How the city of San Antonio is upgrading its technology to ease traffic jams

Source: San Antonio Business Journal on November 10, 2016 | Kristen Mosbrucker

Driving around San Antonio might be a little less stressful and more efficient if a new system installed by the city that is able to synchronize traffic lights at about 1,400 intersections but also make changes in real time can ease traffic jams.

Since 2008, the city of San Antonio has used a network cobbled together by dozens of radio towers and more than 300 access points that enabled the city to access about 60 percent of its traffic light network remotely.

After recent upgrades, including professional services from Missouri-based GTS Technology Solutions Inc. and Idaho cloud software company Cradlepoint Inc. which also sells LTE mobile broadband routers — the city’s Traffic Management Center can tap into its entire network.

The total project budget was about $2 million which includes the cost of equipment, mobile broadband data charges on a monthly basis, and installation. The contract was awarded as an extension to an existing vendor agreement within the city’s information technology department rather than through a request for proposals and was part of the FY2016 budget.

“We’re able to keep all the lights synchronized and all the clocks from a master computer multiple times a day,” said Marc Jacobson, a traffic light signal engineer at the city of San Antonio and manager of the city’s new Traffic Management Center, in a recent interview.

Drivers may be able to cut commute times.

“That allows us to coordinate the signals to minimize the amount of stops on the main streets,” Jacobson said.

The level of detail the data can provide can be acute.

“We can pull up an individual traffic light and see who has the green light and if somebody is waiting and pushing the pedestrian button," he said. "We’re trying to expand that now where we have some intersections that have traffic monitoring cameras so we can look at it through our traffic management system center and see how it's operating in real time."

During FY2017, the city of San Antonio approved a new initiative called Smart Cities and set aside a total of $13 million for the entire program, if improvements in the library system's technology are included.

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