A Numbers Game

Thibodaux Regional Medical Center’s North Hospital project complete
October 20, 2006
Thibodaux Regional Medical Center’s North Hospital project complete
October 20, 2006

Traffic counts across Tri-parishes a factor for future business owners

The flow of traffic is an intensely studied, analyzed and debated topic, but not just by commuters. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) in conjunction South Central Planning and Development (SCPD) have been studying the flow of traffic in the Tri-parish area for many years.

They use the data collected by traffic counters, devices laid across roadways to monitor the number of vehicles that pass at any given time, to find traffic problems and solve them. The cycling of traffic lights and economic planning are just a couple of the uses government entities can apply to traffic volume numbers.

“Periodic traffic counting is the only way to get specific numbers on growth and traffic congestion,” said Metropolitan Planning Officer for SCPD Kevin Ghiradi. “The basic reason we do this is for traffic planning, but business people want to know for location analysis.”

Ghiradi said he gets at least one call a day from a member of the business community looking for information collected by the traffic counters. These numbers are valuable in business planning and location scouting. Ghiradi said his most common requests include real estate companies preparing to place a commercial property on the market.

In addition to readings collected by traffic counters, data is also collected manually at busy intersections. Information from those readings can even be broken down into left, straight and right turns.

“We definitely share the information with the public,” Ghiradi said, who has access to counters operated by both SCPD and DOTD. “If they give us a specific location, I can probably get it to them in just a few hours.”

Ghiradi can send a map of count stations through email to someone requesting traffic volume information. Once the specific station, or stations, is located, he can then provide the latest information and any previous readings necessary.

Those requesting information can receive a simple daily average volume, but data collected can be interpreted into specifics such as number of cars per hour, per 15 minutes, direction, speed, type of vehicle, distance between vehicles, etc.

Many retailers are interested in what is called the 85th percentile, the speed at which 85 percent of the motorist are traveling at or below, according to Ghiradi, because that determines exposure time for a motorist.

“It can be a lot of information because we don’t just go out there and get one number,” he said. “There is a lot that we can pull out.”

Traffic volume information is most valuable to businesses that require heavy traffic to survive, according to Logan Babin of Logan Babin Appraisers. He said companies that are the most interested in traffic volume when scouting a location is, not surprisingly, filling stations.

“They have formulas that they can plug into and get a pretty accurate figure on how many gallons of gasoline they can sell at any given location based on a traffic count,” he said.

In respect to commercial property, values are directly related to the traffic volume, said Babin. But, inversely, residential property values increase as traffic volumes increase.

“You can see that demonstrated clearly on Highway 311,” Babin said. “(Residential property sales) are slowing down because the traffic has gotten so bad. Several projects have actually been canceled.”

District Traffic Engineer for DOTD Lyle LeBlanc said he is often questioned by members of the business community that are seeing new businesses opening up nearby and want to know if traffic volume has been affected.

“If someone sees a Walgreen’s go up down the street, they want to know how it is affecting them,” LeBlanc said.

Leblanc also said that not all businesses increase traffic. Some large retail outlets, such as Sam’s or Best Buy for example, simply pull from existing traffic volumes. “But,” Leblanc pointed out, “It is different for every location.”

Justin Martin can be reached at (985) 876-3008 or justin@tri-parishtimes.com.

A Numbers Game