SAN ANTONIO - How would you like to have a device on your car that makes sure you almost always get a green light? Some of VIA’s new buses are equipped with a signal priority system that gives them a green light more often. Is it slowing you down by giving you the red light?
VIA’s new Primo rapid-transit buses started running last month; whisking riders between Downtown and the Medical Center in 20% less time. The longer Primo buses are equipped with something called signal priority, to get them through all those traffic lights on Fredericksburg Road.
“Signal priority is a request to the Traffic Management System to give us a little help with the light to help us through the intersection,” said Tony Cade, VIA’s Vice President of Information Technology.
Every time a Primo bus approaches an intersection, its onboard computer sends out that request to the city's Traffic Management System, which can quickly change the light to green or keep the light green until the bus passes through.
VIA is stressing that its buses are getting signal priority, they won't always get a green light if the intersection is crowded with cars and pedestrians. That's different from signal pre-emption, which is used by emergency vehicles. They always get a green, even if the intersection is busy.
Traffic managers told us in just one day last week, the new, VIA buses requested green lights 2,354 times. They got the green light in 2,088 of those instances, which comes out to 89% of the time.
We asked VIA if manipulating the signal lights so frequently will cause delays for other drivers.
“No, that's all taken into consideration by the traffic engineers, and we're still adjusting that. If they notice any kind of congestion on the cross traffic, they'll make adjustments to how they handle the traffic signal,” Tony Cade told us.
The signal priority system is run completely by software, which cost VIA $1 Million. Other cities, like New York, have enacted signal priority for their buses in order to speed up routes and encourage use of public transportation.
VIA will soon start using signal priority on other major roadways. So if you're in a hurry to get somewhere, you may want to get in back of a bus.