S.F.’s traffic system goes digital

High-tech program will make residents’ lives easier and less congested, officials say

The answer to gridlock in San Francisco just may reside in a room filled with computer monitors and projection screens showing live video and virtual simulations of The City’s streets.

After years of planning, $9 million and the collaboration of several city agencies, The City unveiled the future of its transportation brain on Tuesday. A new system called SF Go will allow The City to use computers to quickly respond when traffic signals need repairs, to monitor traffic flow in key city hotspots and better plan for large events by making changes to traffic signals and pedestrian crosswalks electronically instead of by hand. Muni Executive Director Nathaniel Ford said the system is the future of the industry and just one phase of what his department hopes to do.

“This is a clear vision of where we need to be in the future, merging Muni’s operation with Parking and Traffic,” Ford said. “I think you see it has something for every mode of transportation but ultimately pulling everything together and implementing an effective mode of transportation for The City.”

By using cameras and computer software, different agencies, such as Muni and the California Highway Patrol, are able to see real-time video of intersections across The City and virtual simulations, with the speed, of traffic and pedestrians in others. The system will help keep the streets safer by allowing agencies to quickly share information and electronically monitor sites that need repair, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

In Phase One of the program, The City installed the system on 35 traffic signals in South of Market and 64 signals along Third Street. Ford said he hopes to eventually be able to monitor all 1,200 traffic signals in The City. Mayor Gavin Newsom said the cost of the first phase is just a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated $250 million needed to monitor the entire city.

“Thereason this is important is self-evident, as all of us are experiencing the frustration of traveling in The City as the economy comes back and tourists come back,” Newsom said. “I think this will just have a profound effect on the quality of life in San Francisco.”

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