Within the year Austin looks to upgrade signal light software

Signal lights have also been re-timed at 5th and Lamar near Whole Foods (Dugan/KXAN)
Signal lights have also been re-timed at 5th and Lamar near Whole Foods (KXAN Photo/Amanda Dugan)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Transportation Management Center has been monitoring Austin roads for 16 years.

Last year, the city of Austin expanded the TMC and boosted staff coverage to increase the hours of center operation, improve operational efficiency, help manage incidents and events and ultimately improve transportation system performance. The city has released a performance report on how the expansion has benefited Austin drivers and what’s next for the transportation center.

Since the expansion, the city has been able to re-time about 87 signal lights to help improve traffic flow.

One of those spots is on North Lamar Boulevard at Fifth and Sixth Streets. A problem with the intersection is the heavy amount of left-turn traffic right in front of Whole Foods. Engineers designed a timing system that helped spillover from the left turn.

Austin resident Joe Cook says he’s noticed things moving more smoothly since the signal lights have been re-timed. “Traffic is moving a lot better compared to the past,” says Cook. “It’s more laid back, like Austin is.”

By hiring more staff, the TMC has also been able to increase their operating hours. The addition of consultant staff has enabled the city to expand the hours of TMC operation during weekdays, to include an additional 30 minutes in the morning (6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m.) and an additional 90 minutes in the evening (6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.), as well as providing coverage on Saturdays (nine hours) and Sundays (eight hours).

Beyond expanding the daily hours of operation, additional staff resources have been included during the weekday peak periods. This means that technicians can respond sooner to signal light outages during the night and early morning.

Now the city also wants to improve how quickly information — like lane closures — gets to drivers. Officials say upgrading software in traffic signals will also pick up the pace. Two more priorities this year: Replacing vehicle detectors at intersections so lights change when a driver approaches and enhancing communication with other agencies like the Texas Department of Transportation.

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