When adaptive signals are a good fit

Posted by on Apr 10, 2012

Adaptive traffic signals can be beneficial in a variety of typical and abnormal traffic situations, but there are a couple of instances that perfectly demonstrate their benefits and why we’re so interested in them.

Think back on the times you’ve been driving down the interstate when all of a sudden brake lights ahead of you start lighting up and traffic starts to slow down. The first thing you think of is, “How quickly can I get off this interstate and find another route,” right?

Hopefully there’s a highway running parallel to the interstate, but it’s likely designed for normal traffic conditions. This is not a normal situation.  If all of a sudden there’s all this traffic on the highway that’s not normally there, it’s not going to operate very well with normal traffic signals.

But the computers in adaptive signal systems will see the abnormally large amount of traffic. It doesn’t care why the traffic has dramatically increased, but it knows to start making signal adjustments.

Another good example most people in Alabama will identify with is traveling on roadways that lead to the beach. No one can get there fast enough during Spring Break, Memorial Day weekend, the Fourth of July and other summer weekends, which leads to increased traffic. The adaptive signals see the eager beach goers, so it adjusts to those different conditions and tries its best to move people through.

The signals in these situations won’t be perfect. You’re still probably going to sit in some traffic after you’ve rerouted to the highway, and the kids will still be impatiently bouncing in their seats as you finish that last leg of roadway before hitting the beach, but adaptive traffic signals could go a long way in improving those experiences as they adjust to real time conditions.

Sain Associates, Inc., is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, with offices in Cullman, Alabama, Pulaski, Tennessee and Mandeville, Louisiana. Sain is a site engineering, traffic/transportation engineering and planning and land surveying firm with experience in more than thirty states.

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