Fixing signals on the fritz
The rapidly growing Midland, Texas, population had created traffic jams and a need for newer signals and management equipment. By 2007, traffic volume had increased by 17 percent — a daily increase of 50,000 vehicles versus 2006.
Part of the traffic problem was the poor communication between the signals and the city’s traffic management center. Resolving issues could require several hours, multiple staff members and significant driving time. “I wanted to be able to send and receive data, so we could minimize manual intervention,” says Gary Saunders, Midland’s traffic manager.
Saunders upgraded the traffic control hardware and automated traffic management software with equipment from Naztec. To transmit data from the signals to the traffic management center, Midland contracted with Coleman Technologies to install approximately 200 wireless signal transmitters by Cisco across the city to create a wireless mesh network.
Now, the new system notifies the traffic management center when a signal malfunctions or has received conflicting commands. Typically, problems can be fixed remotely, unless it is a physical equipment or wiring issue. “By reducing manual intervention, we can also reduce fuel costs for the city,” Saunders says. In addition, he says fewer delays means emissions are reduced, and drivers’ fuel mileage is improved.
Since the system was installed in January, there is less congestion and fewer traffic delays caused by malfunctioning signals. The city also can use the wireless network for other applications. For example, Midland officials are considering using it to transmit images from wireless IP cameras and to send data to mobile access routers in vehicles, including technicians or emergency services personnel. “In the beginning, I was looking at a traffic signal system,” Saunders says. “Once we had the wireless mesh network component of the solution, potential applications kept building.”
Project: Traffic management system upgrade
Jurisdiction: Midland, Texas
Agency: Transportation Division
Vendors: San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco; Sugar Land, Texas-based Naztec, Inc.; Orlando, Fla.-based Coleman Technologies, Inc.
Date: January 2009
Cost: $1.9 million