Archive for Friday, July 13, 2007

New lights may help 6th Street traffic flow

Signals from Iowa to Mass. streets will adjust with weather

July 13, 2007


David Woosley, the city's traffic engineer

David Woosley, the city's traffic engineer, discusses the technology behind traffic signal.

City leaders to consider new traffic signal technology

Relief could be on the way for motorists frustrated with the constant stop and go traffic on one of Lawrence's busiest streets. Enlarge video

Soon, there will be no doubt about which is the smartest street in Lawrence.

A nearly 1.5-mile section of Sixth Street from Iowa to Massachusetts will have that distinction if city commissioners follow through on a City Hall budget recommendation to use new technology to coordinate traffic signals on the stretch of road.

City Manager David Corliss has put $250,000 into his recommended budget for 2008 that would allow fiber optic cable to be installed along Sixth Street. The cable would allow the signals to communicate with one another.

"We're hoping that it will make for a more efficient movement of traffic," said Chuck Soules, the city's director of Public Works. "The idea is that if you get the green light at one light that you would get the green light at the next one, too."

That's also been the idea behind past traffic signal synchronization projects in the city, David Woosley, the city's traffic engineer, said. Both Iowa Street and Sixth Street have been set up to be synchronized, but that sometimes is easier said than done. That's because each traffic signal operates on its own independent clock. If one of the clocks is off, that means the entire synchronization is off.

Woosley said having all the signals - there are six on that stretch of road - connected would mean they all operate on a common clock. Woosley said the fiber also will allow his staff to make changes to the timing of a light via computer rather than manually changing the timing mechanism at each light.

That should allow the city to more precisely time lights to meet traffic flow, Woosley said. For example, if traffic engineers notice an intersection is consistently backing up every weekday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., crews would be able to change the light's timing for that hour. Woosley also said the lights could be specifically programmed to deal with Kansas University football games, special downtown events or even snow days when traffic is moving more slowly.

"We hope this first project will just be the first step in a larger system," Woosley said.

Planners are developing a plan for how "intelligent transportation" technology could be implemented throughout the city. Having that plan on file will allow the city to apply for state funding for future projects. Woosley said 23rd Street, Clinton Parkway, Iowa Street, North Second Street and the remainder of Sixth Street all would be strong candidates.

Mayor Sue Hack said she supports the $250,000 budget item and wants city staff members to determine how the technology could be implemented in other parts of town.

"I would love to see it on 23rd Street," Hack said.

Woosley said the city began with the Sixth Street area because it is the closest major street to the traffic engineering department building at Fifth and Mississippi streets, which is the starting point for the fiber cable.

Corliss said he included the item in his budget, in part, because residents have been clamoring for the city to improve traffic flow.

"One of the things that was very clear from the citizen survey is that we need to continue to work on east-west traffic congestion," Corliss said. "We're not going to be able to build very many new east-west streets in the interior part of the community, so we have to make the ones we have function better."


OnlyTheOne 10 years, 10 months ago

That's $250K that doesn't need to be spent until the budget mess is over!

kansasnative 10 years, 10 months ago

You all DO know that they are putting ANOTHER roundabout at 25th & O'Connell - just got a cute little postcard in the mail the other day. WHY DO WE NEED A ROUNDABOUT AT 25th & O'CONNELL RD????? Just insane........ There is one at 28th? & O'Connell - a HUGE one - WHY WHY WHY WHY

rockchalk77 10 years, 10 months ago

"Fiber Optic Cable? Whatever happened to wireless technology????"

That's so inherently dangerous I barely know where to start. Yeah, it's cheaper, but it's also VERY easy to hack into. I don't think anyone wants some 16 year old kid jacking around with the street lights with his iBook.

gccs14r 10 years, 10 months ago

If we're broke, why are we spending money?

samsnewplace 10 years, 10 months ago

Great news!!! If anyone has ever tried to travel 6th during a rush time you know how frustrating it can be, thank you!

devobrun 10 years, 10 months ago

Makes me want to reopen my engineering business. $1/4 million, wow. Fiber optic cabling, wow. What are these guys connecting, F15 fire control radars?!!!

