Below are some questions and answers about traffic signals and the traffic signal upgrades occurring in the city:
Q. What is Traffic Signal Modernization?
A. The City of Newport Beach is utilizing various strategies to improve traffic flow on its roadways including the traffic signal modernization project designed to upgrade nearly 120 traffic signals throughout the community to ease maintenance, improve system reliability, and help to enhance traffic flow. The project is being completed in phases and includes:
- Coast Highway and MacArthur Boulevard Corridors – 22 traffic signal locations upgraded and 22 intersections retimed and installation of two CCTV cameras (phase complete).
- Jamboree Road Corridor and the Airport Area – 29 traffic signal locations upgraded and retimed 29 intersections and installation of 13 CCTV cameras (phase complete).
- West Newport and the Balboa Peninsula area – 30 traffic signal locations upgraded, retiming of 30 intersections and installation of seven CCTV cameras (phase completion-Fall 2010).
- Newport Center area- 10 signal locations upgraded and retimed, two new traffic signals installed and integrated into the signal system and installation of three CCTV Cameras (phase completion- Summer 2012).
- Newport Coast Drive and San Joaquin Hills Road corridors - upgrade 17 traffic signal locations, retime 24 intersections (including locations in the City of Irvine to enhance corridor coordination) and install four CCTV cameras (planned construction- Winter 2014, Partially funded through OCTA Measure M2 Grant).
- East Newport is anticipated to be funded and implemented within the next two years.
Q. Why is the City upgrading the traffic signal network?
A. The project includes replacement of 25-year old equipment with new traffic control hardware. We are also installing new software designed to operate the signal timing. The goal of the signal system is to reduce delay for motorists, while creating a reliable system that is easy to maintain, can reduce staff workload, and will serve the city for many years. At this point, three-quarters of the city’s intersections have been converted to the new system. As we have seen an improvement, there have also been some setbacks. Staff is continually reviewing the operation of the signals and looking for ways to improve the network.
Q. What is a Traffic Management Center?
A. The Traffic Management Center (TMC) is located at City Hall and is equipped with a series of computers and display monitors. The TMC is receiving information from the closed circuit cameras that have been placed at major intersections and uses fiber optic cables to transmit information back to City Hall. This enables City traffic engineers to track signal operations and traffic flows and remotely adjust signal coordination and timing. Through the use of the new transportation management software and signal controllers, the TMC receives a live video feed of up to 16 intersections simultaneously which allows staff to make adjustments in real time.
Q. Why does the City have CCTV and is each intersection monitored 24/7?
A. The incorporation of CCTV cameras along with the new traffic signal system was a step to improve traffic flow, create a more reliable system, and reduce traffic signal down time. Our new system allows staff to respond to incidents, review traffic signal issues, and review other operations within the roadway in a more efficient manner. Technology has opened up new avenues for us, such as receiving warnings of traffic signal failures and addressing them from City Hall as opposed to waiting for someone to call in an issue and having to send a staff member out to the intersection. Of course, some instances require hands on attention, but the new system has significantly reduced response times. To minimize costs, CCTV cameras are only being installed in strategic locations which include major intersections that often have a clear view of upstream and downstream traffic. The CCTV cameras and system are not monitored 24/7. Additional, the video feeds are live and are not recorded.
Q. Is traffic signal timing changed to help improve the flow of traffic?
A. Yes. Recently, the new traffic signal system has been used to retime signals and monitor activities for roadway construction and special events around the Newport Center area. The benefits of the system and cameras were realized by being able to change timing of several signals while monitoring the events from City Hall. Previously, an effort of this magnitude required multiple staff members to be in the field for long durations of time.
Q. How do the traffic signals operate? Are they coordinated?
A. As with most Agencies, the City’s system implements traffic signal timing plans for specific times of day. The new timing plans are established based on vehicle/pedestrian/bicycle demand on the roadway. Arterial (major) corridors with intersections that have been upgraded are currently running coordination patterns for the morning, mid-day and afternoon peak periods. This form of coordinated traffic signal timing benefits the major movements along the arterial roadways.
During the non-peak hours, the system runs in a “free” pattern. During “free” operation the traffic signal operates independently, using pre-set times and changing as vehicles are “sensed” by the roadway detectors. The “free” operation is intended to reduce delays to all movements, including side streets, when the demand has been reduced on the major roadways.
Q. Who determines the amount of time for pedestrian crossing?
A. Pedestrian times can seem to be too long and usually create delay for the coordinated movement along an arterial roadway. Unfortunately, this is one area the City does not have the ability to change. The City is obligated to follow the State and Federal guidelines for pedestrian timing of signals. The current timing has been found to be a bit long for most healthy adults, but the pedestrian timing also addresses the needs of others, such as, senior citizens and those with disabilities.
Q. Why does it seem I always get a red light?
A. As noted above, there are many elements that go into traffic phasing and signal operations. A few of the elements include pedestrian activity, the time of day, day of the week, construction activity, traffic incidents, and even the weather can influence the flow of traffic at any given time. Being a coastal city with a very active community and a strong tourism influence, the traffic signal system faces many unique challenges that our neighboring cities may not have. Staff is constantly monitoring and fine-tuning the system to improve traffic flow, but as it can change instantly, this will always be a work in progress.
Q. What is being done to facilitate movement of traffic in the future?
A. The traffic signal system will continually evolve through maintenance, software enhancements, monitoring, and timing upgrades. While these practices will improve the efficiency of the roadway network, additional physical roadway improvements, such as roadway widening and additional turn-lanes, will be studied and constructed as needed.