The City of Newport Beach is utilizing various strategies to improve traffic flow on its roadways including the traffic signal modernization project that upgraded nearly 120 traffic signals throughout the community to ease maintenance, improve system reliability and help to enhance traffic flow.
Why did the City upgrade the traffic signal network?
The project included the replacement of 25-year old equipment with new traffic control hardware. We also installed new software 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.
What is a Traffic Management Center?
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.
Why does the City have CCTV and is each intersection monitored 24/7?
The incorporation of CCTV cameras along with the traffic signal system was a step to improve traffic flow, create a more reliable system and reduce traffic signal down time. Our 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. To minimize costs, CCTV cameras were only installed in strategic locations, which include major intersections, in order to have a clear view of upstream and downstream traffic. The CCTV cameras and system are not monitored 24/7. Additionally, the video feeds are live and are not recorded.
Is traffic signal timing changed to help improve the flow of traffic?
Yes. The traffic signal system is 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 are realized by being able to change timing of several signals while monitoring the events from City Hall.
How do the traffic signals operate? Are they coordinated?
As with most Agencies, the City’s system implements traffic signal timing plans for specific times of day. The timing plans are established based on vehicle/pedestrian/bicycle demand on the roadway. Major corridors 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 major 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.
Who determines the amount of time for pedestrian crossing?
Pedestrian times can seem to be too long and usually create delay for the coordinated movement along an arterial roadway. Unfortunately, this is an element 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.
Why does it seem like I always get a red light?
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.
What is being done to facilitate movement of traffic in the future?
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.