Philadelphia gets smarter travel

Pennsylvania has expanded its advanced intelligent transportation system to help keep tabs on Philadelphia traffic.

Philadelphia joined Pittsburgh June 7 as the first cities in the country to use Pennsylvania-based Mobility Technologies' Digital Traffic Pulse sensor network.

The system is composed of solar-powered, roadside sensors that track vehicle flow to generate lane-by-lane data that includes speed, traffic volume and point-to-point travel times. Four highways in Philadelphia are connected.

Traffic information is updated every 60 seconds for distribution on the company's traffic-flow Web site (www.traffic.com) and on selected radio and TV stations, enabling motorists in the Philadelphia area to better plan their travel routes and avoid congestion.

The project is a collaboration between the state and the U.S. Department of Transportation, which is required through federal legislation to invest a certain amount of money in intelligent transportation systems nationwide. DOT contributed $2 million to the Philadelphia project, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation put in $500,000.

"Mobility has really taken advantage of the funding to create this technology," said Kevin Shivers, a spokesman for the Governor's Office. "This is a quality-of-life issue at heart. The average person in Philadelphia spends one week per year sitting in traffic, and this is really a cool system that's helping to improve that."

Pittsburgh, which has been using the digital system since September 2000, has been getting a favorable response, said Greg Kolton, manager of advertising and public relations for Mobility Technologies.

"Granted, that is from our own company research, but we've also been officially certified by the Federal Highway Administration and the PennDOT...less than 18 months into the contract," Kolton said. "That essentially means that they have signed off on our system as having met their collective expectations, and that's really good." Mobility Technologies is providing the U.S. DOT and PennDOT with access to the traffic data stream for traffic management, planning, research and analysis. The company also is giving the data to local radio and TV stations in exchange for ad time.

The company plans to introduce wireless services, including personalized traffic updates and alert messages, and ultimately plans to deliver traffic reports directly to drivers in their vehicles through on-board devices.

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