Using special axle sensors to measure road roughness. Identifying traffic flow and patterns. Tracking broadband availability and connection speeds. These are just a few of the components of a new transportation data portal known as “ Sun Cloud .” As Arizona continues to grow, the need for accurate traffic data on where we drive and the conditions of the roads on which we drive is critical for planning for the future. The Sun Cloud provides a means of collecting and sharing transportation and socioeconomic data for the Sun Corridor megaregion – an area that stretches south from the Valley to the border with Mexico. The benefits, however, go beyond just a simple way to record road and traffic data. What is Sun Cloud? The Sun Cloud data portal provides statistics about roads, traffic flow, and broadband connectivity. It helps planners make smart decisions about where to allocate funding for future road and infrastructure improvement projects. The Sun Cloud covers the Sun Corridor megaregion. According to an Arizona State University study , there are 20 megapolitan regions around the United States, which are each made up of combined networks of metropolitan areas. Those 20 megapolitan regions form 10 megaregions. In Arizona, we have the Sun Corridor megaregion, which extends from the Valley to the Mexico border. More than 6.3 million people called the area home in 2022. That’s 85 percent of the entire population of Arizona. In addition, the Sun Corridor is projected to be among the fastest-growing megaregions over the next three decades, with the population expected to increase by another 40 percent by 2050. [The Sun Cloud data portal is] easy to use, saves time, and removes barriers to data and technology. This is tremendously important for smaller organizations and regions that have limited staff. - Sun Corridor MPO Deputy Director Jason Bottjen Pavement Data Helps Cities Stay Ahead of Road Repairs Nobody likes driving down a rough stretch of highway or over a street full of potholes. One way for communities to stay ahead of the game when it comes to road repairs is through information from the Sun Cloud data portal. A dataset tracks the conditions of roads and rates them on a ‘roughness’ scale. That information is gained from axle-based sensors, which are standard on new cars and trucks. The vibrations are recorded and included in several datasets to help determine which roads need repair earlier than others. “This data portal provides us with a single source for multiple data layers critical to the development of our long-range transportation plan efforts, active projects, and grant applications, as well as our Title VI reports and safety plans,” said Karen Lamberton, executive director of the Sierra Vista Metropolitan Planning Organization (SVMPO). “These mapping tools bring the story of data and statistics into an engaging visual application that should help us guide our funding choices.” Sun Cloud Data Portal Helps Illustrate Regional Traffic Flow Another dataset in the portal includes road use within disadvantaged areas. Using that data helps planners better understand traffic patterns around areas where groups of people may not have the same socioeconomic opportunities as others do. “The Sun Cloud Data Portal is an amazing tool that provides the Sun Corridor MPO access to valuable data,” said Jason Bottjen, deputy director of the Sun Corridor MPO. “We have used it to gather equity, safety, and travel demand data to assist member agencies with grant applications.” Exploring Broadband Connection Speeds Across the Region Having the ability to track traffic trends is one thing. Having the means to transmit that data quickly is another. That is where internet connection speeds come in. One essential part of the Sun Cloud is that it tracks broadband availability and connection speeds in the megaregion. The broadband coverage map is made up of hexagonal-shaped areas, with detailed information on average broadband speeds, mobile broadband speeds, households, and population. This information can help long-range planners make decisions based on areas that are lacking in broadband or mobile broadband access. Saving Money by Planning for the Future The Sun Cloud transportation and socioeconomic data portal project was funded by federal grant money – $1 million of which came from the Federal Highway Administration – to help residents in five Arizona counties, including Maricopa, Pinal, Pima, Santa Cruz, and Cochise. Over a five-year period, Sun Cloud’s developers collaborated with numerous partners across the megaregion. That effort included the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), the Pima Association of Governments (PAG), the Sierra Vista Metropolitan Planning Organization (SVMPO), the Sun Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization (SCMPO), Central Arizona Governments (CAG), and the Southeastern Arizona Governments Organization (SEAGO). State and local partners include the Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona State Cartographer’s Office, Arizona State Land Development, and other member agencies. According to these partners, through Sun Cloud, planners can strengthen the planning process on a large geographical scale, save money, improve outcomes, and foster the coordination of diverse priorities. For questions about the project, email SunCloud@azmag.gov .