April 25, 2007 By Jessica Weidling
Just as a music conductor guides an orchestra, making interpretative decisions as to the tempo of a music passage, real-time intelligent traffic systems now help cities conduct light-rail and side-street traffic, resulting in a harmonious flow of transportation through bustling city streets.
Such technology can be used to regulate car commute times, increase the viability of light-rail systems and avoid the ever-growing problem of congested roadways.
A group of Arizona cities is working toward this end and plans to implement a "predictive priority" system for the Central Phoenix/East Valley Light Rail Transit Project - now under construction and set to open in December 2008.
Valley Metro is the local agency responsible for public transportation in the area. Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa and Glendale created the nonprofit METRO light rail, under Arizona statute, to construct, design and maintain Valley Metro's light rail.
Predictive priority is meant to synchronize traffic lights to increase the smooth circulation of car and light-rail traffic. Phoenix's system balances the need to give priority to approaching light-rail trains - ensuring the fewest red lights for public transportation - without disrupting traffic flow, said Pat Fuller, deputy project manager of design and construction at METRO light rail.
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