North Carolina DoT’s Transportation Analytics Center enlists SAS to pave a way forward

Analytics-driven cost and revenue forecasts yield additional $267 million for new construction projects

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is deploying the latest in analytics software from SAS to stay ahead of rapid growth, evolving infrastructure demands and disruptive developments like IoT and autonomous vehicles. NCDOT is extending its use of the SAS Platform to include SAS® Viya™, which adds capabilities for artificial intelligence, open access to all data types, open language processing, and cloud deployments, to power its pioneering Transportation Analytics Center.

The Transportation Analytics Center integrates data from multiple agencies to improve customer service and reduce costs across NCDOT. It builds on the previous success of a budget and revenue forecasting project.

“We saw the power and potential of analytics through our early projects with SAS,” said Frank Winn, acting NCDOT Chief Information Officer. “The Transportation Analytics Center will transform operations by allowing us to leverage existing data in ways we never have before, and by leading us to manage and govern new data that will increase standardization and utilization.”

When a single percentage point in error can equal millions of dollars, NCDOT budget forecasts must be as accurate as possible. NCDOT’s budget comes from a variety of sources, including federal funding, DMV registrations and highway taxes. However, more than 40 percent of NCDOT revenue comes from fuel taxes.

Accurately forecasting consumer and commercial fuel consumption is critical, as a mere 1 percent variation in fuel consumption equates to between $15 million and $20 million. By using historical data, SAS developed a fuel consumption forecast that is accurate within 1 percent. On the expenditure side, NCDOT can now better forecast construction costs, down to the individual project level.

By legislative mandate, NCDOT must keep a certain cash amount in a highway fund at all times, which sets parameters for expenditures and revenues. NCDOT turned to SAS Analytics to forecast the costs of more than 1,300 projects and, in the process, realized they could plan for $267 million over two years in new road projects while still meeting the cash amount requirements.

Current projects eye more revenue, more efficient freight logistics

Analytics and dashboards will help the NC Turnpike Authority better understand toll road customers, and increase usage and revenue by identifying drivers most likely to travel toll roads and those most likely to pay by transponder versus bill-by-mail.

SAS and NCDOT analyzed data on transported goods, and truck and Amtrak movement, to improve time-to-transit and other performance indicators. This analysis will help NCDOT improve freight capacity to grow revenue, improve long-term planning, and analyze and expedite environmental studies.

“Citizens want their tax money used efficiently to create high-quality roads and bridges that get them safely to their destinations,” said Paula Henderson, Vice President of SAS’ US Government Practice. “By integrating analytics throughout NCDOT operations, North Carolina is positioning itself to meet those demands, and as a leader in transportation and infrastructure innovation.”

Opportunities to blaze new trails in state transportation

The various data sources integrated by the NCDOT Transportation Analytics Center open up many innovative possibilities for future projects, but they require a strong analytics platform to make them a reality. SAS Viya extends the capabilities of the SAS Platform in interactive discovery and reporting, statistics, data mining, machine learning, streaming data analytics, forecasting, optimization and econometrics.

With powerful analytics, a state transportation department can improve operations in a number of areas, including:

  • Reducing traffic accident fatalities by analyzing crash data and contributing factors, and providing counter measures. The data can also be put in dashboards to report traffic accident performance measures to the Federal Highway Administration.
  • Collecting, analyzing and reporting on data on highways, freight movement and bridge and roadway conditions, as mandated by the federal transportation funding bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).
  • Providing real-time analysis of traffic data to make more informed decisions about mobility, rerouting and traffic congestion in cases of rush-hour traffic, road construction, weather and other traffic incidents.
  • Improving response time in clearing traffic congestions and bottlenecks on a state’s roadway network. 
  • Improving roadway project visibility by being able to pull up a section of road on a map and see data regarding the current and future projects planned for that area.
  • Tapping into the IoT by collecting data transmitted from signal cabinets, instead of manual collection, to better manage signal timing on roadways.
  • Enabling a platform for transportation departments to get more involved in connected and autonomous vehicles, including collecting safety messages from vehicles.

Check out a new white paper to learn more about how analytics makes travel faster and safer.

Today's announcement was made at the Analytics Experience conference in Washington, DC, a business technology conference presented by SAS that brings together more than 10,000 attendees on-site and online to share ideas on critical business issues.

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