Maryland county eases the commute
- By Eric Kulisch
- Dec 12, 2000
Transportation managers in Montgomery County, Md., are testing technology
that could take some of the delay and anxiety out of commuting.
The Department of Public Works and Transportation will solicit proposals
in January for a system that directs drivers to commuter parking lots that
are not full. Because of confusion, some commuters aren't taking advantage
of satellite parking lots that offer bus service to subway stations.
A system that could keep count of the number of available spaces and
relay that information to drivers ahead of time could improve traffic flow
around the station and redistribute part of the parking load, officials
"If we can capture people up north and not feed them down into that
heavily congested area, it will have a positive impact," Emil Wolanin, manager
of the county's Advanced Transportation Management System, said of the possibilities
of easing the commute into Washington, D.C.
Such a system would require video or in-ground loop detectors to count
the cars entering a garage or lot. Information could be relayed to incoming
motorists by signs and the county's Travelers Advisory Radio System. The county will have to choose the most
useful information spaces available, percentage of lot full, anticipated
time to fill.
"If you're 5 miles out, how do you account for the number of vehicles
that are in transit that are past that point?" ATMS senior engineer Bruce
Mangum said. "We don't want to [tick] them off. If you give them bad information
once, your credibility is shot."
The project, funded by a $333,000 federal grant and a $70,000 county
match, will start at a single station by this summer, Wolanin said.
Montgomery County also is testing another project to keep commuters
informed. Signs are being installed at a number of bus stops to show riders
how many minutes will pass before their bus arrives. Buses are linked to
a computer-aided dispatch system through Global Positioning System technology.
The system will provide accurate information about the locations of buses,
their average speed and any delays.
The automatic vehicle location equipment also gives the county's transportation
management center the ability to give late buses priority at traffic signals.
Fifteen intersections are part of an ongoing evaluation that could be
expanded to other critical intersections in the county, Wolanin said. Traffic
signals will be adjusted automatically to allow buses to clear the intersections,
but only if traffic flow conditions will not be adversely affected.