Whole in one

Thinking Highways
By Bruce Dressler May 13, 2014 15:09

Whole in one

Scottsdale’s new Traffic Management Center, 2014

Scottsdale, Arizona’s new traffic management center was born out of necessity, as Bruce Dressler explains.

Twenty years ago, the Phoenix Open moved to Scottsdale’s Tournament Players Club in Scottsdale, Arizona to create additional parking and adopt a stadium style golf experience for spectators. The weekly attendance averaged 30,000 during that time and traffic/parking was handled mostly within a square mile of the course by local police officers.

Today, the now-sponsored Waste Management Open’s attendance exceeds over a half million for the week. Friday and Saturday attendance tops 150,000 each day. Watching the legendary 16th hole on TV gives one an understanding of this tournament’s epic proportions.

As the Waste Management Open is the best-attended golf tournament in the world, with more than double the attendance of its nearest rival, to accommodate these record crowds offsite parking has been expanded to three large areas up to three miles away. Bus shuttles run on 10-minute intervals to deliver spectators to the main entrance gate. The world-renown Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction, the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show and other high-profile events are held in the same general area. These events also draw very large crowds and are held shortly after the golf tournament.

In 2015, Arizona will once again be hosting the Super Bowl in nearby Glendale. This will happen during the same week as the Waste Management Open. Many Super Bowl events will take place in Scottsdale and create the potential for a real traffic nightmare!

Living the Nightmare  

When the golf tournament moved to Scottsdale, the average number of police working event traffic was 50 officers. There was no freeway access and almost all of the officers were physically controlling signalized intersections. The creation of Scottsdale’s Traffic Management Center (TMC) changed that. It consisted of only two analog PTZ CCTV cameras and a signal system capable of manually reprogramming basic timing parameters on the fly. The control center consisted of a closet with two computers, a TV and a video system that linked two cameras via microwave antennas. All of the signal communications were on leased telephone lines.

Within two years, most of the uniformed officers were freed from controlling signals and the Scottsdale TMC became a powerful resource in the effort to manage special event traffic employing 18 pre-programmed, directionally based, timing plans that could be instantly implemented depending on prevailing traffic patterns.

Whole in one - First Scotsdale TMC

First Scottsdale TMC, circa 1996

The idea of “Intelligent” Transportation Systems had not yet been discussed, nor coined as the technology solution to traffic congestion. Scottsdale’s traffic engineers soon discovered that signal timing manipulation during these events worked for everyday traffic as well.

Signal timing plans are best developed when the traffic engineer can actually watch traffic patterns from the camera monitors located in the TMC. The timing plans were developed using Trafficware’s Syncro Studio, then deployed and modified by watching platooning traffic where cameras were available. Special event traffic signal timing plans were developed over time that best served the golf and auction traffic. These timing plans consisted of 18 different versions that were all directionally based.

These plans soon evolved to include progression offsets for emergency patterns 11 – 18. The AM, mid-day and PM plans, (1 through 10) are “typical” plans used daily and are specific to each intersection. The emergency plans are deployed when incidents or accidents block lanes, and are also specific to each intersection. When traffic reaches a point where typical timing plans are ineffective, an operator can implement a remote “stop-time” to hold an intersection in a specific direction of traffic for extended periods of time to help clear the delays caused by the event.

A state-of-the-art TMC

Scottsdale continued to expand the ITS capabilities in 2014 by building the new Traffic Management Center, replacing the old center of 15 years. It is closer to the physical center of the city and the Police Department’s main district office that houses 911 Operators.

Over the course of the last 20 years, the relationship with the Police Department has grown to a point where the TMC provides direct information to the officers in the field about collision locations, missing persons, and most recently, drivers under the influence that pose a direct threat to the traveling public.

The new TMC controls 150 CCTV cameras, soon to be all IP-based, 300 signalized intersections, 46 Dynamic Message Signs, (DMS) and 130 high- bandwidth capacity “Firetide” radios to the last mile intersections. Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) will be added soon. It will eventually replace the DMS to warn drivers of delays on the road ahead of them. All of the leased phone lines have been disconnected and replaced with 165 miles of fiber optic communications, along with the last mile radios.

The TMC staff includes five specially trained professionals that consist of one Manager, one Senior Traffic Engineer, two ITS Analysts and one ITS Senior Technician. Each has a specific assignment to operate and maintain the City’s ITS facilities. All have the shared responsibility to control traffic during incidents and accidents. Emails are sent to a large media and staff list that describes the details of the incidents/accidents in real-time, while providing updates about changing conditions and when the incident/accident has been cleared.

Arizona DOT and Scottsdale have established routing and Incident Corridor Management (ICM) protocols in the event of a major freeway closure. This was tested in February 2014 when the freeway through Scottsdale was closed to investigate the collision of a Scottsdale motorcycle officer. ADOT posted exit information on freeway DMS, while Scottsdale changed timing plans along the specified arterials to move traffic off the freeway and guide drivers back onto the freeway at the specified entrance points. Both ADOT and Scottsdale’s centers were in constant communications to make this transition seamless for drivers.

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Thinking Highways
By Bruce Dressler May 13, 2014 15:09