NYC launches traffic program to limit midtown jams

July 18, 2011 2:34:18 PM PDT
New York City is hoping to ease midtown Manhattan traffic congestion with new technology. It will track the flow of vehicles and allow engineers to control traffic lights in real time.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg formally launched the new technology Monday. The system combines readings from 32 traffic video cameras, 100 microwave sensors and individual drivers' E-ZPass tags to track traffic back-ups.

Traffic meet technology. In a central command room in Queens, engineers will work magic.

"Now engineers will touch buttons to be able to control the time a green light is up," Mayor Bloomberg said.

What the cameras see at every midtown intersection will be sent back by microwave boxes, live, no other city in the world can do this.

The system is called Midtown in Motion and focuses on the heart of the city, from 2nd to 6th Avenues and 42nd to 57th Streets.

"For years it's been like the weather, everybody complains about it, but no one can do anything about it," Janette Sadik-Khan, the Department of Transportation Commissioner said.

"Midtown is the heart of the city and now we can get that lifeblood moving more efficiently," Mayor Bloomberg said.

These guys watching traffic live in Queens will see a traffic problem build and immediately pull up a light in that area and control it.

Some green lights will last a bit longer to open things up and some reds as well, the lights will not just be on pre-set timers anymore.

"I think it's a great idea. Outstanding," one New York City resident said.

"Should have done this earlier," said another.

But some New Yorkers did have some concerns.

"You ever see how people know the rhythm and time it out and when the light starts to turn yellow they slam on the brakes, causes accidents," a New York resident said.

He hopes people won't hit each other or get a ticket for rolling through a red light that comes out of nowhere.

Another driver says, what about moving all of these tables and people and planters out of the way?

"Great to have a spot to sit, but out of the traffic!" the driver said.

Officials say the "Midtown in Motion" system gathers data from E-ZPass toll tags anonymously. That way, no individual driver's movements will be tracked.

Bloomberg says the city will evaluate the project for six months before deciding whether to expand it. He says that reducing traffic congestion could help city children who suffer from asthma.

(Some information from the Associated Press)