Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Stuart Badger

Below is a piece I drafted and Stuart heavily filled in with details in his retirement in early 2017.
For me it marks a tribute to one of the truly remarkable characters I had the privilege of working with during my career.
Stuart was “Mr CAS” and worked from then on with the developer RTI until CAS was delivered slightly late at the end of 1997 but on quality and on budget, and as it turned out - award winning.

Stuart Badger

In the matter of crash analysis and crash systems there is one individual who has contributed much to road safety but (in my view) has been inadequately recognized outside government circles who needs special mention in this blog which is largely engineering centric.

That person is Stuart Badger. Stuart joined the Ministry of Transports (MoT) Wellington Research Section in Aurora House on the Terrace in May 1980, after spending time in the Economics Division working on Land Transport.

When Stuart joined the MoT Traffic Crash Reports or TCR’s were being coded by regional traffic engineers and forwarded to Head Office for bulk entry into a mainframe system. The system had been looked after by Nick Hendy and Bill White, and Stuart took over from Nick.

Analysis was via SPSS and SAS internally with an annual delivery of the coded listing in printouts form to NZ Police, local and regional bodies and consultants.

The next major step was the introduction of systematic black spot investigation when John Toomath brought Barbara Sabey to New Zealand. She had considerable experience in the area, and had finished her UK career as head of the TRRL.

The first study was a joint MoT/MoWD study on State Highway from Levin to Wellington. The spot analysis was done by sticking pins in maps manually, but that approach is inflexible if you want to break crashes down (night time, wet road, …) or drop the earliest year out of the analysis and replace it with the latest year.

Simon Robson found a cheap digitizer which was a drafting board that returned coordinates from the cross hair on the drafting arm. Stuart wrote the software to allow any of the street or topo paper maps to be mounted on the board, and the crashes that could potentially be geocoded against the map to appear in a list for the operator to select and locate. Once crashes had map coordinates blackspot clusters could be identified by what was to become the Accident Investigation System (AIS), and reports could be produced. GIS was too slow to run against all NZ on a PC at that time, so the approach that was used was to print scale transparent overlay crash maps for display on top of the relevant street or topo map.

Accident Investigation System (AIS) really came of age from 1988. A geocoding development was done for the 1987/88 travel survey trips, and it required purchasing toolboxes to add capability to the Basic compiler that was being used. They in turn were used to build the user interface for AIS and improve its performance, and a lot more capability was developed.

AIS was widely distributed to local bodies and consultants with data updates - a subset from the main data base (with private information removed) - sent on disk, the .rnd (random access) files.

AIS was the fundamental building block for all the Crash Reduction Studies from 1984 until 1998 when CAS took over. AIS alone can certainly be credited with its part in the massive savings attributed to the CRS program.

In the early 1980s the main mainframe crash system was changed to an online entry system, and the coding and entry process moved to the three regional MoT engineering teams. Data flowed from that system to the AIS crash geocoding analysis system and any changes (including map coordinates) flowed back again.

In the late 1980s an attempt was made to develop a PC server based system, which would have provided stronger regional capability. However the database (Advanced Revelation) recommended by the consultants was based more around budgetary limitations than its ability to do the job. It was slow, and the movement of data changes between the mainframe and the regional AREV/AIS systems was flakey.

After we saw an integrated Civil Aviation system that dealt with every aspect of operator and aircraft inspections our view of what we needed crystalised. We had been contemplating adding a GIS and a system for holding and providing scanned crash report images but the multitude of potential systems looked ugly. Another important requirements was that the system do as much of the crash geocoding itself as possible to make crashes mapable as soon as possible.

The call was made to replace everything with a single integrated system which would deal with crash data capture, query, reporting, GIS style mapping, crash report image capture and review. The Police saw the INCIS system they were working on providing crash reporting electronically in the future, so the entry side of the system would have dealt with the data flows from the Police, and message back to the Police.
INCIS fell victim to scope creep so paper forms remained for over 20 more years!

