Traffic System Clears Up Congestion

Researchers tested a digital traffic management system on Singapore’s crowded roadways. Did it work?

What Happened?

Two researchers have developed a traffic management system for Singapore that issues cars a digital token when they enter a high-volume area. When regions reach a traffic threshold, cars are no longer allowed onto the roadway and are electronically directed toward alternate routes.


The “Roadrunner” traffic system was developed by two MIT researchers studying transportation in Singapore. The program uses digital tokens to track how many cars enter a congestion-prone area. After a certain number of tokens have been detected in the area, no other vehicles can enter until one leaves. This prevents areas from becoming gridlocked with traffic. Cars will receive directions on alternate routes to avoid the area.

Singapore currently has a traffic management system in place that levies tolls to drivers based on the amount of traffic on the road where each car is driving. When the Roadrunner traffic system was tested with computer simulations and data from Singapore’s Land Transit Authority, the researchers reported an 8 percent increase in average car speed during peak congestion periods.

How It Works

All cars in Singapore must be equipped with a dashboard transponder that is read by radio transmitters placed near entries of congestion zones on road signs or traffic light poles. The Roadrunner system assigns a digital token to a car entering a selected zone, but does not track other cars. When the threshold of cars is met, alternate directions are provided to drivers to avoid the area. The transponders communicate wirelessly with a central server, making the tracking system functional without significant investment in infrastructure.

Furthermore, the data being read by the radio transmitters provides real-time data so congestion zones are up-to-date. Urban planners are able to section off specific areas where they want traffic to be controlled to reduce congestion, and then test the system for a period of time. The area being controlled can be changed immediately, enabling the technology to help divert drivers away from congestion, major events and construction. Tolling can then be adjusted when traffic control priorities change, Wired reported.

Montreal Mobility Center

Montreal is also looking to digital technology to improve its traffic flow. The city unveiled its Urban Mobility Management Center that will use 700 cameras to manage traffic flow in real-time. The center will house:
  • Servers
  • Software
  • Video screens

Initially, 200 cameras will track traffic flow 16 hours a day, five days a week. By 2017, 500 cameras will be operating 24/7. The system will collect traffic data in real-time and the center will guide drivers away from congestion, accidents or other stoppages to support a more consistent flow of drivers. According to city data, traffic jams cost Montreal $1.8 billion annually in economic losses.

NYC Invests Big

New York City is rolling out what will be the world’s largest traffic monitoring system with a network of cameras to oversee 12,800 signaled intersections. By the end of 2015, the city expects one management center will monitor all selected intersections to better guide traffic away from congestion. The $100 million system was originally created in 2006, and will continue to expand this year. The technology has already proven to reduce travel times by 10 percent in congested areas.

Go With The Flow

Gov1 has covered a number of traffic flow systems , even the addition of bike lanes to reduce congestion.

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