Clearly these "traffic signals" are not just light controls, which can be switched with 2 bits. No, these babies must have multiple hi-res video feeds. Yep, they are goin' to monitor traffic flow during football games. They are also goin' to monitor license plates and faces of drivers. Is this project funded by Homeland Security?

There is no engineering reason for providing as much bandwidth as fiber optics give for "traffic control". What's wrong with phone lines, coax, T1, T3, wireless? Fiber is expensive. Why the fiber? Huh, Mr. Woosley?

Janet Lowther 10 years, 10 months ago

What ever became of the very expensive timing of the lights on Iowa? For a while there you could trundle down the street and easily make all the lights. No more.

As for wireless, yes, older wireless systems are insecure, and their pitifully inadequate encryption can be cracked in a few minutes by someone without all that much skill. The latest generation has encryption which, when enabled, is secure enough the NSA won't admit they can crack, and maybe (but only maybe) they can't. More likely one of those things that they have to have a good reason to want to know what is in an encrypted packet to devote the time and resources necessary to crack.

PeteJayhawk 10 years, 10 months ago

Hahaha, I love the fact that the crazies light up the board any time anyone suggests changing anything.

Some people just like to complain (see above), no matter what happens.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 10 months ago

Unless you want the city to license a wireless frequency, all of the unlicensed wireless frequencies are susceptible to interference from other devices op-erating in that band. They may not be there when you turn the service up the first time, but they could emerge at some time down the road (no pun intended) and interrupt the comm link. Also, virtually all types of wireless data network security can be circumvented. All someone has to do is have the equipment, a bit of knowledge and time on their hands.

Sean Livingstone 10 years, 10 months ago

I'm making two comments. Why are we so against technology that costs $250k? If it is good for us, it's good for us and we will need it. The other comment: Is 6th St. traffic really bad? I don't think so, I've not seen worst traffic than being held up for 2-3 minutes. Live with it.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 10 months ago

Fiber is not as expensive as it used to be, is immune to extrinsic interference, and is much more reliable in a properly designed system than the alternatives devobrun mentions.

I'm glad to hear that they are addressing the "Lawrence crawl". Put a moratorium on new roundabouts and reallocate the funds to smart streets. Not sure how it can compensate for stopped T-buses and vehicles making left or right turns slowing traffic down. Would be nice to see something similar to the SCOUT project, on a Lawrence scale, of course. I enjoyed working on that project...very cool.

Chris Golledge 10 years, 10 months ago

Coordinate the lights; smart infrastructure pays for itself.

But, security within reason folks. There are no terrorists, a la Die Hard With a Vengeance (sp?), that interested in messing with traffic on 6th street in Lawrence, KS. I can't see a problem with wireless except for range issues. No hardware is completely fail-safe. So what? Let the lights run on their backup clocks until the signal is re-established. For that matter, if I were hacking into a system, it'd be a lot easier for me to attach to a physical cable that it would be for me to crack 1024 bit encryption.

I'd like to hear the 'why' on fiber optics. As devobrun says, that's extreme overkill for simply coordinating clocks. Sure, it's cheaper than it used to be, but I'm still willing to bet that it is a lot more expensive than, say, well shielded coaxial, and I bet the hardware at either end is just as dependable and a lot cheaper for the coax. Shoot, I bet Sunflower has a line running down that street anyway; rent out several modems for ~$50/month and have the maintenance guys check it from their desk. Again, if it fails, it's no big deal, every computing device has its own clock anyway.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 10 months ago

cg, First off, when you have wireless interference, it is a bit harder to locate and resolve than it sounds. It can be sporadic or fairly continuous. If it is continuous, the communications link may be down more often than it is up. You may be surprised that the folks that hack into networks, for the most part, are not necessarily terrorists. We happen to have a university in this town and are host to some fairly crafty technical types, so I wouldn't underestimate their ability and desire to hack a wireless network.

At last check, a 12 count outside plant single mode fiber optic cable runs about $0.25 per foot, a little cheaper than semi-rigid .500" coaxial cable ($0.30/ft.) and almost half the price of a 12 pair PE22 cable ($0.45/ft.). It also has much more capacity, so it makes sense for future applications.

