Murray Avenue Signals, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from jmd41280’s photostream

A recent report by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute showed that Pittsburghers spend $826 a year sitting in traffic. All of that gas money gone to waste is only part of the problem. Idling traffic also causes serious environmental and public health problems. The harmful pollution caused by heavy gridlock causes asthma in our kids, heart disease and respiratory problems for seniors, and contributes to global climate change. Plus traffic is just a pain. Yet we have the technology right here in our back yard to do something about it! Carnegie Mellon University has pioneered ‘smart’ traffic signals that could revolutionize the way we get around. It’s time to implement smart traffic signal throughout Pittsburgh.

1. Adaptive Signalization

Adaptive signalization is a complicated way of saying “traffic lights that talk to each other.” Carnegie Mellon University’s Traffic21 Initiative has already shown how successful this technology can be. If you’ve noticed that traffic around the new Target in East Liberty flows a little better than it used to then you’ve seen this powerful technology at work.

These high-tech traffic lights adjust to traffic conditions in real-time, lengthening or shortening a light cycle to create a smoother flow of traffic, less gridlock, and overall better driving conditions.

2.  Saving Money While Improving Conditions

Not only have smart traffic signals been shown to improve conditions for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians, but they will save taxpayers’ money over time. CMU’s pilot project with East Liberty Development, Inc. in East Liberty reduced traffic wait time by 40 percent, total travel time by 26 percent, and vehicle emissions by 21 percent. If we were to install smart signals in the busiest corridors in the city we could also save hundreds of thousands of dollars over just a few years. 

In order to program a standard traffic light, hundreds of hours of traffic data must be collected, technicians must physically go to the lights and program them, and then must periodically check to make sure the timing is correct. Smart, networked traffic lights do all of this work for us and can respond in real-time as traffic problems are occurring. This frees up our workers times to focus on more important jobs and leads to better results on a day-to-day basis.

Smart traffic signals are a cost-effective way to reduce congestion, improve safety, and keep pollution down. We have the technology and know-how to make this happen for every busy traffic corridor in Pittsburgh and it’s time to start now!