Preparing for tomorrow
In my last blog we touched on three key problems faced when looking to deliver projects in a rapidly changing environment.
We’re going to focus on the first of these topics today: Gaining the information you need to make an informed decision.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing
The pace with which the world has changed in just 4 months is astounding. Even the greatest forecasters could not have predicted the scale of change in such a short period of time. If we had known how specific events unfolded, things would be different. But as Dolly Parton said, “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”
So, if we can’t go back in time, how can you prepare for works during such peculiar circumstances?
Step one, confirm what you need to prove
There are many parties that will be impacted by a project. The travelling public, local residents, business, public transport providers, other contractors, and asset owners. It’s often our responsibility to confidently forecast the impact our project will have around the worksite.
This is where gaining a clear understanding of conditions prior to beginning work comes into play.
Common requirements in the current environment include:
Requesting extended hours to take advantage of the reduced traffic volumes, increasing the efficiency of delivery and reducing future impacts on motorists.
Set a baseline of normal traffic conditions that can be used as the yardstick to monitor the net impact of works. If current, COVID-19 traffic levels were used it would be impossible to maintain these journey times as normal traffic volumes return.
Tracking performance as circumstances change to clearly show the difference between construction related disruption and congestion caused by a general increase inactivity. This is particularly important if your project will be ramping up at the same time as lockdowns being eased as it would be easy to associate the traffic with the construction site.
There are two types of information we need to answer these questions: timely and accurate information on the current conditions and historical information on demand.
Sourcing this data is where the problem lies. Typical sources of historical data are based around fixed points that often don’t align to the project at hand, can have a significant lag in reporting - impacting the usefulness for planning near-term works - and maybe missing the detail required to inform construction activity.
Justifying increased working hours due to lower traffic volumes
With Covid-19 continuing to impact traffic volumes, how do you prove that you can extend your working hours due to the reduction in traffic?
We’ve found that the best results are achieved when you bring two pieces of information together:
A snapshot of typical conditions in a pre-COVID-19 world; and,
Current, live information from the project location.
At Mooven, we have been using historical traffic data from global mapping providers such as TomTom to get ondemand, detailed information on conditions pre-COVID. We’re then combining this with our real-time monitoring, augmenting with count data where required.
The benefit of combining these two components is that you can clearly demonstrate there has been a real decrease in activity at your specific location and you create an anchor for normal delays.
Without this, you run the risk of being bound by a conservative estimate of the drop in traffic or potentially tight restrictions on delays that under normal conditions would be unfeasible.
Establishing a project baseline
This leads us nicely into confirming what typical conditions look like prior to construction.
The status quo was to implement traffic monitoring a couple of months ahead of construction starting, however in a COVID-19 environment using the current traffic conditions as your baseline could be disastrous
If and when things return to normal, the effects of an inaccurate baseline on traffic management can include:
Lack of confidence in traffic management strategies around specific projects;
Making it very difficult to achieve performance targets (e.g. average travel times, speeds etc) because the comparative baseline is not representative of reality.
Unhappy clients and road users - “noise” that most projects and PMs could do without!
There is a way to solve this problem.
Like above, we have been using information from global mapping providers to create a custom baseline for projects. One advantage of this approach is we can tailor the period to the project delivery schedule, for example if works in a tourist location are planned over July - September to coincide with an off-peak period we can use data from the same period last year.
This information exists for most major road systems throughout Australia and New Zealand, and is readily available.
Once in place, this baseline can be incorporated into regular reporting to clarify if and when further action is required.
Tracking performance as things change
In both scenarios, we have found ongoing monitoring to be an invaluable asset as things invariably evolve.
There are two aspects at play here:
Gaining situational awareness of the performance of traffic management around your worksite so you can adapt and mitigate changes as required; and,
Being able to demonstrate if increased congestion levels are caused by your activity or general increases in traffic as conditions return to normal.
Including monitoring of adjacent areas provides an excellent reference point to ground client and stakeholder conversations around performance. There is a lot to unpack here, so we will leave this to the next blog.
In next week's blog, we will start to explore these concepts in more detail.
If this is of interest to you, give us a bell at Mooven. We’re happy to share the tactics we’re using and lend a hand.