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Company Says $700,000 Streetcar Traffic System Is Saving Drivers Time

A traffic engineer fine-tunes the InSync system from a remote computer.
Rhythm Engineering/InSync

A new $700,000 computerized traffic system installed by a private company to give Kansas City streetcar riders a better experience is reducing travel times for all vehicles in the downtown streetcar zone, according to the company.  

Jesse Manning of Rhythm Engineering, a Lenexa, Kansas, firm, told a City Council committee last week that the smart traffic system has reduced travel times between the River Market and Union Station by 31 percent northbound and 23 percent southbound during morning peak traffic hours.

The computer-controlled system uses cameras and sensors to monitor vehicular and pedestrian traffic and adjust traffic signal timing accordingly, Manning says.

Even though traffic control systems have gone digital in recent years, most are still sophisticated versions of a lawn sprinkler timer and some can be adjusted from a remote computer and can have multiple timing sequences for different times of day, he says.

In the InSync system, Manning says, all the cameras and sensors are “talking to each other” through a computer network with a lot of number crunching going on. The system knows how many vehicles are passing a certain point, how fast they are moving, and in what direction, he says.

It also helps keep the streetcars on schedule by giving them a few more seconds if one is approaching a traffic signal that is about to turn red, Manning says, which also prevents streetcar operators from having to make sudden stops, jostling passengers.

Steve Bell is afternoon newscaster and business news reporter for KCUR.  He may be reached at 816-235-5173 or by e-mail as steveb@kcur.org

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