The first approach to the market was in 1993, but was not followed through on by LTSA. In 1995 funding was secured and the second approach to market followed, and the vendor for CAS (Crash Analysis System) was identified in 1996. Wang was the prime contractor and provided the crash report scanning application, Relational Technology International (RTI) did the core CAS development using a mix of Oracle and Formida (now xMArc Fire), and Critchlow Associates provided the spatial data and development. The system rollout was at the very end of 1997.

Tony Bliss (General Manager of the Strategy Division, LTSA) was the driving force in getting the budget bid through the MoT. Tony was responsible for the preparation and delivery of the National Road Safety Plan, the New Zealand Road Safety Program and was looking to leverage better safety outcomes from safety engineering and crash reduction studies, Road Policing and other safety initiatives and analysis.

Stuart at that time working for Bill Frith in the LTSA Research team, and developed the budget bids and the RFI/RFP documents in consultation with the regional engineering teams.
The CAS build started in mid 1996 with Stuart in charge and fully supported from Tony and Bill. He had a small team of regional helpers – myself, Geoff Holland, David Croft and Simon Robson.  Since RTI was Auckland based David and I spent a lot of time at their Queen Street office with instructions from Stuart. Stuart was also frequently in Auckland.

(CAS Build team)

From the time CAS was delivered up to this day Stuart really has retained his mantle as the CAS god despite a number of (failed) attempts to clone him.

He has an ability to communicate with CAS users of all levels be they the technical assistants who do all the spade work in the background as well as speak to programmers in terms they respect. I know that the RTI programmers hold him in very high regard to this day.

Between 1998 and 2011 Stuart worked with the “Agency’s” traffic engineers, scientists, researchers and the wider consulting fraternity and the RTI to further develop and improve CAS. 

Stuart was a member of a number of the LTSA’s engineering expert/reference groups and retained his membership after the research team went back to the MoT when LTSA was merged with Transfund. We often referred to him as our honorary engineer.

One of the later safety promotions was KiwiRAP (Road Assessment Programme) which is an exercise that a number of Automobile Associations have spearheaded. It shows were the risky stretched of highway are (in terms of risk per km driven and crashes per km of road). LTNZ/NZTA specified how to split the high network up, and Stuart developed the methods within CAS to do the crash rate calculations.

He was a member a small group that looked after the inner workings of CAS called, unsurprisingly, CASTechs – this group was Geoff Holland, myself, Chris Butler, Lynette Billings and Stuart. This group was abandoned when the regional CAS teams were closed down.
I know however that the while the Transport Agency gives the illusion of running CAS when is comes to the tough stuff he is still the go-to guy. (even in retirement)

Stuart got back to working directly on data systems and analysis in 2007. The MoT needed a detailed vehicle and travel data feed for the vehicle fleet emissions model, and Stuart developed that from the vehicle register data and quarterly and annual reporting to meet policy needs.

In 2012 MoT launched FIGS (Freight Information Gathering System). The two large data feeds are every container loaded, discharged, entering or leaving a container terminal, and every rail wagon movement. There are commercial sensitivities in that data and what is reported has been agreed with the data owners. The third major leg are the Customs/Statistics NZ trade data which is provided in a more detailed form that is released elsewhere. The last two major components are analysis of the NZTA dynamic weighbridge data to estimate overall road tonnekm, and the Maritime NZ ship visit data. Stuart originally joined the short lived Operations Research team of the MoT economics division which was doing work on container ships flows, and whether Australia was getting a better deal from the services which visited both countries. The FIGS opportunity has an element of full circle.

Lastly a personal note which I have little doubt represents the views of many of us from the former engineering team in that I feel privileged to have worked with Stuart for 36 years. I know first hand how much his program AIS and later CAS shaped the way road safety is done in this country – for the better.  The interface end users saw with AIS and then with CAS is still far more user friendly than any system I’ve seen since and I would suspect into the foreseeable future.