September 8, 2008 By Elaine Rundle
New York state is putting a new spin on traffic monitoring cameras by trying to measure the environmental benefits they can bring. By implementing more than 300 traffic cameras throughout the state and displaying live video feed on public Web sites, TV broadcasts and mobile devices, officials hope residents will know where traffic congestion is before getting into their vehicles.
Funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York State Department of Transportation, the program aims to curtail vehicle idling times, which creates more emissions than when vehicles are in motion.
According to Sal Graven, NYSERDA spokesman, the effort stems from Gov. David Paterson's Renewable Energy Task Force, which promotes energy efficiency and conservation in the state. The yearlong project has already begun and explores ways to reduce carbon dioxide emission and vehicle mileage.
"One way that fits in, and also as a part of that, is to look at reducing idling times for vehicles," Graven said. "While bringing this technology might actually, or could potentially, increase your miles because you would be forced to take a less direct, alternate route, the flipside is you're actually reducing energy consumption by maintaining an active flow of traffic."
TrafficLand, a company that delivers live traffic video over the Internet and TV, is providing the real-time video along with Google Maps to display camera locations at www.trafficland.com. Web site users can click on a camera to view an area's traffic.
Measuring the environmental benefit could prove to be a daunting task because users access the cameras remotely. But Graven said NYSERDA hopes to receive customer comments and will obtain the number of Web site hits from TrafficLand. He also said the transportation department might be taking actions to measure the environmental benefits. The project's results will be available in approximately one year.
"If the cars, trucks and buses are able to flow freely and not sit and idle, then that is a plus for the environment because there aren't as much emissions being emitted into the air from idling as there are from extra vehicles in transit," Graven said.
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