TM&E: The greatest of ease?

Jan. 26, 2010

There are certainly enough carousels out there to make one think merry go-rounds really do exist.

There are certainly enough carousels out there to make one think merry go-rounds really do exist.

I see the mechanism spin around every time I run into a backlog of traffic. In an effort to salvage one’s priceless time that is on the verge of being junked due to a sudden surge in congestion, a driver believes it is taking the proactive approach by reversing course and going around the sudden road infection. It is a fun maneuver at first, one that I admittedly insist on riding again and again, but by the time you have backtracked and sought out an alternate route, which is usually just as crowded, you are about ready to puke on the dashboard in frustration.

Well, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is raising the tent of innovation in the hopes of cutting into travel times. It will serve as the lead agency in a new demonstration project of the U.S. DOT’s Integrated Corridor Management program. Making the scene all the more entertaining is the fact that the federal government is fronting $5 million of the $8.3 million project. According to the U.S. DOT, the effort is designed to collaboratively engage the planning, technology and infrastructure resources of the various cities and government jurisdictions along Rte. 75 from Dallas north to S.H. 121 in Plano in improving mobility along the entire corridor instead of the traditional approach of managing individual assets to solve local mobility needs.

And the death-defying act of all this is it will attempt to provide accurate traffic forecasts 30 minutes in advance. We are not talking a one-ring act, either. Not only will it try to provide adequate advance warning, but it also will report road conditions, the real-time schedule of DART buses and trains, if there are tie-ups along nearby routes and, brace yourselves, if there are spots available in area park-and-ride lots.

“The goal is to bring together in a single, easy-to-follow format a number of independent components, like real-time travel information, DART information, parking availability and traffic monitoring,” DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas said in a statement.

The release goes on to read, “when traffic conditions change due to heavy traffic demand, incidents or inclement weather, transportation agencies can use this information to make immediate changes to traffic-signal timing on arterials and frontage roads as well as direct travelers to faster roadways or transit facilities.”

Now according to the information I have gathered motorists must call a 5-1-1 number to gather up all that this gizmo has to offer in order to take everything in. I believe future applications involve text messaging. So, let me get this straight, at a time when U.S. DOT Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood mustered up the effort to hold a distracted driver’s summit and come out with a set of regulations, the technology of tomorrow is telling us to log into those distracted devices and, with one hand on the wheel, dissect that information into a fast way out.

Do not get me wrong, I think the idea is fantastic and long overdue, but why are we welcoming it with a 20th century parade? If you ask me, the ringleader of all this has to be the personal navigation system. Until you have an affordable device in your car that can verbally tell you updates and alternatives all you are left with is a lot of stellar information with nowhere to go. Well, I take that back, there is always that ride on the angry go-round.

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