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Upgraded Signal Technology Improves the New York Commute

Thanks to Transit Signal Priority, buses are given the green light as they approach an intersection. The technology is in place on 594 intersections and is responsible, officials say, for a 25 percent increase in route efficiency.

by Clayton Guse, New York Daily News / April 8, 2019
Shutterstock/DW labs Incorporated

(TNS) — New traffic light technology is speeding up bus service across the five boroughs, city and MTA officials say.

The tech, dubbed Transit Signal Priority, or TSP, enables stoplights to flip or stay green when a bus approaches. It’s a key part of Mayor de Blasio’s vow to increase bus speeds by 25% by the end of 2020.

TSP is currently implemented at 594 intersections along 12 bus routes, six of which are high-volume select bus lines. On some routes, the tech trick has been found to increase bus speeds by the 25 percent that de Blasio is calling for.

Until the mayor announced his commitment to improving bus service in January, transit advocates criticized the administration for not taking TSP seriously enough.

To get TSP rolling at an intersection, the city Department of Transportation must do a traffic study and upgrade stoplights with new software. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority also needs to install software on the computers on its buses.

Until recently the DOT had outside consultants to do its traffic studies. But now they’ve brought some of those analysts on staff, which has sped up the process.

“It saves money, it saves time, it allows us to capture the expertise moving forward,” Josh Benson, the DOT’s head of traffic operations, said of the decision to bring the data buffs in-house. “We hired the people who are becoming the most experts on this [TSP] in the whole country.”

MTA computer programmers made an innovation of their own by figuring out how to install the technology on buses.

“TSP is a high-tech and common-sense way to speed up bus traffic,” said MTA spokesman Shams Tarek. “We’re excited about the momentum we have with DOT and City Hall’s support."

Even though the city and MTA are picking up the pace when it comes to TSP, some believe that it’s too little, too late.

Councilman Mark Levine, D-Manhattan, introduced a bill in 2017 requiring the DOT to add the technology to 10 new bus routes annually. He plans to resubmit it this year with some tweaks.

In his pitch for the city to take over control of the subway and buses, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the DOT should implement TSP at 1,000 intersections annually.

“A bus with just seven passengers is better for the environment than a private car,” said Johnson. “We have the technology to speed up bus times, and we’re barely using it."

©2019 New York Daily News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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