOT) was able to identify 14 priority safety corridors. Most importantly, these were places where a significant share of fatal and major injury collisions occur. For this reason, they became the primary focus of the initial engineering and enforcement efforts.

As a result, with all the collected data the Data Analytics Team were able to present Vision Zero to stakeholders. This involved people from DOT and the Police Department with important data back in January 2016. The data presented to the stakeholders included an analysis of five years of collision data.

By analyzing this data, the team was able to find some surprising facts. They found that pedestrian related collisions comprised over two-thirds (67%) of the fatal collisions on those roadways. Furthermore, they found out that 51% of the pedestrian fatality reports produced indicated that pedestrians may have been crossing the roadway illegally.

Using Collected Data

Translating the insight collected with the data and putting it into action is the most difficult challenge. The Data Analytics Team presented several of its key findings to the city’s Police Department’s Traffic Enforcement Unit (TEU) during roll call.

With this approach, they are able to establish a direct flow of information. As the information comes from the front line offices directly to the city´s analysts. Furthermore, the deployment times for the officers are also changing to align more closely to peak times of traffic collisions.

The Vision Zero initiative of the city of San José shows how cities can make use of data to improve traffic. Moreover, this is a great example of how the local government can make the city’s smarter by taking the right measures.