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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Aggregating Data Sources to Improve Vehicle Emissions and Traffic Noise Analyses

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Combining multiple streams of complex traffic data into a succinct and usable format for air quality and noise analyses is a challenging and time-consuming task. The complexity of this task multiplies as new telematics data sources become available for information like vehicle speed. A typical data file that needs to be parsed and compared to other data files for aggregation is approximately 5 GB. Working with these files manually is impractical and prone to human error. Additionally, analysts have relied almost exclusively on transportation models to generate base-year traffic data, but using models rather than actual data has been an often-cited shortcoming of transportation emission and noise analyses.

To help address these issues, FHWA created the Database for Air Quality and Noise Analysis (DANA) tool to combine traffic data from existing data sources into a single database and then process those data into properly formatted inputs to Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES) model and FHWA’s Traffic Noise Model Aide (TNMAide), which is used to determine the worst noise hour for roadway traffic noise studies.

Since early 2020, U.S. DOT Volpe Center staff has supported FHWA’s Office of Natural Environment in enhancing and updating the DANA tool to prepare it for initial public release. The DANA tool reduces the burden on state DOTs and MPOs for data processing and greatly simplifies and standardizes traffic data inputs for EPA MOVES and TNMAide. The DANA tool spares environmental analysts the task of assembling the data and enables the use of real-world, real-time inputs. Furthermore, the DANA tool helps ensure that environmental analyses across the entire country use a consistent set of traffic data and processing methods.

The U.S. DOT Volpe Center team developed and guided the beta testing plan and supervised the beta testing process. The U.S. DOT Volpe Center analysts then developed a list of improvements based on the beta testing and finally implemented these improvements for the release version. U.S. DOT Volpe Center experts in project management, software development, and data science contributed to the project.

FHWA completed DANA tool beta testing in 2020. Based on beta testing results, the first release was made public in July 2021 and a minor update is planned in early 2022.

*This story appeared in the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s January 2022 publication: The U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s 2021 Annual Project Accomplishments.

Celebrating more than 50 years of federal service to the nation, the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s mission is to transform transportation for all.