The initiative, Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control, began ahead of the 1984 Olympics to preempt traffic snarls as visitors swarmed to events. Today, it uses underground magnetic censors to measure traffic conditions. That data is sent through fiber-optic cables to a central control where, without human intervention, it's analyzed and stored to predict future patterns.
According to the Times, the control system adjusts traffic signals and has the ability to extend green lights for buses traveling in bus-only lanes during periods of heavy congestion. It also accounts for special events, like the Oscars or a presidential visit, by releasing light patterns to vehicles that advise them of alternative routes. The censors also detect bicycles and pedestrian traffic in certain neighborhoods.
Despite what the city is calling a victory for commuters and the environment, experts aren’t so sure the expensive innovation can combat greater factors at play. According to a Texas A&M Transportation Institute report, drivers nationwide have wasted more time commuting since 2008. In 2011, they were delayed almost 5.5 billion hours on the road, up from 1.1 billion in 1982. Individuals spent 38 hours delayed in 2011.
"If we reduce average travel time in Los Angeles by 20 percent, then we will see more people traveling," professor James E. Moore II, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Southern California, told the Times. "It's money well spent, but part of the benefit is not speed but throughput." Read more