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Data and Analytics at Heart of San Diego Mobility Plan

A traffic signal upgrade project will involve 26 intersections around the University of California, San Diego. The project will use adaptive software to enhance mobility across the region.

A traffic signal modernization project underway in the neighborhood around the University of California in San Diego could become a model for the entire city.

The intelligent transportation system (ITS) will take all of the different modes of transportation into account to better manage the flow of personal vehicles, transit vehicles, cyclists and others who are moving through the region.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on here… it’s all about integrated mobility,” remarked Walter Musial, principal with the civil engineering firm Linscott Law and Greenspan and the traffic and transportation consultant on the project. “This is looking to the future and how to integrate mobility and make it work seamlessly together.”

The project is in line with the university’s effort at long-range planning, which explores how the campus population growth will affect the local roadway system, said Lauren Lievers, senior environmental planner for campus planning at UC San Diego. In addition to the campus, the area includes a major medical center, regional mall, office and residential space and other uses like a transit station, and a planned trolley extension, and freeways.

The modernization project, paid for largely by the university, will cover 26 intersections, and involves the collaboration with the city of San Diego as well as the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). The technology will be supported by the SynchroGreen adaptive software by Cubic, and involve updated controllers, GRIDSMART video detection and communication upgrades to improve the existing infrastructure, said Gabriel McFadden, senior business development manager at Cubic.

The project represents a trend in transportation to use data and analytics to optimize movement and mobility across all modes. It is a departure from decades of transportation planning that simply centered on building more roadways to serve cars. The system in the UC San Diego neighborhood will consider data points gathered from all modes of transportation, and could serve as a template for a broader expansion across the city.

“This is a big leap forward for actively managing mobility without taking right-of-way, or physical widening. And I think that’s a really important point to be made on this,” said Musial.

“This particular project is the stepping stone to future smart city, smart communities in the San Diego region,” he added.

Being a campus setting, many students, staff and others moving through the region use a range of mobility options, said Lievers, underscoring the need to have a traffic management system that considers them as much as it considers commuters in personal vehicles.

“We have a really high rate of commuters on campus using alternative modes of transportation,” said Lievers. “That’s expected to increase once the trolley extension is complete. So this was really trying to be a good neighbor and recognizing our impact on the outside community, which has much higher rates of SOV [single-occupancy vehicle] ridership than our campus users do.”

Other cities are taking notice of the benefits of an ITS system, said McFadden.

“We are certainly seeing an uptick in our customers considering ITS solutions to address evolving transportation needs,” said McFadden. “There are always constraints on time, space, and budgets and ITS solutions like SynchroGreen have proven to be cost-effective solutions that smart cities are adopting rapidly.”

This article was originally published by Government Technology, Techwire's sister publication.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas for Government Technology magazine.