NYC’s Midtown in Motion receives national award

“Smart” traffic management system uses wireless technology to respond to real-time traffic conditions

June 11, 2012

The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) has recognized the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) for Midtown in Motion, a sophisticated traffic management system that uses intelligent transportation systems (ITS) to ease traffic congestion, improve traffic flow and reduce greenhouse emissions and air pollution on the city’s most congested streets.

Janette Sadik-Khan, NYCDOT transportation commissioner, was presented with the ITS America Smart Solution Spotlight award in recognition of the city’s commitment to “smart” technologies that allow engineers to respond to traffic conditions in real-time. The real-time traffic data is transmitted wirelessly through the city’s network and made available to motorists and to app developers to use on smart phones and PDAs. The system allows NYCDOT engineers to conduct real-time analysis and change signal patterns at the touch of a button, helping to alleviate congestion before it worsens.

“From cameras to microwave sensors and E-ZPass readers to advanced solid state traffic controllers, Midtown in Motion is a showcase of the most sophisticated intelligent transportation solutions available to public agencies,” said Scott Belcher, president and CEO of ITS America. “ITS America is excited to recognize this comprehensive use of technology and real-time data, which has resulted in a highly successful deployment that can be replicated in cities throughout the country.”

NYCDOT also has announced that the service area will more than double in size to include Midtown from 1st to 9th avenue and from 42nd to 57th street. Installed in July 2011, the first phase of the program included 100 microwave sensors, 32 traffic video cameras and E-ZPass readers at 23 intersections to measure traffic speeds. Over the course of the year, engineers in NYCDOT’s Traffic Management Center (TMC) used the technology to quickly identify congestion issues as they occurred and use networked advanced solid state traffic controllers to remotely adjust Midtown traffic signal patterns, unplug bottlenecks and smooth the flow of traffic. Preliminary results of the first phase showed an overall 10% increase in travel speeds on the avenues in the 110-block service area, as measured by E-ZPass readers, and taxi GPS data showed similar results. The expanded service area, covering more than 270 square blocks, will include an additional 110 microwave sensors, 24 traffic video cameras and 36 E-ZPass readers and will be fully operational this summer, allowing engineers to respond to congestion in the heart of Midtown.

“When Midtown moves, New York City moves,” said Commissioner Sadik-Khan. “While every New Yorker talks about beating the traffic, by extending Midtown in Motion and speeding our reaction times to trouble spots, we’ve taken decisive steps towards managing it more effectively. We also welcome this Smart Solution Spotlight award for shining a light on our nonstop efforts to keep New Yorkers moving.”

The Midtown in Motion program also included the installation of turn lanes at 53 intersections, allowing vehicles to turn from cross-town streets onto the avenues without blocking an entire lane of through-traffic, and added turn signals at 23 of these intersections to allow turning vehicles to do so more safely without conflicting with pedestrians. Half of the city’s signalized intersections—6,200—have been computerized and integrated with the TMC. The goal is complete integration of all signals by 2013.

For more information about Midtown in Motion, see "Thinning out Apple jams," TM&E, January 2012, p 18.

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