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Here’s how the City of Philadelphia will transform traffic with technology

Philadelphia is the only major U.S. city that doesn't have a traffic operations center. In fall 2014, that will change.

Photo of traffic on I-76 courtesy of Flickr user wenzday01 via Creative Commons.
Updated 10/29/13 11 a.m.: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the location of the new traffic operations center. It will be in Juniata Park.

Philadelphia is the only major U.S. city that doesn’t have a traffic operations center. In fall 2014, that will change.

For the past five years, the city has been working on a $3.4 million traffic operations center that will allow the city to manage traffic.

The hope, said the city’s chief traffic and street lighting engineer Richard Montanez, is that the center will reduce traffic, as well as help SEPTA move faster through city streets. There’s no other way to deal with the city’s traffic, he said.

“We can’t build more roads,” Montanez said. “We can’t build our way out of congestion.”

A rendering of the city’s new traffic operations center.

According to project lead Montanez, the center, which will be in the Juniata Park section of North Philly, will be able to:

  • control about one-third of the city’s 3,000 traffic lights. It won’t be able to control all of them because two-thirds of the traffic lights are not computerized and cannot be controlled remotely. The city is working on upgrading these traffic lights as part of a $90 million, three-year project that began in 2012. Imagine the efficiency possibilities of being able to control traffic patterns through stop lights.
  • monitor traffic patterns using cameras that will be installed throughout the city. Right now, there are 12 cameras in Southeast Center City that the city uses to monitor traffic patterns, but they are only monitored about four hours a day, Montanez said. The city plans to install 50 more cameras in high traffic areas and monitor them from the center 24/7. PennDOT is also installing 39 cameras on I-95 to monitor traffic. The city will use this information about traffic patterns to guide how the traffic lights are timed.
Companies: City of Philadelphia / Philadelphia Fire Department

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