Monday, October 24, 2005

The Shucet Solution: Smart Signal Systems

There is no silver bullet for solving traffic congestion in Virginia, but there is a multiplicity of smaller, narrow-bore solutions which, applied together, can make a difference. That’s the thrust of former Virginia Department of Transportation Commissioner Philip Shucet’s letter to the state Senate task force studying transportation.

One of those narrow-bore solutions is to invest in smart signal systems. These “smart” traffic lights, which use traffic sensors to detect the speed of traffic and the size of back-ups at traffic lights, can adjust the signal timing dynamically to move traffic at optimum efficiency. This is a particularly attractive way to increase capacity of streets and thoroughfares in urbanized areas where it is too expensive to widen roads.

As Shucet observes: “Poorly timed traffic signals result in unnecessary stop-and-go traffic on city streets, waste money spent on fuel and contribute to urban air pollution. Yet, those very same signals when operated as part of a well-timed coordinated system can save time and money.” As an example, he cites a 1998 project that used more than 15,000 vehicle detectors to coordinate the timing of traffic lights in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William Counties. The first, three-year phase of the project saved motorists $24 million in fuel consumption alone.

“You may want to investigate this technology further,” Shucet wrote to the Senate task force. The state could consider establishing a program, perhaps on a matching basis, “that encourages or requires municipalities to invest in coordinated signal systems across geographic boundaries.”


Post a Comment

<< Home