The system favors pedestrians by automatically changing crosswalk signals in their favor so they can catch buses and trains more easily and safely.
“We've been really focused on centering pedestrian and bicycles in our designs,” noted Koonce, who said smart city traffic management in Portland is in the palm of pedestrians’ hands.
“They can tell us they know when the bus is coming, so let’s pair that and make the traffic signal as smart as the person that’s walking to the bus stop. We can essentially sync that up so we’re already ready for them.”
Calgary also is using pedestrians as a data source for smart city traffic management, according to Sameer Patil, the city’s mobility operations leader. For the last few years, his focus has been on infrastructure connectivity, which allows for the collection and sharing of traffic information through an open data project. He said Calgary now has just under 500 intersections that are connected to a fiber network.
High-definition digital cameras at select intersections enable Calgary to do video-based conflict analysis, according to Patil, who said detecting near-misses or other issues – such as drivers not coming to a full stop – can help the city implement strategies to reduce them.
As video technology improves, training models and artificial intelligence (AI) can be implemented to guide decisions and focus enforcement efforts. In fact, the city is already in the early stages of adding pan/zoom cameras that can move around to count cars, spot congestion and detect incidents, all of which will feed Calgary’s traffic management algorithms.
“We are going to try 20 intersections next year,” Patil said.
Due to budget constraints, not every intersection can benefit from cameras and increased enforcement. That’s where citizens come in. Pedestrians, in particular, can fill the gap by feeding information via smartphone, explained Patil, who said Calgary has a partnership with traffic app Waze so that people can report incidents in real time to the city’s mobility operations center.
Some of the tools that Calgary is trying are far above the ground – higher than traffic lights, even: Last year it experimented with drones to monitor and count large crowds on Canada Day. Longer term, Patil said, the same drones could be deployed to inspect traffic infrastructure, such as confirming that streetlights are working properly.
‘Converting Data into Information’
To be successful, smart city traffic management requires significant integration. Calgary’s goal, therefore, is to build a resilient infrastructure with connectivity and bandwidth that meet immediate needs while also accommodating technology that’s years away. In that way, smart city traffic management is about continuous improvement, Patil said.
Even more fundamentally, however, it’s about saving lives. From reliable infrastructure and technology, cities can glean good information. And from good information – about when, where and why collisions occur – they can formulate effective strategies that reduce and eventually eliminate pedestrian traffic deaths.
“Converting data into information that engineers can use is really a core mission,” said Koonce of the Portland Bureau of Transportation.