In recent decades, the leaders of Montevideo, Uruguay, have become familiar with a simple fact with far-reaching consequences: more people means more vehicles. As Uruguay’s commercial, political and cultural hub, Montevideo is no stranger to traffic. In 2015, its leaders set out to address the City’s massive traffic problem in a data-driven way. The City installed dozens of real-time sensors along major routes, created a new Center for Mobility Management to monitor and manage traffic data collection, and implemented a new mobility plan to cool off hotspots.
After building a data visualization platform that displays real-time traffic levels across Montevideo’s road network, and holding neighborhood meetings to understand residents’ traffic concerns, the City focused transit interventions on 10 particularly congested hot zones. Leaning heavily on sensor data analyses, they simulated the impact of different traffic engineering solutions—such as changing the timing and duration of traffic signals, or making a street one-way—and then settled on the most impactful options for each site. This access to high-quality, real-time data, combined with strong data governance practices, allowed the City to better understand the problem and then to develop and test tailored solutions for the hotspot zones.
In addition to real quality-of-life improvements for Montevideo drivers, the City also realized environmental benefits, including reduced CO2 emissions, due to less idling, and better fuel economy. Moreover, the City’s commitment to improving traffic flow is helping to save lives. Montevideo’s annual traffic fatality rate is now 6.2 per 100,000 residents—half the country’s overall rate. City leaders believe that the installation of speed radars across the City, along with efforts to lower congestion in hotspots, has helped change driver behavior and prevent traffic-related deaths.
When you can measure a problem, you can manage it—and that’s exactly what Montevideo officials are doing, street by street.