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Solving traffic congestion with technology – It can be done!

Exploring new strategies to tap into the technology world to help us with traffic congestion is intriguing. I’ve complained for years that it takes me 45 minutes to get from Ghent (Norfolk) to Town Center (Virginia Beach) during rush hour with 25 minutes of that between Ghent and I-264 (about 3-1/2 miles). We have the traffic data. We have the ways to track vehicles and live ridership. Why wouldn’t we run smart traffic signal technology to push public transit vehicles through our travel paths with priority? If a bus is carrying 25 people or a light rail vehicle is carrying 20 people, it should get travel priority over my Acura SUV with one person or an Uber with 2 people. That’s only smart, right?

Solving the pervasive problem of traffic congestion will require an approach  that extends beyond bans on ride-hailing services, but looks to more nuanced solutions like better managing street right-of-ways and technology to give public transit priority on crowded streets.

TriMet, the transit agency serving the Portland, Ore., metro area, is exploring a next-generation transit signal prioritization system that goes even further than simply lengthening a green light for a bus that may be running behind schedule. The new system — about a year away — will know how many passengers are on the bus, where the vehicle is headed, the bus’s relationship to other transit vehicles and other data points, which ultimately, get passed along to the intelligent traffic signal.

So this is all about making high-occupancy vehicles move through the congested areas faster than your Uber and Lyft that have one or two people in it.

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