GOAL: OPTIMIZE MOBILITY
- Manage the current system for the best operational efficiency possible.
- Implement new and innovative strategies to improve the system.
- Consider mobility when planning and designing to add capacity.
• Integration with Partners: The TOC is the key to providing a cost-effective and efficient solution to help relieve congestion on Utah’s roads and highways. Utah is known for its world-class traffic signal operations and performance metric, most notably integrating signal control with its partners.
• More than 80 percent of the signals in the entire state are connected to one shared system managed out of UDOT’s Traffic Operations Center (TOC), which is an unmatched accomplishment. This allows UDOT to work with partners in developing seamless traffic control plans, particularly for events such as construction or sports events.
• Upgraded Software: This year, Utah’s world-class traffic signal operations system received an upgrade to its software system. Previously, the system had limits to how many signals could be on one module. The upgrade eliminated these limits and allowed for everything to be on one system with no module boundaries.
• Signal Performance Metrics: UDOT is among the first in the country to use real-time traffic signal performance metrics in optimizing traffic signal coordination. These metrics were developed in coordination with Purdue University and the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Using these metrics, traffic controllers can often identify and correct issues before drivers can call in a report. Utah has been using real-time metrics for several years, and as a result the system operates much closer to the ideal.
UDOT’s Incident Management Program began in 1994 with the goals of increasing first responder safety, reducing congestion and delays and reducing secondary crashes. Effective incident management is a team effort requiring vigilant monitoring and communication from the traffic operations control center and swift action on the part of prepared field workers.
This year, the incident management program was reorganized to better coordinate resources statewide. This change has afforded the incident management team greater flexibility to respond more quickly and more completely to incidents ranging from minor to disastrous.
• Variable Message Signs (VMS): Statewide research consistently shows Utah drivers consider VMS information to be their top resource for information on expected travel times, upcoming construction, lane closures, crashes blocking their route or information ahead of a large weather event. UDOT has received positive public and media response for increased use of VMS for public safety campaigns including seat belt awareness, air quality initiatives and drunk driving enforcement.
• Social Media: This year, UDOT made its outreach more accessible by switching from descriptions based on milepost locations to descriptions based on user-friendly landmark names. UDOT is moving toward more visual and video communication, using its YouTube channel to share messages including educational materials, such as animations and tutorials.
• UDOT Traffic Cameras: Located throughout the state, UDOT’s nearly 1,000 traffic cameras provide real-time traffic views of current road conditions. Live footage is available on the UDOT Traffic mobile app and website.
• UDOT Traffic: This website (udottraffic.utah.gov) and app provide access to information about traffic conditions, accidents, road construction activities, seasonal road closures, traffic cameras and VMS messages. The UDOT Traffic app has a push-alert feature, called the TravelWise Alert, to inform the traveling public of major traffic issues.
The High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV)/Express Lanes move more people per hour per lane than the general-purpose lanes. With the completion of the I-15 South Davis Improvements Project, Utah now has 82 miles of continuous Express Lanes—making it the longest single stretch of HOV toll lanes in the country.
UDOT operates a fleet of approximately 500 snowplows to manage an average of 25 winter storms each year. UDOT crews remove more than 65 million tons of snow and ice from Utah’s roads.UDOT continues to make the snow and ice removal process more efficient by:
• Using equipment such as wing plows and tow plows that allow greater control and efficiency
• Applying brine before storms and using salt more efficiently
• Using technology such as Road Weather Information Systems (RWIS) and weather forecasting information to assess conditions and dispatch plows advantageously
• Saving more than 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year by training drivers using a snow plow simulator
• Pre-wetting the salt to start the melting process immediately, which saves the department 18,000 tons of salt annually
UDOT is constantly working to improve performance in every area, and during the past year the Department has identified several opportunities to enhance snow removal performance.
One of these opportunities is the installation of Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL) trackers on every snowplow to improve deployment and management of resources and to help make the public aware of road conditions and plowing efforts. Plow locations and routes are available online at udottraffic.utah.gov and on the UDOT traffic mobile app.
