3 New Transit Technologies To Improve Safety, Reduce Congestion

Deteriorating infrastructure, increased vehicle volumes and demand for multimodal transit options has spurred cities to experiment with new technology

By Mary Velan


Deteriorating infrastructure, increased vehicle volumes and growing demand for multimodal transit options has spurred many cities to experiment with new technology to make roadways more efficient. These tools not only work to improve existing traffic flow and safety, but also change the approach to transit network design from a car-centric focus to a more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly strategy.

San Francisco Camera Monitored System

San Francisco tested a traffic-efficiency system that uses cameras to monitor flow and improve efficiency. After a successful pilot, the system proved able to unclog public transportation routes and will now become a permanent fixture and signed into law .

Under the Transit-Only Lane Enforcement pilot program, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency used cameras on buses to enforce transit-only parking violations. The goal of the project was to improve transit service by discouraging vehicles from obstructing transit-only lanes. If a vehicle was found illegally parked or stopped within a designated transit lane, the video cameras captured the license plate information, which automatically triggers a citation be sent to the vehicles owner.

According to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the citation program reduced travel time for more than half-a-million riders each day by up to 20 percent by discouraging double parking and illegal stopping. Because the cameras were outfitted to the city's entire bus fleet at the start of the pilot five years ago, no additional equipment will be needed to make the program permanent.

A team of parking control officers will continue to monitor the system and issue citations for all captured violations. Parking control officers sift through video footage to identify anyone blocking the transit-only lanes, double parking or parking in a bus zone, and then send out a ticket in the mail. The video footage can only be used to issue non-moving violation tickets, as the SF Police Department remains in charge of moving tickets. Any non-moving citation can result in a ticket ranging from $110 to $279 depending on the violation.

Pennsylvania Road Weather Sensors

Pennsylvania's Department of Transportation is installing high-quality roadside sensors to monitor weather conditions and improve driving safety. The in-road sensors accompany roadside towers that provide accurate, real-time information to central control centers. The system also includes lasers, heat sensors and other advanced technology to capture finite data along roadways - such as humidity or friction levels on the roads. The monitoring network includes 64 stations throughout the state.

The overall goal of the sensor system is to allow the state to proactively assess road condition with up-to-date data. This information is key when deciding how to treat roads and where to start with maintenance and construction projects. The sensors monitor roadway conditions and communicate the results with transportation department trucks delivering salt during colder months. By accurately gauging roadway conditions, the state aims to manage its usage rates more effectively to save time and money, GovTech reported.

When enhanced road weather information systems are installed, transportation departments typically see a decline in accidents and deaths. After Idaho installed a sensor system, accidents in the state dropped 10.1 percent even thought snowfall increased 33 percent. The Idaho Transportation Department attributes the system with preventing 2,366 crashes, 21 fatalities and roughly $240 million annually in property damage, injury and litigation costs. The technology helps the state maintain roads more effectively while also creating a more accurate warning system to keep drivers aware of real-time weather conditions.

NYC Bus Safety System

New York City is testing new technology designed to make buses safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers on the city's congested roadways. The 60-day pilot will test turn warning and collision avoidance systems for city buses. The turn warning system emits an loud, audio warning when a bus is making a left or right turn so as to alert nearby pedestrians of its movement. The collision avoidance system leverages smart sensors to detect any objects, vehicles or people in front of or next to buses while driving. The sensors trigger visual and auditory warnings when there is a potential for a collision to help the driver avoid them.

Both technologies will be tested on six city buses operating in three boroughs during the pilot. If the technologies prove successful at improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety, they may be deployed fleet-wide. It will cost $20 million for all city buses to be outfitted with the turn warning system, and another $57 million for the collision avoidance sensor system. The bus safety technologies are part of the larger New York City's Vision Zero plan to eliminate all vehicle-related pedestrian deaths and accidents, GCN reported.

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