Horace 10 years, 10 months ago

We need roundabouts at 23rd and Iowa and 23rd and Louisiana.

Ragingbear 10 years, 10 months ago

This problem can be solved for roughly $25-$50 dollars. You just got to go into the box for the lights and synch them up. You don't need a computerized fiber optic net linking them. That is just stupid.

And there are many signs that Corliss is skimming off the top. I believe that it is his embezzlement that is the main cause of the budget crisis.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 10 months ago

What if traffic flow remains the same?

23rd cannot be changed between Iowa and Haskell. Why? 28,000 college students.

Quitting time traffic jams are here to stay.

The other streets probably can react accordingly.

The answer is a 15 year moratorium on additional residential. That would save all of us a ton of tax dollars.

frankwiles 10 years, 10 months ago

Do they not realize you can get a short wave radio signal from atomic clocks to set yourself by? I don't even think the devices are that expensive. Just put one in each light pole. You could even hire a dedicated resources that would run up an down 6th street adjusting the timing if necessary and STILL save the vast majority of the $250k.

kshiker 10 years, 10 months ago

Give it up Merrill. You are a complete idiot! How about a 15 year moratorium on you posting stupid comments? I know; it wouldn't work.

This technology is amazing and completely worth the money. The congestion on 6th Street (and 23rd Street) is a major problem that can be partially alleviated with a little technology and money. In terms of the city budget, $250,000 is not that much money. Lets not build one additional roundabout this year; that will do it!

devobrun 10 years, 10 months ago

flock, Major cost of fiber is the mod/demod and cable splicing/connectors. Ever see those trucks they use? Very clean and precise. Trained people, too.

Major reliability concern for either technology (cable or fiber) is mechanical insult. Backhoes, shifting ground, water main eruptions, etc. Ok, lightning has the potential to harm wire when fiber might survive, but direct hits vaporize anything.

I'm not against optics, I just wonder why the bandwidth? The cost of shielded pairs is certainly less than fiber. The maintenance for injured cable is cheaper for wire. The big benefit of fiber is bandwidth. Where the bandwidth can be utilized, it is clearly the choice. But these are just stop lights for cryin' out loud.

Or are they?

How 'bout I use RS-485 on a shielded twisted pair. No wait, I'll use two of them for redundancy. One on each side of the street. 1200 baud should be sufficient for traffic counts and data to and from each stop light. No more than a few hundred milliseconds latency. How carefully timed do these lights have to be anyway?
Nah, there's more to this thing than traffic lights.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 10 months ago

devobrun writes: "Major cost of fiber is the mod/demod and cable splicing/connectors. Ever see those trucks they use? Very clean and precise. Trained people, too."

Field hardened 10/100 managed switches with SFP are pretty cost-effective these days. Splicing can be contracted out. Even if the cost of the fiber project is slightly more, fiber is a much more prudent use of public funds given the potential.

"Major reliability concern for either technology (cable or fiber) is mechanical insult. Backhoes, shifting ground, water main eruptions, etc. Ok, lightning has the potential to harm wire when fiber might survive, but direct hits vaporize anything."

Sure, but it would be better than the $$$ to hire an RF expert to come in and resolve wireless issues. If it is redundant, the service stays up while restorations are made. I've actually seen a fiber link continue to run after a house fire melted the sheath!

"The cost of shielded pairs is certainly less than fiber"

Not true.. See my earlier post.

"The maintenance for injured cable is cheaper for wire."


"The big benefit of fiber is bandwidth. Where the bandwidth can be utilized, it is clearly the choice. But these are just stop lights for cryin' out loud."

Just stop lights, for now. If you are going to invest in infrastructure, might as well plan for the future where you can.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 10 years, 10 months ago

devobrun wrote: "The maintenance for injured cable is cheaper for wire."

and I responded: Slightly.

I am assuming that they will not have either expertise in house, making the cost nearly the same. Otherwise, the cost of maintaining fiber is much cheaper in the long term.

gccs14r 10 years, 10 months ago

Lawrence doesn't have a traffic problem, some of its people have a patience problem. There are no true traffic jams in this city.

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