Road Rules Street Design Platform Now Open to All Users

The system, created by transportation technology and consulting firm INRIX, offers a digital map portal to fill in all the parameters and “rules” making up streets, such as signage, signals, streetlights, and more.

by / November 15, 2019
INRIX is making its Road Rules platform available to anyone wanting to explore digital street design. INRIX

Practically anyone can now take an exact and careful inventory of their street with an easy-to-use platform called Road Rules.

The system, created by transportation technology and consulting firm INRIX, offers a digital map portal to fill in all the parameters and “rules” making up streets, such as the number of travel lanes, signage, signals, streetlights, curb designations and more. Now, INRIX is making the platform available to anyone for free for a limited time.

“What this will allow you to do is, get yourself set up with a log-in, pick a small area of the road network that you’d like us to begin digitizing, and start playing around with the platform to help you understand the speed and the process for going through this assignment of digital rules,” said Avery Ash, head of autonomous mobility at INRIX, during a recent webinar.

Road Rules will manage the setup with a login and other information, with a test area in an increasing number of cities. The emergence of Road Rules and other platforms like it allows city officials and others to rethink the street-space as a digital landscape that can accommodate and enable new forms of mobility like sharable scooters and bikes, as well as connected vehicles, all of which depend on the steady flow of data.

And cities need to be open to the idea of these new forms of transportation because all indications suggest they are here to stay, said Trevor Reed, a transportation analyst at INRIX.

“There is incredible potential for this new service, but it really relies on not treating it as a novelty, but integrating it holistically and effectively, in the current transportation landscape,” said Reed.

Transportation officials in Portland, Maine, have been using the platform, largely to explore creating the kinds of digital rules needed by autonomous vehicles, said Lena Geraghty, Portland's director of innovation and performance management. The city would like to experiment with a low-speed AV shuttle in a corridor with little access to public transit. The technology, however, could help the city better understand the curbspace, particularly as there are more demands on the curb from e-retail deliveries, or transportation network companies like Uber. 

“We understand that there’s a lot of other capabilities with it downstream," said Geraghty.

In a recent INRIX study, the company concluded some 40 percent of car trips in the U.S. are less than four miles in length, and 20 percent of trips are less than two miles, making these ideal for bikes or scooters — to say nothing of walking. In fact, several cities like Honolulu, New Orleans and Nashville, Tenn., were identified as especially suited for micromobility based on climate, topography and other criteria. But also, short-distance car trips are common in less dense cities like Phoenix and Dallas.  

Micromobility “is relatively new onto the scene, and its capacity for disruption is just being realized,” said Reed. That realization is leading to expanded discussions related to street and urban design, as well as the urgency for urban environments to embrace micromobility.

"We're already starting to see right-of-way design with micromobility offerings in mind," said Ash, pointing out the miles of new bike lanes appearing in cities across the country, as well as traffic calming devices or new pick-up and drop-off zones. "And I expect that trend to accelerate as the planning process — and support ecosystem — catch up to the scaling of units."

Getting street-design  right or wrong today will have lasting effects moving forward, planning experts say.  

“The streets that we design today are going to express our values for the next century,” said Anna Muessig, an urban planning associate at Gehl, a San Francisco urban design firm, speaking last month during a Meeting of the Minds webinar titled The Future of Street Design. “So we better get it right.

“We think that you can use new mobility technology to change mindsets, meet city goals, and foster a culture of civility, which is really missing, in this moment,” she added.

Initially, INRIX imagined the Road Rules platform would support rollout of automated vehicles. Developers then quickly saw a data gap that extended beyond the needs of AVs, and realized the tool could be used by bike and scooter operators, TNCs or drivers with smart phones who are looking for parking. INRIX developed a second version of Road Rules that included information related to curbs, sidewalks and other parts of the streetscape, bringing forward the kind of data essential for better street design to better support devices like shared bikes or scooters.

INRIX officials like to point out that the bikes and scooters themselves are not new technology, but the electrification of the devices and the deployment in connected, share-use models that has fueled their rapid growth in the last few years is new and is here to stay.

“Improved infrastructure will only promote their further adoption,” said Ash. 

Skip Descant Staff Writer

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.

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