Empirical Study in Florida Found That Signal Retiming Effectively Reduced Average Travel Time on Arterial Roads by Over 40 Percent for Traffic Entering Sporting Events, but Not so Much After the Events.

Various Traffic Management Strategies, Including Signal Retiming and Variable Message Signs, Were Implemented to Improve Traffic Conditions During Baseball Games in Fort Myers, FL.

Date Posted
06/30/2023
Identifier
2023-B01766
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Evaluation of Traffic Management Strategies for Special Events Using Probe Data

Summary Information

Planned special events can be challenging in terms of increased traffic demand on roads in the vicinity of the activity. To keep traffic volumes under control during special events, transportation agencies often implement cost-effective traffic management strategies. This study empirically investigated the traffic flow and traffic volume impacts of various traffic management strategies, including signal retiming and Variable Message Signs (VMS), applied near the ballpark of baseball games in Fort Myers, Florida, using data collected for over five consecutive years from both directions (Eastbound, EB and Westbound, WB) of a major arterial road of 12.2 km (7.6 miles) in length, from 2012 to 2016. 

METHODOLOGY

In this study, traffic volumes were collected from loop detectors installed by the Lee County Department of Transportation (Lee DOT) while travel time was determined from Bluetooth sensors installed by the researchers in collaboration with Lee DOT. Traffic flow for a given time period was considered to be substantially impacted by the baseball games when travel time change (TTC) (i.e., delays) was equal to or greater than 50 percent. Traffic management strategies implemented in this study included signal retiming and VMSs communicating with travelers about traffic changes, including lane repurposing and traffic entering and exiting the ballpark. The implementation of different traffic management strategies between 2012 and 2016 is shown in Table 1. This study evaluated the impacts of various traffic management strategies by comparing their implementation before and after 2016, which brought about significant changes in traffic operations.

Table 1. Traffic management strategies over time.

Year Traffic management strategies
2012-2016 Two to four hours after game start, signal timing for an intersection on the studied arterial and about  3.2-km west of the ballpark, was readjusted to provide 13 seconds of additional green time to the EB traffic exiting the ballpark, and 37 seconds to the WB traffic exiting. This signal retiming was manually turned on and off in the conclusion of the game based on observations from CCTV cameras.
2014-2016 Three VMSs were put in place to provide real-time information about the traffic conditions around the ballpark.
2016 Approximately 1.5 hours prior to the game start, signal timings for the same intersection treated previously were changed to provide 25 seconds of additional green time to the EB and WB traffic flows each, and evening games were moved one hour earlier.

FINDINGS

Results for the EB Traffic (Entering Games):

  • The EB through traffic in 2016 saw a substantial improvement when compared to the years 2013-2015. In 2016, the highest average travel time was 5.5 min, a significant reduction from the previous years, which was 7.7 min in 2013, 7.5 min in 2014, and 8.3 min in 2015, respectively, considering the afternoon game days (AGD). The average travel time peak on AGDs was reduced by more than 40 percent in 2016 compared to the previous three years. This result indicated that the changes in signal timings for the selected intersection in the study area by providing additional green time to EB and WB traffic flows effectively improved the EB through traffic.
  • In 2016, TTC before and after evening games were significantly reduced to 87 percent and 78 percent respectively, in contrast to the higher percentages observed from 2012 to 2015. Additionally, the shorter impacted period (when TTC was at least 50 percent), was shorter in 2016 for both game times. This confirmed the positive impact of the 2016 signal retiming on improving EB traffic flow before games.

Results for the WB Traffic (Exiting Games):

  • Over the years of 2012-2016, both motorists exiting games and through traffic experienced similar average travel times and impact periods after games. Furthermore, there was no significant improvement in TTC and impact period for through traffic between game days and non-game days from 2012 to 2016. This indicted that traffic improvement strategies including VMS and signal timing had limited effectiveness in improving WB traffic.
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