Traffic signal tweaks aimed at benefiting buses
September 15, 2011
CARBONDALE – The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority wants to modify seven stoplights on Highway 82 to give priority to buses in certain circumstances once it completes an expansion in 2013.
RFTA officials contend they can install the traffic signal priority system to benefit buses without creating major delays for private vehicles. The Colorado Department of Transportation agrees based on preliminary information, but it has asked RFTA to conduct a traffic flow study, according to officials with both agencies.
Mike Hermes, RFTA’s project manager for the Bus Rapid Transit expansion, said a traffic flow report will be completed by mid-October.
“The theory sounds good. Now we have to prove it to them,” Hermes told RFTA’s board of directors at a recent meeting in Carbondale. “They are a cautious group, and they want to know what they’re getting into before they get into it.”
The priority system would help buses in two primary ways: A bus driver that is approaching a red light could trigger the light to proceed to a green cycle sooner. In other cases, a bus approaching a green light could trigger the light to remain green longer, allowing the bus to slip through.
RFTA’s $46 million expansion includes several upgrades designed to reduce bus travel times in the Highway 82 corridor and make the bus more competitive with private vehicles.
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Seven traffic lights on Highway 82 are targeted for modification along with one on Highway 133. The targeted lights are at: 27th Street in Glenwood Springs; the intersection of Highway 133 and 82; the main El Jebel intersection; lower Two Rivers Road; the main Basalt intersection; the Brush Creek Road intersection; and, in Carbondale, the park-and-ride intersection on Highway 133.
Hermes said RFTA’s initial look shows the lights will have “minimal impacts” on other traffic.
CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said the traffic signal modifications could leave other motorists waiting between two and eight seconds longer at red lights at certain times. “It will add a few seconds to State Highway 82 or side-street traffic,” she said. “Not every cycle will be impacted.”
CDOT officials consider the delays “very minimal,” she said, and it could save substantial time for buses. That savings for mass transit makes the concept attractive to the state agency.
“We’re trying to minimize travel delay time, not simply per vehicle but per person so we feel the overall effect is going to be positive,” said Zane Znamenachek, CDOT Region 3 traffic and safety engineer.
Shanks said the proposed agreement between CDOT and RFTA allows the traffic signal modifications but also spells out that the issue can be revisited if traffic delays are longer than anticipated.