Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Kilgore on Transportation: Demand Management

In a major policy press release, Jerry Kilgore has fleshed out the details of his transportation plan and listed his funding priorities. The campaign document, which you can read here, raises so many issues that I can't deal with them all in a single blog post, so I shall address them in a series of posts.

Let me embark upon this analysis by saying something positive. Jerry Kilgore is the only prominent politician in Virginia today who makes "demand management" a key plank in his discussion of transportation. In yesterday's press release, he vowed to:

Establish a Congestion Management Division to implement increased camera coverage for incident detection and traffic management, increase communication of highway disruptions, expand incident management/service safety patrols, and employ new technologies like signal synchronization to ease congestion...

Incident management. Most people can handle routine commutes as long as the congestion is predictable. It's all a matter of expectations. What drives motorists into a cursing, white-knuckled frenzy is when an "incident," from a jack-knifed tractor-trailer to something as simple as someone fixing a flat tire alongside the road, causes unanticipated backups. Developing systems of sensors, communications and rapid responders capable of clearing up these messes is an imperative to keep the roads moving -- and keeping drivers sane.

Traffic light synchronization. In crowded urban areas, it's prohibitively expensive to expand transportation capacity by widening roads and freeways. But it may be possible to move more people through secondary roads by making stoplights more responsive to changing flows in the volume and tempo of traffic. Likewise, Virginia needs to give serious attention to the idea of ramp metering, which regulates the flow of traffic onto freeways with the idea of ensuring minimal disruption as cars merge. These types of solutions are small scale but offer a high return on investment.

Thumbs up for this part of the Kilgore plan.


At 3:53 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

Intelligent control of traffic lights, how a seemingly simple and useful task cannot seem to move forward. Traffic lights in and around Tysons Corner are so out of sync that they make terrible traffic even worse. One light will turn green, causing a huge movement of vehicles to reach the next intersection just in time for that light to turn red. I've seen huge numbers of cars held up just to let a few other cars pass. We need to do better than this.

Rather than just moan continuously about its need for billions of dollars, Virginia needs to start doing little things with smaller sums. There's nothing wrong with making incremental progress at incremental cost to taxpayers.

Similarly, VDOT will fail to open the shoulders of I-66 to traffic when back-ups occur. VDOT cannot think beyond rigid rules. Let's do some common sense thing.

At 10:10 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Intelligent control of traffic lights is far more complex than managing the situation you describe. For one thing, it depends on intelligent control of our cars. When you have 300 HP cars sprinting from intersection to intersection, it may wll be that the intelligent thing to do is to turn the light red and stop them.

In some areas there are electronic speed limit signs that adjust according to how long befor the light turns red. They tell you what speed you must travel to make the light green.

Even so thaere will be idiots that speed ahead only to have to stop, which immediately screws up the sytem.

Then of course there are the people travelling at right angles to you that want their side of the light green.

Demand management and intelligent systems can only do so much.

At 3:25 PM, Blogger Steve Haner said...

There are other forms of demand management. Stop lights at on ramps to control the spacing on limited access highways is another approach. And of course the granddaddy of them all is the congesting pricing scheme, with higher tolls during peak times. All are worth incorporating into a long range plan, but none will solve all of our problems. They deserve to be included.

Alot of tolls in the Kilgore plan: the new parallel 460, the Third Crossing. But if you toll one of the JHampton Roads crossings and not all of them, traffic will avoid the tolled route.

I agree that VDOT could be more flexible. Recently I was heading north on 95 toward the beltway and there was a wreck and back up southbound. It was midday and it would have made sense to clear the northbound traffic out of the HOV lanes and open them heading south instead, but I'm not sure VDOT is technically capable of that. (Maybe they are and it happened ten minutes after I passed.)


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