Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a new, technology-based traffic management system on Monday that allows traffic lights to adjust to the changing needs of traffic in real time.
The new "smart" traffic light system—which will be used in Midtown Manhattan—allows traffic engineers to conduct on-the-spot monitoring of traffic flow, quickly identify congestion choke points as they occur and remotely adjust traffic signal patterns to clear traffic jams, with the touch of a button.
The system is called Midtown in Motion, and it includes 100 microwave sensors, 32 traffic video cameras and E-ZPass readers at 23 intersections to measure traffic volumes, congestion and record vehicle travel times in the approximately 110-square block area bound by Second to Sixth Avenues and 42nd to 57th streets.
“Since the beginning of our Administration, we’ve been committed to finding ways to employ technology to give decision makers throughout government the information they need when they need it,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We are now using the most sophisticated system of its kind in the nation to improve traffic flow on the City’s most congested streets—Midtown Manhattan.
Current traffic light systems are set to adjust to preset signal patterns based on the time of day, limiting the City's ability to respond to crashes or construction changes and causing backups that block cross streets and crosswalks. Midtown in Motion allows Department of Transportation engineers to conduct real-time analysis and alleviate congestion before it worsens.
On the avenues, engineers can switch more easily between a simultaneous signal pattern, where all the signals on the avenue turn green or red at the same time, and a traffic signal progression, which lets vehicles traveling at the speed limit encounter green lights as they drive along a corridor.
The real-time traffic flow information also will be made available to motorists and to app developers for use on their PDAs and smart phones very soon.
The wireless system is made possible through the use of the New York City Wireless Network (NYCWiN), a wireless network developed and managed by the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.
Planning and installation of Midtown in Motion components began last summer. The total cost for installation of the system was $1.6 million, with $1 million in City funding and $600,000 in Federal funding provided by the Federal Highway Administration.