Houston Area Real-Time Traffic Report

Susan Boone --sboone@cs.rice.edu
Saint Agnes Academy
Subjects: Algebra I
Topic: Distance/Rate/Time
June 29, 1995

Purpose: Students will calculate the time needed to travel a certain distance given the rate of speed. This is an ongoing project. Their data will be collected using "real-time" traffic maps of the greater Houston area. Over a period of one week, one month, and one school year, traffic patterns will be studied at various times of the day. At the completion of this study students will write a report and send their results via email to the Greater Houston Transportation and Emergency Management Center. Students also have an opportunity to volunteer to collect travel data on major Houston freeways.

Materials: Internet access and some method of collecting and displaying long-term data.

Prior knowledge: Formula d = rt, directions (N,S,E, and W on a map) basic navigation skills on the Internet, and email.

Description: Students will be assigned a partner for this project. They will be asked to monitor traffic flow in the Greater Houston area. An introductory lesson calculating the time it would take to travel a given distance using the speed from the traffic maps would teach the skills necessary to navigate through the traffic map site on the Internet. After completing the questions at the end of this assignment, discuss the reasoning behind the TEMC research. Students will collect data daily on traffic flow on three major freeways (exact locations of freeways will need to be assigned--teacher discretion). This data will be posted on a chart or other suitable area in the classroom. Results will be discussed at the end of one-week, one month, and each semester. At the end of the project, students will be asked to use this data and write a summary of the results accumulated over the period of the project. This summary will be emailed to TEMC. Students also have the opportunity to become volunteers to collect data for the actual research.

Time: Introductory lesson--one 45 minute class period. Students will need 3-4 minutes per group on a daily basis to collect the data. The data could be collected every other day, or once a week if access to the Internet is not in the classroom. (This would average 3-4 minutes per student every three weeks.)

Procedure: Students should access the Internet site, Greater Houston Transportation and Emergency Operations. Discuss the reasoning behind the research. Direct the students to the Real Time Traffic Report. Make sure students can identify different freeways, and understand how to read the map. If students are working in pairs, assign them now. If this is an individual assignment, I suggest that data be collected over the span of one or two weeks. The individual student is responsible for compiling their own chart with their data. Students should answer the following questions.


1. Record the time the data for this particular map was recorded. (This should be done each time you collect the data for this project. There is no need to print this...)

2. What was the average speed of vehicles traveling on: Interstate-10(west), Interstate-59(south) and Interstate-45(north)?

3. How long would it take a vehicle to travel 12 miles beginning at the 610 loop and traveling west on Interstate-10?

4. If your school was located at the intersection of Interstate-59 and the 610 Loop, and you had to travel 11 miles north on Loop 610 and then took highway 290 for 13 miles traveling west, if you left now, when would you arrive at your destination? (be sure to record your time of departure.)

Extension: Encourage the students to volunteer as data collectors for the TEMC.

Gender Issues: Students in high school are very interested in getting their own cars! Research some available insurance rates. (I would suggest search "Car Insurance" in Alta Vista). Is there a difference between rates of 16-18 year old girls and boys? If so, what is the difference. Do you think this is fair? Justify your decision with data found by surfing the net, or contacting various insurance companies (at least three sources). Thanks to Kathryn Clifton for contributing this extra credit!

Comments: Please send comments or suggestions to sboone@cs.rice.edu

Return to other lessons.