Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Kudos to the Intelligent Transportation Society of Virginia

I had the good fortune to deliver the banquet address last night to the Intelligent Transportation Society of Virginia. ITSVA represents a cross section of entrepreneurs, consultants, engineering firms, VDOT officials and state planners who advocate a variety of technology-based solutions to Virginia's traffic congestion problems. The members I chatted with were a fount of enthusiasm and creative thinking. These people believe passionately in their alternative vision for Virginia's transportation future.

So many fresh ideas are bubbling out of this group that I can't do justice to them all. But just for starters.... HOT lanes. Congestion pricing. Traffic light sequencing. Rapid response to clear wrecks off the road. Delivery of real-time traffic information to motorists.

Gregory Pieper, a principal in SmarTek Systems, a developer of traffic sensors, sketched out a remarkable vision for the future--a vision he's dedicated the last 10 years of his life to. Just imagine: Automobile dashboards embedded with display panels that map the driver's destination. Oooh, those already exist. Just imagine cars equipped with GPS data, showing their exact location on the map. Oooh, those exist, too. Just imagine traffic sensors lining Virginia's highways that track real-time traffic speeds. Oh, yeah, those exist, too. We're only a few steps away from being able to deliver real-time traffic information directly to people in their cars that show them traffic conditions on the route they're planning to take. If we had traffic sensors embedded along all major thoroughfares (at least those suffering from periodic congestion), motorists would be able to reschedule their trips or plot different routes, shifting demand spatially and temporally away from the congestion.

How much would this cost? I don't know, but with the cost of constructing Interstate highway running $30 million per mile, or more, I think you could make the case that traffic sensors could offer a lot more congestion-mitigation per buck. I feel confident that Bacon's Rebellion will be sharing more ideas from ITSVA members in the future.

4 Comments:

At 8:41 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

HOT lanes. Congestion pricing. Traffic light sequencing. Rapid response to clear wrecks off the road. Delivery of real-time traffic information to motorists.

I'm not saying these are bad ideas, but HOT lanes and congestion pricing are just more ways to increase the costs of doing business in the city. I predict the result will be more businesses moving farther out. Whether this contributes to sprawl or traffic congestion depends on how it is done, but just suggesting these things is equivalent to saying our cites need more space.

Congestion is bad by itself, but unpredictable congestion caused by wrecks and the response to them is worse. Recently we have seen entire highways closed for accident investigations and minor hazmat spills. Maybe onboard cameras (to record tailgaters) and multidirectional recording accelerometers (black boxes)to assist in post accident reconstruction are necessary.

I don't see that onboard navigation, routing, and real time traffic inf are going to help. All we need is MORE distractions to tell us that every road is equally jammed.

 
At 9:26 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Motorists would gladly shift their demand spatially if land use regulations didn't prevent it from happening.

 
At 12:18 AM, Blogger Warren said...

Lets see now, HOV and HOT lanes on the opposite side of the road as the entrance/exit ramps. That's a recepie for congestion. Look at I-66 during high congestion times. HOV drivers get on and want to pull right over to use the lanes causing everyone else wait and traffic to back up. HOV/HOT lanes need to be in the right lanes. When HOV is lifted on I-66, traffic flows well.

 
At 8:06 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Warren: that is not my observation. Occasionally I see someone aggressively merging from the on ramp to the HOV or back the other way, making a late exit. I see the same thing when HOV is not in use.

HOV appears to be underused as you watch it, but in fact it carries more passengers than the other three lanes combined, because of their lower speed and lower occupancy. Opening the HOV lane ususally only occurs when some problem happens like weather or a major accident, in which case everything is slowed, so I see no evidence that it flows well when HOV is lifted.

If you mean lifted after HOV hours, then the traffic is not the same so you can't really tell. It seems to me that if you have three slow lanes and one fast HOV lane, then lifting the HOV means you have three lanes going slightly faster and one lane going considerably slower.

This is clearly a case where a loss for one is not a gain for many.

Since everone except the carpools are required to exit 66 eastbound at the beltway, and since the beltway is jammed and people can't get off 66, this affects aeveryone, even the carpoolers.

Westbound, the carpool lanes bog down at Nutley street on account of Metro traffic, and again at Rte 50. Yet when traversing those areas you don't see a lot of people joining the car pool lanes, so I can't figure the cause of this other than to chalk it up to uncertainty.

 

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