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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

PENNDOT Tries To Calculate Traffic Again: Still Wrong

On Monday, I posted about the new traffic travel time indicators being used on the Parkway East. I also said they were crap because they were severely off in their travel time amounts. As an update, I did do some timekeeping of my own on the way home, Monday evening. Once again, the times were waaaay off in their estimation.  Channel 4 even tested it, but my experienced varied.

First up, as you approach the Forbes Ave exit heading east, there is another sign that usually reads, “Congestion: 1mile ahead” or something of that variation. Monday, at 4:16, it read “Travel Time to Squirrel Hill Tunnels, 7 Minutes.”

As traffic normally begins to back up around Bates St., I felt this was going to be an easy one to dispel and it was. It took me a whole 14 minutes to get to the Squirrel Hill Tunnels. Then, as you approach the Churchill exit, there is another sign which read, “Travel Time to I-76, 7 Minutes.”

There is no way, no way in hell that you could make it from Churchill to the I-76 / 48 / 22 interchange in seven minutes, doing the posted speed limit of 55 mph. I was not going 55 mph and it took me more than seven minutes to reach the turnpike.

That got me to thinking that someone must have been hauling ass to the tune of 80+ mph to trigger that travel time estimation. In fact, I worry that this will promote a bigger presence of police along I-376 between Edgewood and Monroeville. Obviously, whatever formula PENNDOT is using is based on the speed of a vehicle that passes by their camera. That means that the natural tendency is to speed on the Parkway East. Well, duh!?!?

Maybe they need to move the cameras. I have no idea where they are placed but I think a better location would be at both the Westinghouse Technology Park, for the inbound, and right around Bates St on ramp, for the outbound. Then, have the cameras relay that information back to the signs, taking into account the distance between the sign and the camera.

Noticeably, the signs were not operational on Tuesday, leading me to believe they knew they were full of crap. Yet, this morning they were back up again and half wrong. The sign coming into Pittsburgh had the travel time from the sign at Penn Hills to the Tunnel at 10 minutes. It was around 16 minutes.

Once I got through the tunnel, there was another one, stating that estimated travel time to downtown was 12 minutes. First of all, what the hell constitutes ‘Downtown’? Is the end point the Grant St exit? Is it Forbes and Grant? Is it the T station on Liberty Ave? Is it a garbage can inside the USX building’s janitorial closet on the 12th floor? This one was more accurate, given I considered Grant St the end point. It took 12 minutes from the sign until the red light at Grant St. Still, that is only accurate if Grant St. is the destination.

We’ll see if there is any accuracy this evening as I drive home.

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