Last week’s announcement (see: Kelly targets US$12 billion against congestion) that the UK Department for Transport is planning to open “smart lanes” using the hard shoulder of British motorways, is already ‘old news’ for Clearview Traffic Group.
For the past four years we have been working with the Dutch highway authorities on the use of Astucia ‘smart’ road markings which warn of bad weather or slow-moving traffic ahead and can help reduce motorway hold-ups. Two installations have significantly eased traffic congestion on Holland’s most crowded motorways, while the system is also proving a success in trials on the M8 in Scotland.
The British-designed Astucia road studs were chosen by the Dutch Ministry of Transport, which is a pioneer in the use of advanced traffic management on crowded motorways. One solution chosen by the ministry was to increase the capacity of the road by opening the hard shoulder as an extra lane during the rush hour combined with dynamic lane marking to indicate when the hard shoulder is open for use as an additional ‘plus-lane’.
The ‘smart’ road studs are ‘hard wired’ to traffic control rooms and are illuminated during times of congestion, directing traffic from the motorway’s entry-ramp to the hard shoulder. The illuminated studs delineate the additional lane and also guide drivers onto the main carriageway when the plus-lane system is not in use.
The first sets of Astucia ‘smart’ studs were installed in November 2004 by InterTraffic Systems, Astucia’s distributor in the Netherlands, on the busy A50 motorway linking Arnhem to Zwolle in the Gelderland province. The road carries an average of over 200,000 vehicles a day.
A second installation is on the A44 motorway taking traffic from The Hague to a busy junction near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, carrying an average of over 100,000 vehicles per day. Calculations have found shown that the management system can increase the capacity of the motorway by as much as 40%, and reduce accident rates.
A spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Transport says, “The system is performing brilliantly. We feel that it is very easy for drivers to determine when the extra lane is open or not. The systems are visible at far greater distances than passively reflective systems, which influence both reaction time and driver comfort very positively, and we have noted a significant reduction in accident figures at those sites where Astucia products have been installed.”
Marc Vissers, director of InterTraffic Systems says: “Over the past seven years, the Dutch Road authorities have been trying to increase road capacity without adding more tarmac. The road capacity is more than adequate during most of the day, so the main solution is to use the present roads more efficiently during rush hour. Dynamic Lane Marking is a solution. The extra lane combined with reduced speeds allows traffic to travel more efficiently.”
The UK Department for Transport is currently evaluating the installations for future use on roads in England, but Astucia’s Intelligent Road Stud technology has already been tested on Scotland’s busiest motorway, the M8 between Glasgow and Edinburgh. The “smart” studs were fitted to a 3km stretch of Scotland’s busiest motorway, linked to traffic speed collection data to provide feedback to road users of approaching hazards.
Astucia is one of three ITS brands which form The Clearview Traffic Group – the others are Golden River Traffic and Count On Us.
Agreed opening hard shoulders is no solution to easing congestion, it will in the short term simply promote more people to move back to the personal automobile who otherwise would have carpooled or taken public transit.
Unlike Britain and the rest of Europe, North America is faced with a relatively unsophisticated, and sometimes completely absent, public transportation system. Complicate the absence of a sustainable public transit system with massive suburban sprawl and you are presented with a severe congestion problem.
Here in North America we have been experimenting with Bus By-Pass Shoulders. Although our light-rail, rail, and subway systems may be insufficient, our bus systems could be sustainable. The problem now is that the buses must travel in the general purpose lanes and thus there is no time savings with public transport. Now we are permitting buses to use the shoulders to 'by-pass' the congestion. Success cases can be found in Ottawa, Minneapolis, and Toronto, just to name a few.
The shoulders should not be opened to personal auto use, as you said it would merely create a short term solution. Instead we should be encouraging car pooling and tolling schemes.
Sasha Gollish, Ontario Ministry of Transportation