Air quality study wins award for best paper at this year’s Traffic Signals Symposium


A metropolitan district council in West Yorkshire and traffic technology supplier Dynniq UK have won the award for best paper at this year’s JCT Traffic Signals Symposium, which took place earlier this month and is the UK’s largest gathering of traffic signal practitioners and manufacturers.

The Symposium Program consisted of around 20 papers from a range of national and international speakers, with presentations made by representatives from the public and private sector, covering the latest in traffic management and intersection control issues. The winning paper, Kirklees, laying the foundations for focused air quality-based vehicle control, was delivered by Dave Caborn, UTC (urban traffic control) manager at Kirklees Council, and covered how, in partnership with Dynniq, the council has been deploying virtual emissions monitoring (VEM) and are planning to use these data to drive UTMC strategies to improve air quality throughout the district.

With air quality gradually worsening and no viable solutions obviously available, Dynniq is seeking to solve the problem by taking a different approach in air quality management (AQM), having recognized that air quality is simply a symptom and not the cause.

Typically, local authorities are using air quality monitors to influence traffic signals, which is simply treating the symptoms. The company says it uses a bespoke software solution, Virtual Emissions Monitor (VEM), to accurately identify causes through the measurement of vehicle emissions without the need of additional infrastructure. Kirklees Council adopted the VEM system to determine the effect of Adaptive Signal Control on emissions and the economic impact.

Dynniq’s VEM platform is a new data-driven approach to calculating localized emissions from road transport in real time, without the need for expensive on-street air quality monitors. Instantaneously it combines published data on vehicle emissions factors, real-time reported traffic speed and flow measurements, to calculate total NO2 emitted, accurate to the lane in which the vehicle was traveling.

VEM assigns emissions to many points across much more widely implemented infrastructure, such as traffic detection loops. By segregating the variable factors, the VEM enables authorities to quickly identify increased emissions, make informed operational decisions, and measure the impact.

In Kirklees, the initial project work showed a 31% reduction in emissions when the SCOOT (Split Cycle Offset Optimization Technique) adaptive control system was used over fixed-time signals. The decrease is sizeable given that the journey time reduction is only expected to reach a maximum of 20%.

The real benefit of having the VEM however, is that it is able to continually capture and report the Virtual Emissions Data, meaning any subsequent changes made, or fine tuning of the control strategies or SCOOT plans can be immediately observed and verified.

“We are proactively looking to improve the lives and health of our citizens by providing reliable journey times and improving air quality,” commented Caborn. “The VEM trial proves that this can be achieved, and although it is not the final solution, it now gives us a cost-effective means of moving forward to find that solution and achieving our aims.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).