How Transit Is Turning to Tech to Cut Through Congestion

TriMet, the transit agency serving the Portland, Ore., metro area, is exploring a next-generation transit signal prioritization system that goes even further than simply lengthening a green light for a bus that may be running behind schedule. The new system — about a year away — will know how many passengers are on the bus, where the vehicle is headed, the bus’s relationship to other transit vehicles and other data points, which ultimately, get passed along to the intelligent traffic signal.

“So this is all about making high-occupancy vehicles move through the congested areas faster than your Uber and Lyft that have one or two people in it,” said A.J. O’Connor, manager of intelligent transportation systems at TriMet, during a Nov. 14 webinar hosted by Meeting of the Minds, a nonprofit dedicated to studying smart cities issues and solutions.

Some of the same intelligent data-heavy technology is also being tested in the system’s light-rail trains in what is known as Rail Operations Optimization Technology (ROOT).