Wednesday, May 31, 2017

All About The Electronic Traffic Board Near Safeway On NE 45th Street


The Laurelhurst Blog has received inquiries about the electronic traffic board, called a Dynamic Message Sign (DMS), located in the middle of NE 45th Street facing southbound,, near Safeway. 
As the Laurelhurst Blog reported in April 2013, the DMS is part of Children's Hospital's Livable Streets Initiative., required by the City of Seattle as part of the mitigation of the Major Institution Master Plan, in which Children's is required to contribute nearly $4 million on transportation improvements in NE Seattle. 
The main purpose of the sign is to alert drivers about incidents, events, and closures 
and reduce congestion by allowing drivers to avoid traffic jams and openings of the Montlake Bridge and choose the best route by displaying both Montlake Boulevard travel time and Montlake bridge status.

Specific travel times are posted using information from traffic cameras and new traffic detectors were installed along NE 45th and Montlake Boulevard.  Traffic data is also posted on the City of Seattle Travelers’ Information Map, an online traffic map.
Recently SDOT provided additional information about the sign to the Laurelhurst Blog Staff:

Travel times are posted during the AM (5:45 AM to 9AM ) and PM (2:45 PM to 7PM) peak periods. Currently these travel times are only posted in real time and when data is available.   

SDOT will also post on this DMS when there are incidents, special events or construction that may affect traffic, especially on 520 (when we are made aware).  

SDOT doesn't provide eastbound SR 520 travel times on the bridge itself, only travel times on Seattle surface streets.  
Travel times are recorded using WSDOT License Plate Readers (LPRs) and are timed from one point to the next. When these readers don’t have sufficient data collected (i.e. such as when a license plate is tracked at point A and doesn’t show up at point B to complete the tracking) then the travel times can’t be calculated and thus, are not posted.  
Incidents that occur on state routes such as SR 520 are monitored by WSDOT. If WSDOT notifies us of blocking incidents on SR 520, we will put up messaging accordingly.  
Besides the 520 Ramp travel times, the only other existing travel time provided is to I-5 via NE 45th Street. These were selected based on availability of the LPRs provided by WSDOT.  The DMS does provide travel times to the SR 520 ramps.
The Blog received several comments from commuters:
Do you know why the giant electronic reader board on NE 45th near Safeway rarely gives actual traffic info? I often travel to UW Medical Center and when Montlake is slow it would be very helpful to know if NE 45th is also slow. Do you know who is in charge of it or puts info up?
This is one of my hot buttons. The message sign  by Safeway is among the biggest jokes and wastes of taxpayer money ever.  It is another example of the City spending money foolishly.  It serves very little purpose and often is not active during bad traffic.  
The sign doesn't help when traveling southbound on 25th Avenue NE, because by the time you get to NE 45th Street, drives are already caught in the back-up with no way to get on another route SDOT traffic cams are not helpful either, such as the one southbound on the NE 45th overpass, as well as having its view blocked by trees and the pedestrian overpass from the UW E6 parking lot. When it appears that Montlake is clear, once past the UW E6 parking lot there could be a back-up.  Also we wish there was a better notification system for Ship Canal bridge openings, unless you listen to the NOAA radio, otherwise it's very long delays. 
I don't believe that the sign is a waste of taxpayer money.  I only wish that it was active more often. I commute into the UW on Montlake and, when the sign is active (I'd say about 50% of the time during my morning commute), it almost always provides me with useful information. For folks heading to UW Medical Center or the University, there are several alternate routes to take if Montlake is swamped. My young son, also appreciates spending a few fewer minutes stuck in traffic when we can make informed decisions.


No comments: