Web cams installed for D.C. traffic

TrafficLand.com

Washington, D.C., commuters wondering what traffic might be like on the Key Bridge or near Capitol Hill can now look on the Internet to see near real-time video of certain intersections before they head out.

The city's transportation department and TrafficLand Inc., a Fairfax, Va.-based company, announced yesterday that 52 camera feeds within the district can be viewed through the company's Web site, which already provides video feeds from northern Virginia and Maryland.

Users click icons on an interactive map to view the feeds. The 240 roadside closed circuit video cameras in the metropolitan area aren't just available to residents, but also to the region's first responders and other government officials through a separate system.

The video distribution system (VDS) "allows police, rescue and fire to monitor a large number of camera feeds at once and pull up in live video format at 30 frames a second," said Jay Cohen, a TrafficLand spokesman, adding that the system is available through a paid subscription.

With VDS, Cohen said traffic images could be grouped into clusters or catalogs, creating an easy-to-understand view of many locations along a route or area. Catalogs comprise still images and users can view up to 12 cameras at once refreshed every 12 seconds. If users want to view a traffic condition more closely, they can click on the catalog image and launch a live video stream.

That system is likely to be expanded in the future with other sensor data -- for example, flow speed across certain highway sections, incident and construction data, and weather conditions -- collected from roadside devices. Cohen said geographic information systems data could also be integrated with the VDS system.

Cohen described the company's initiative as a public/private partnership with the transportation departments from Washington, D.C.; Montgomery County, Md.; and Virginia and Maryland, which own the cameras. The company "repurposed" the infrastructure, converting the video format so it could transmit over the Internet at a very low cost, he said.

The Web site receives more than 400,000 hits a day. Cohen said the company is talking to other cities about similar initiatives.

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