Extreme weather conditions such as floods, landslides, sinking water tables, droughts, ice storms and snow drifts takes a toll on the landscape. Those weather-driven changes to the landscape directly impact rail beds, roadways and bridges, rendering them unsafe to use until conditions change and repairs are made.
For instance, heavy rains trigger landslides that block roadways and railways, stopping traffic until the debris is removed and the damage repaired.
Analytics can highlight where and when disasters might strike. Predicting where damage may occur and taking precautions prevents damage to people and property.
Factors that signal a landslide or flood hazard include
- Transportation corridors in proximity to sloped terrain or bodies of water
- Vegetation, or lack thereof, on slopes and banks
- Moisture levels in the soil
- Past, current and projected weather conditions
- Condition of the road or railway itself
- Traffic metrics for the corridor including overall volume of traffic, patterns of traffic flow, and criticality of the corridor in connecting valuable locations
Imagine a situational intelligence approach to transportation safety. An analytics application could correlate, analyze and visualize the factors listed above. That analysis and visualization would enable government transportation officials and railroad operations and planning professionals to see the probability of landslide on a slope adjacent to a right of way. Knowing the probability of a landslide and the magnitude of its impact informs decisions about operations, crisis response and mitigation.
A similar situational intelligence approach applies to floods damaging transportation corridors that are adjacent to bodies of water. Some of the measurements and algorithms would be different, but the much of the output and outcomes from such a system would resemble that from landslides.
When public transportation departments and private transportation companies know that a corridor is at risk, they can take action to avert disasters. Traffic and shipments can be redirected to minimize delays and remain safe. Customers can be notified if their shipments will be delayed and new arrival times. Repair crews can be positioned for faster response to the most critical areas.
Analytics for transportation and weather is especially important in the United States given the current condition of transportation infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers give these systems low marks:
Infrastructure that is in barely passable condition is less resilient to the impact of extreme weather. If we can’t change the weather and don’t have the money to improve the infrastructure, at least we can be smart about how we plan and respond.