Designing safer streets

Transoft’s AutoTurn swept path analysis software has been integral to EB Traffic Solutions’ delivery of safer and more efficient road designs.In Australia, there are more deadly creatures than almost anywhere else on earth, from box jellyfish to great white sharks.

When Australians go to the beach, there is a lifeguard there to protect them. In a way, traffic engineers are like lifeguards; they protect us from unsafe roads. Instead of a whistle and a float board, they use the latest geometric design software.

While traffic engineers such as Evan Boloutis won’t pull you out of the surf when you are swimming, he ensures that when his fellow Australians get behind the wheel, they have confidence that the roads they drive on are safe.

During his 30-year career, Mr. Boloutis has worked with both state and local governments in Australia and in early 2014 he started his own traffic engineering firm EB Traffic Solutions Pty Ltd.

EB Traffic Solutions has extensive experience in providing swept path analysis diagrams using AutoTURN computer software. It uses the software to assess turning implications of a wide variety of vehicle types on design layouts in early stages of the design process. That assessment informs the design process and helps to deliver a fast and cost-efficient method of determining alternative car park and loading dock layouts, intersections and other design layouts for its clients.

Mr. Boloutis was looking for software that would do two things for his company: simulate virtually any traffic/vehicle scenario with a high level of accuracy and save him time and money.

On any given project, he might need to show how a truck could turn into and out of a loading dock. It might seem simple, but designers need to account for variables such as slope and height and they need to know what kinds of trucks can access the loading dock.

For Mr. Boloutis, traffic engineering was always about solving problems. “When I started out, I was always interested in the traffic engineering requirements to provide swept paths to establish whether cars and trucks could manoeuvre into/out of access points, parking spaces and loading bays,” he says.

As he launched EB Traffic Solutions, he started seeing vehicle swept path reports created with AutoTURN associated with projects with the local governments and through private consultants. He thought saw it potential to help his company achieve similar results and purchased the software.

AutoTURN is the vehicle swept path analysis software used by many transportation engineers, architects and planners worldwide. Trusted in more than 120 countries and available in seven languages, AutoTURN is used to analyse road and site design projects including intersections, roundabouts, bus terminals, loading bays, parking lots or any on/off-street assignments involving vehicle access checks, clearances, and swept path manoeuvres.

As the designers and engineers at EB Traffic Solutions discovered, AutoTURN is built on tried and true engineering principles and an understanding of what happens where the rubber meets the road.

Mr. Boloutis was hired by an architecture firm in Sydney to help design underground parking for a multi-level residential development. He had to show the Bankstown Council that cars could safely navigate the turns along the internal ramp system and in the parking area. He developed a traffic report for the architecture firm that included an analysis of the swept paths for several types of vehicles.

The Bankstown project presented several traffic and turning scenarios that EB Traffic had to simulate to ensure the safety of the vehicles. Mr. Boloutis had to work within strict geometric parameters of the existing road network and the clearances were small for some of the designs.

“Basement car parks are often challenging given the constraints of ramp widths, lengths, columns, headroom clearance, ramp systems and trying to accommodate as many parking spaces as possible in a constrained environment,” he says. “I was able to demonstrate that simulating different vehicle types would assist in providing an improved design which accorded with council’s requirements.”

An important feature within AutoTURN is the vehicle libraries, built by Transoft Solutions Product Management team. Designers often want to test the “worst case scenario” and for part of the project, Mr. Boloutis was able to use the B99 car, which was already in the library. By using this particular vehicle, he showed architects where the design needed tweaking.

“The ramp and parking bays adjacent to the base of the ramp were required to be modified to accommodate the B99 car movements,” he says. The underground parking garage featured two-way traffic and there had to be sufficient clearance for two cars to pass and turn safely.

AutoTURN proved invaluable for EB Traffic Solutions to simulate several kinds of vehicle types during the course of the Bankstown project. In addition to simulating cars turning into and out of parking bays in surface and basement car parks, he evaluated vehicles turning into and out of access points including access ramps, checking for conflict areas.

He was also asked to simulate different types of trucks entering and exiting loading dock facilities in industrial estates. Another important question he was asked: Could a 9.5-metre truck make the turn into and out of the construction site? Would the trucks make the turn at the beginning of the construction process and at the end? Keeping people and vehicles safe was a top priority. This software is now applied to numerous construction projects in Melbourne and Sydney, testing the ability of a range of trucks from small vans to large 20-metre mobile cranes to turn safely into and out of construction sites.

When AutoTURN was created in 1991, engineering controls were in place from the beginning to give road engineers confidence that their designs were safe. For the Bankstown project, safety was an important consideration. “I needed AutoTURN to be very precise and in this case literally within centimetres,” Mr. Boloutis says.

It’s because of the extensive testing that Transoft does in the field that traffic engineers such as Mr. Boloutis can trust the software to produce results within centimetres. For example, in 2012 Transoft worked with two clients to test the accuracy of the software. A driving course was built to replicate a specific geometry of a planned access road. GPS receivers were placed at key points on a truck and trailer to record the location of the vehicle as it traversed the course.

Using AutoTURN and CAD software, the swept path of the simulated vehicle was matched against the recorded position of the field test vehicle. The results showed that the software produced accurate results – the maximum differences being 18 centimetres (seven inches), which was deemed accurate enough for the scale of the project.

One of AutoTURN’s greatest strengths is the software’s ability to dynamically show how changing one variable can affect the entire design. Vehicle paths can be fine-tuned quickly and easily through the interface by selecting a point, clicking and dragging and the software re-calculates all swept path information.

The relationship between speed and turning radius is a key concept that is considered in AutoTURN and the software allows engineers such as Mr. Boloutis to simulate multiple vehicle types to achieve the desired results.

Before Mr. Boloutis found AutoTURN, he was using manual templates published by Austroads. The vehicle libraries in AutoTURN were created to ensure they match the dimensions and turning characteristics of the standard vehicles for regulatory organisations such as Austroads. The vehicle simulation tools incorporated other elements such as speed, super-elevation and friction that influenced turning movements.

With successful projects similar to the Bankstown residential complex in recent months, EB Traffic Solutions has the tools to bid on many different types of traffic engineering work. Within Victoria and New South Wales, Mr. Boloutis is developing an expanding client base of local government councils and private consulting firms.

“At Transoft, one of our most important philosophies is to provide design and analysis tools that enable the user to make their designs safer and more efficient,” said Peter McIntyre, Vice President, Asia Pacific at Transoft Solutions. “Architecture firms and construction companies have to maximise the space they have and we’re always pleased to see our software put to the test and pass with flying colours.”

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