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DOT and MTA Years Behind Schedule on Traffic Signal Tech to Speed Buses

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Transit signal priority is inexpensive and has a track record of boosting NYC bus speeds. So why are plans to implement it years behind schedule? Image: DOT


Bus riders spend a lot of time stopped at red lights, but they don’t have to. A technology called transit signal priority, or TSP, speeds up transit trips by adjusting signal timing so buses hit more green lights and fewer reds. TSP has a proven track record in New York, but on several routes, implementation is years behind schedule.

Transit signal priority uses GPS devices on buses to send a signal to a traffic management center, which can then either hold a green light as the bus approaches or shorten the amount of time a bus is stopped at a red light. According to NYC DOT, the technology has sped bus trips between 10 and 18.4 percent. A recent evaluation of signal priority on the M15 Select Bus Service said “the system is working well… [and] the city has the option to deploy citywide.” The problem is that only a handful of routes are outfitted with TSP. The city’s 2011 PlaNYC update set a goal of adding transit signal priority to 11 routes citywide, but didn’t set a target completion date. So far, the city and the (MTA) have rolled out transit signal priority on just three corridors. Seven routes remain in various stages of planning or study. New York’s first TSP system was installed at 14 intersections along Staten Island’s Victory Boulevard in 2008. Signal priority cut bus travel times by 16 percent during the morning rush hour and 11 percent during the evening , and 19 additional intersections on the route are in line to get it. The city’s first Select Bus Service route, the Bx12 on Fordham Road, received TSP later in 2008, covering 35 intersections over 2.4 miles between Broadway in Manhattan and Southern Boulevard in the Bronx. Since then, the only route to receive upgrades has been the M15 +SBS+ , which in May 2013 received signal priority for 50 buses and 34 intersections along 2.2 miles of its route south of Houston Street. The M15 was the first in the city to use newer technology that communicates with the traffic management center, the (MTA) says, with Victory Boulevard and Fordham Road relying on older “line of sight” devices. Bus riders on other routes are still waiting for improvements, in some cases years after blown deadlines. When +SBS+ launched on the S79, in 2012, transit signal priority was a big part of the plan. DOT calls it “the most extensive implementation of TSP in New York so far,” covering 70 intersections on 14 miles in two boroughs, mostly along Hylan Boulevard. When the service launched, City Hall said signal priority would be up and running by spring 2013. The completion date was later pushed back to 2014. Now, DOT says it will be done by the end of this year.


Transit signal priority works by communicating between buses and individual traffic signals. The MTA pays for installation on buses; DOT pays for evaluation. Image: DOT


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Source: http://www.streetsblog.org/2015/05/21/dot-and-mta-years-behind-on-promised-traffic-signal-tech-to-speed-buses/

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