Tracking trucks in Albany's South End

South Pearl Street Albany truck

South Pearl Street last summer.

People in Albany's South End have long been calling for attention and resources to focus on air quality and other environmental health issues in the neighborhood. And there's a project coming up that's using an interesting tool to study truck traffic along the South Pearl Street corridor -- one of the factors related to air quality.

The city of Albany and the Capital District Transportation Committee will be using automatic license plate readers to better understand how trucks move through the neighborhood. From a CDTC press release:

Instead of assigning people to record license plate numbers at several locations for 24 hours a day for 1-2 days, this survey will install and use automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) over a longer period of time to obtain the same data, in greater quantity with more reliability.
The goal of the survey is to identify truck travel patterns and generators, and to develop possible alternative routes. The data collected will only be used for these purposes. ...
The study area will be bounded on the north by the intersection of Green Street and 4th Avenue, on the west by South Pearl Street, on the south by the City of Albany boundary, and on the east by Smith Boulevard and Church Street in the Port of Albany. The ALPRs will be installed at 6 intersections in this area. The project is expected to be completed in September 2017 with a final report.

CDTC will be working with a company called FES Installations to study the data generated by the 15 license plate readers.

This is a different sort of use for the technology that the one for which it's been most famous in recent years: Law enforcement agencies have made extensive use of license plate readers over the past decade, scooping up huge amounts of data about where vehicles have been spotted, including here in New York State. That's prompted debates about how the tech should -- or should not -- be used, and some of the civil liberties and ethics issues involved. [Democrat and Chronicle] [TU] [The Atlantic]

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