Smart traffic signals, the new plan to improve traffic in Miami-Dade


Doral, one of the first areas in the County to include them


By: Diana Bello Aristizábal

Para leer en Español


Miami-Dade drivers know first hand that traffic within the county can become a problem, as five minutes can easily turn into ten. What is left for them? Only stress and late appointments. Taking this into account, since March of this year a $169 million smart traffic signals project was set into motion under the promise of reducing commute time by up to 15%.

Under the name Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMs), its main goal will be to replace the computer technology of the current traffic lights across the county, which dates back to the 1980s, with 2016 smart technology or D227 that will control traffic signals with an accuracy and detail never seen before.

Up until now, 340 smart signals have been placed across the county, of which about 16 have been located in Doral along 36th Street from 72nd Avenue all the way to the Turnpike.

“In the next seven years, we will have about 3,000 smart traffic signals with this technology in the county,” says Frank Aira, Chief of Traffic Signals and Signs Division of Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works.

The project was scheduled to start in September last year, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the work began in March of this year and a 10% improvement in commute times has already been seen in the areas where they have been located.


More green lights per trip

The main value of this project is that drivers will be able to find many more green traffic lights along their ways. “The goal is always to try to have at least four or five straight green lights per trip. We want to stretch that out to 8 or 9 so that people reduce their commute times,” says Frank Aira.

And what is behind this technology? Traffic signals have the ability to change and adjust approximately every two to three minutes based on actual traffic demand at the time with the help of traffic and vehicle detectors at intersections. This is known as Adaptive Signal Technology.

Traffic signals receive information on how many vehicles are approaching, how many are waiting at a red light, how many have turned left, how many have gone through, and how many are coming from the opposite direction so that they can then turn on red or green at coordinated times in favor of a better influx of cars.

Moreover, they also have the ability to help create a safer environment on the road by anticipating and counteracting dangerous scenarios. For example, at some intersections, they may hold a red light so that no one crosses in front when a vehicle coming from another direction is approaching too fast and it might skip a red light. “So the system starts to be more intelligent and it’s able to make more decisions beyond what basic programming is,” explains Frank Aira.

All of this in order to stop circulation in Miami-Dade from being a headache for the thousands of drivers who face multiple stops and lanes with many interruptions every day. Ultimately, an overall traffic improvement of at least 10% and up to 15-20% in specific areas is expected.

“In certain areas, it will be more difficult to see a significant improvement due to the roadway configuration, size and movement. However, I think that in around a year and a half county residents will begin to notice improvements in traffic in many places,” warns Aira.


Doral: smart traffic signals + road education

Locally, smart traffic lights can represent an important improvement for the community that complains daily not only of traffic jams on the road but of raged and reckless drivers who make wrong turns, stand where they’re not supposed to, fail to comply with traffic signals, speed up or drive too slow.

This together with the fact that Doral doesn’t have many major roads, contrary to other areas of the county, in which its residents can move around, makes smart traffic signals a great alternative to improve traffic.

“Doral has only a few major roads that must move everybody, while in other highly populated urban areas there is greater connectivity between roads, so drivers are able to take alternative routes. As a result, locals have to funnel to those places, making traffic more difficult,” explains Aira.

For this reason, in addition to the around 16 smart traffic signals that have already been placed in the city, one of the first in the county where the new technology began to be applied, the projection is that in the future there will be close to a few hundred of them at the streets. “Probably more will be built because Doral continues to grow,” warns Aira.

Progress is already beginning to be noticed, since at the points where they have been placed, concentrated on 36th Street, there has been a 10% improvement in traffic. However, having thoughtful and with good manners drivers on the road would help this percentage to rise even more.

“People need to learn to cooperate and drive patiently, but we see too many people driving aggressively, making wrong turns, cutting off others, standing where they’re not supposed to or moving faster than the flow of traffic, delaying everyone by several minutes,” Aira explains.

For this reason, the recommendation is not only to learn to respect traffic signs and drive wisely, but also to plan your trip in advance before getting in the vehicle by using mobile apps such as Waze, Google Maps and Apple Maps.

If drivers learn to plan their driving times, they will not be as frustrated at the wheel and will be able to drive more patiently, which would improve traffic in general and, therefore, the quality of life for all residents.

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