2012 National Traffic Signal Report Card reveals minor progress

Agencies of all sizes show improvement; much work still to be done

Transportation Management News National Transportation Operations Coalition May 15, 2012
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The latest national traffic signal assessment conducted by the National Transportation Operations Coalition (NTOC), a group of transportation associations, shows that gradual but steady progress is being made on the management and operation of traffic signals despite continued funding challenges. NTOC today released the 2012 National Traffic Signal Report Card with a grade of 69, equivalent to a D+ letter grade, based upon the assessment. The 2012 score is a modest four-point improvement over the 2007 result of a D letter grade (65). The effort to improve the nation’s traffic signal systems is driven by benefits such as reduced fuel consumption and congestion mitigation.


Agencies are beginning to reorganize, working smarter to focus resources on operations and maintenance, and collaborating regionally to take advantage of distributed expertise and to compete for resources more effectively to improve their capabilities. Management, operations, and maintenance practices that consider agency objectives, capabilities, and resource constraints have great potential to improve the performance of the transportation system.


Grading themselves in five areas, 241 respondents, representing approximately 39% of all traffic signals in the United States, completed the self-assessment. The complete grades are as follows:


Management — D

Traffic Signal Operations — C

Signal Timing Practices — C

Traffic Monitoring and Data Collection — F

Maintenance — C

Overall — D+


The results indicate that improvement and investment in traffic signal operations remains critical. Although the overall improvement is small, participating agencies operating 150 to 450, 450 to 1,000, and more than 1,000 traffic signals, each made gains and have an overall letter grade of C in each size category. And as in the last report card there are examples of successful practices.


“Poor signal timing contributes 5 percent to overall total sources of congestion and a much higher percentage to arterial and local roadway congestion. Research shows that a few small changes to the local management and operations of traffic signals could result in significant benefits in time and fuel saved for the travelling public” said Douglas Noble, program manager, National Transportation Operations Coalition (NTOC) and senior director for management and operations at the Institute of Transportation Engineers in Washington, D.C.


Click here to download the full report or an executive summary.

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