UDOT has also developed new performance measures for tracking and measuring snow removal efforts. Performance ratings will reflect the conditions of the road and the level of effort, taking into consideration available resources.
A dashboard similar to the one shown below will display information about UDOT’s snow removal performance. This dashboard will be available to UDOT staff as a resource for helping refine efforts; it will also be available to the public, in an effort to be transparent and to help road users understand how and when roads are being served.
UDOT is known for pioneering and adapting innovations such as Flex Lanes, Commuter Lanes, ThrU-Turn Intersections (TTIs), Diverging Diamond Interchanges (DDIs) and Continuous Flow Intersections (CFIs). Utah continues to adapt innovative designs to enhance the communities they serve with effective traffic solutions.
UDOT recognizes the importance of an integrated transportation system, which includes bike lanes, paths and access to buses and trains. UDOT’s Active Transportation Policy ensures that the needs of bicyclists, pedestrians and other active transportation users are routinely considered as an important aspect of funding, planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of UDOT transportation facilities.
UDOT is currently partnering with the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) to develop a transit signal priority program, which will coordinate data between UTA buses and traffic signals. If a bus is on or ahead of schedule, the traffic signals will function as normal; however, if a bus is behind the signal timing will adjust to give preferential treatment to the bus. This is just one way the Department is working to support the transit system.
As Utah’s population rapidly grows, and along with it the demands on the transportation system, adding capacity will not be the sole—or even primary—strategy for addressing rising needs; however, increased capacity will remain an important investment to keep Utah moving.
UDOT is shifting its approach to the planning and design of new capacity. Increasingly we are considering mobility, at times employing a specialized mobility and operations task force to evaluate designs and identify opportunities for improved operations and, in many cases, budgetary efficiencies. Currently, capacity projects are funded through the Transportation Investment Fund (TIF). Listed below are some of the most significant projects this past year:
• I-15 South Davis Improvements Project (completed fall 2015)
• State Route 154 (Bangerter Highway) and Redwood Road Interchange (completed summer 2015)
• Bluff Street Interchange at Red Hills Parkway (completed spring 2015)
• The Point; I-15 from state Route 73 to state Route 71 (under construction through spring 2016)
Reliability: An New Measure of Transportation System Success
Transportation professionals at a national level have begun to discuss reliability as a potential performance metric to evaluate the effectiveness of a transportation system. Historically, the transportation industry has placed all its focus on average travel times and travel savings. While reduction of delay remains important for quality of life and viability of commerce, another factor—reliability or consistency of travel times—is at least as important.
Commercial users of the system, from trucking companies to ready-mix concrete suppliers, depend heavily on reliability in the transportation system to ensure profitability or, in some cases, survival. In addition, quality of life for residents, commuters and tourists declines as reliability of travel times diminishes.
While this concept is intuitive, it is relatively new within the transportation industry, and national experts are currently working to develop standardized measures surrounding reliability. In Utah, we have been working to define our own performance measures surrounding reliability. We define success as the combination of minimal delay and reliable travel times; a reliably slow commute will not be considered success.
As Utah and our national partners in industry continue to develop this concept and the performance measures to support it, the Department will communicate evolving methods and standards.
The chart is showing the percent of vehicles arriving on green each month since March 2013 to September 2015 along Riverdale Road. Traffic lights on the corridor were re-timed Summer of 2013 and late Fall 2015. The impacts are apparent. UDOT makes similar changes on other corridors statewide.
Davis County delays in 2014 and 2015 reflect construction-related impacts from the I-15 South Davis Improvements project. Utah County delays in 2015 reflect construction-related impacts from The Point project.
The HOV/Express Lanes move more people per hour per lane than a general purpose lane and account for only 7.4 percent of crashes.
Even with planned capacity projects, delay will increase after 2015. Mobility projects have made a difference in delay, however continual focus on mobility will need to be maintained in order to continue this trend.