Arlington Exploring Innovative Transportation Technology

Love that feeling when you catch more than one green light in a row? The City of Arlington is exploring innovative transportation technology that would allow drivers to experience that thrill more often while also helping to keep streets safer and less congested.

As part of its Smart Cities initiative, the Arlington Public Works and Transportation is participating in two pilot programs designed to make the traffic signal network more efficient and also to let drivers know through a smart phone app how fast they should be going to avoid red lights. If successful, both programs could roll out to benefit drivers in The American Dream City later this year.

“A well-managed transportation system is more than just moving people from Point A to Point B. It requires making smart infrastructure and technology investments that get our citizens and visitors to their destinations with as few headaches as possible,” Public Works and Transportation Director Mindy Carmichael said. “These pilot projects are among the most recent examples of Arlington’s commitment to enhancing mobility throughout the city.”

In one pilot program, the City is partnering with Connected Signals, Inc. to evaluate the company’s Enlighten advance traveler information system. The technology, which communicates with the City’s advanced transportation management system software, advises drivers what speed they need to be traveling to make a green light at the next intersection as well as wait times at that signalized intersection.

The Connected Signals app displays information on a user’s smart phone or on displays available in certain smart vehicles.

“This could make our streets safer. If you are not going to make the green light ahead, it will tell you,” said Carmichael, adding that the technology is designed to show drivers a range of speeds they should be traveling to make up to two green lights in a row.

The app can also alert distracted drivers when a signal light is about to turn green. The less time that vehicles sit idling at an intersection is better for fuel efficiency, traffic flow and air quality.

“If you are sitting at a red light and you are distracted, the app will beep at you when its 5 seconds from the light turning green. You put your phone down and you make the signal more efficient because you are ready to go,” Carmichael said.

Public Works and Transportation is also working with Acyclica Inc. to make Arlington’s traffic signal network more efficient at intersections along select major corridors, such as Matlock Road. As part of the pilot program, the company’s traffic counting and performance measuring devices are being deployed at 14 intersections to collect traffic data, such as volume, speed and percentage of vehicles turning left or right.

This system can instantly analyze the data for performance measures, such as travel time, average speed, intersection delays, and signal synchronization performance.  With these performance measures, City staff can set thresholds for operators to be automatically alerted, and proactive actions taken for efficient traffic management.

“If drivers were traveling an average of 30 miles an hour and they suddenly drop down to two miles an hour, we’ll know there is a problem,” Carmichael said. “We take all of the data and refine our signal timing. We can react to that problem much more quickly because it’s real-time data.”

Carmichael said the City is exploring how both these projects, which align with the Arlington City Council priorities to Put Technology to Work and to Enhance Regional Mobility, can aid in signal timing and phasing to move platoons of vehicles as efficiently as possible.

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