Can Los Angeles Prevent Traffic Gridlock?
In the metro area alone, Los Angeles has 7 million commuters each day fighting each other during rush hour (the time either going or coming home from work). Rush hour in LA can start at 5 a.m. or at 3 p.m and easily last three hours. If there is ANY wrecks along the road, scares or anything, that can jam it all up. It is a VERY fragile system at these times.
So, 30 years ago, LA started a synchronization project at a cost of $400 million. It was just completed. Called the "Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control System", it is the world's most comprehensive mitigating traffic system. It uses hundreds of cameras and magnetic sensors embedded in the road to measure the flow of traffic all hooked into a central computer that makes millions of traffic light adjustments to keep traffic flowing.
So, when the system was activated, all 4,500 traffic lights across the 470 square miles, one could drive without stopping very much. That was the theory, but initial results show that without this system, it takes an average of 20 minutes to drive five miles. With the system, it takes only 17 minutes. Hmmm, just three minutes?
The magnetic sensors are at every intersection and send real-time data about traffic flow though fiber optic cables to the downtown LA, where the computer is. It then makes second by second decisions or adaptations to change conditions and predicts where traffic could jam up. Traffic lights are quickly changed to promote better flow.
But as a driver crawling a mere 15 mph is happier if they can avoid all the stop and go intersections create. The freeways are not impacted really, at the wrong time, there is nothing one can do but grin and bear it. But, in the metro area, while the time to travel is only a little improved, it is the flow that is paramount and that seems to be working better by some accounts. Still, the gridlock, will remain.