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How Traffic Operation System Control Rooms Work

Control rooms for traffic operation systems are vital facilities that help to assure the proper flow of traffic operation systems. A control room is where all the information comes together, and where quick decisions are made. Traffic operation systems control rooms are usually secure, and not open to the general public. Oftentimes, these control rooms will have multiple electronic displays for monitoring real-time information, and ITS data. Sometimes the control rooms themselves are under video surveillance to ensure that personnel are accountable, as well as for security reasons.

Many traffic control rooms are manned on a 24/7 basis, whereas others may only be staffed during operating hours. Traffic operation systems control rooms are usually equipped with fire suppression systems in order to safeguard the facility. Oftentimes, the dense concentration of equipment in traffic operation systems control rooms are cause for using special electrical uninterrupted power supply feeds, and air conditioning.

Each city often has a traffic operations systems control room, which oversees the transportation infrastructure of cities spanning thousands of miles. Different branches of the overarching system will be monitored from this control room such as traffic maintenance, operations, and management. According to the city of Houston’s Traffic Operations site, “Traffic management branches are often responsible for performing engineering studies, plan reviews, & field investigations related to traffic counts, street lighting, school zones, speed humps, railroad safety & quiet zones, view obstructions, neighborhood cut-through traffic, and Capital Improvement Plans.” Whereas the maintenance branch is responsible for maintaining traffic signals, school zone flashers, freeway lights, under bridge lights, traffic signs, and markings on the pavement. Traffic operation maintenance is often operational 24 hours per day, and also performs preventative measures.

The demands of traffic management systems are projected to increase over time. Thus, it is crucial to have state of the art control rooms to process the ebb and flow of various ITS activities. ITS control rooms offer clear, and timely information that can be monitored, and quickly acted upon, if needed. This will ensure that the roads are safe, commuters are able to get to work on time, events are managed properly, and unforeseen events are handled with care.

ITS control rooms need equipment that can withstand daily use. Video wall displays must be able to integrate with existing hardware, and applications. It is vital to be able to make time-sensitive decisions with confidence, which is why ITS control room video wall displays must offer high quality video feeds, and allow operators to analyze data from multiple inputs simultaneously. Furthermore, these video wall displays must often be custom built for the particular needs of each city. Due to various city budgets, ITS video wall display companies must be able to work with a city’s budget to offer video wall displays that will have a very long life, and durability.

In addition to the master control display, appropriate seating is needed for the large number of employees that will staff the traffic operation systems control room. Computers, and other devices will need to be synced on a safe, and reliable network with very fast connections for the optimal ability to analyze data in real-time.

Traffic operation systems control rooms can often be rather methodical workplaces. However, when traffic flow is interrupted due to a bottleneck, event, or emergency situation, these ITS control rooms turn into hubs of activity where often life-altering decisions must be made. Managers of these ITS control rooms must have lightening-quick decision-making skills, and the ability to work under pressure.

Photo from The Highways England