The U.S. and the U.K.: Differences Lead to Learning Opportunities for Better Traffic Management

The transportation industry varies from country to country, and each system uses devices and systems differently, says Alistair Gollop, Technology Services Engineering Lead for Mott MacDonald. But the main point he wanted to make at INTERSECT17, is that we can learn from these differences in the overall goal to improve the efficiency of moving people and goods.

Having experienced traffic signal technology around the world, he sees that the United Kingdom (U.K.) often has difficulties because of constraints of history and space. This made them use signaling more flexibly. The United States has more space and less historical planning issues, which has led to the creation of much larger intersections, yet the parameters for them have been more fixed. Gollop says there is an opportunity for the U.S. to use the idea of flexible signaling like the U.K to get more throughput for the intersection but it would require Traffic Management Centers (TMCs) to use more holistic management systems.

He said many U.S. TMCs use multiple systems for different detection uses which requires more staff management and expertise. This current setup may not maximize the potential of each system, but if a city were to put it through a common master database that calculated all of the inputs and then delivered options to traffic managers, they would be able to make better decisions to alleviate traffic problems.

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