More fish-eye cameras, better signal timing may soon ease traffic

Austin fish-eye traffic camera (KXAN photo)
Austin fish-eye traffic camera (KXAN photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s Department of Transportation plans to cut down on the amount of time drivers spend at traffic lights. The city believes it can do that with a better bird’s eye view from fish-eye cameras.

City leaders green-lighted the plan at their council meeting Thursday to bring more of the panoramic cameras to intersections. Austin already has 11 of the cameras, mostly along Loop 360. There are also cameras at Riverside and Congress and Westlake and Loop 360.

With just one camera, traffic monitors can get a better view of how long drivers wait at red lights and how many of them are turning. The data helps them figure out which lights need to be green and at what time to best keep the cars moving, especially during morning and evening rush hour. Traffic monitors can do this with just one fish-eye camera. Normally, it would take four cameras, one at each corner to get that much information.

City leaders approved the $2 million dollar price tag that would buy the cameras and install them at the most congested, highly-traveled intersections. Engineers said because there’s only one camera and one cable, they can install them faster, meaning less lane closures impacting drivers.

The city says the cameras will not be used to help police write tickets for traffic violations or red-light runners. Austin police have told KXAN red light cameras are installed as a last resort after engineers determine there is nothing else that can be done to improve an intersection.

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