News Details

Smart City: Palo Alto Deploys Adaptive Signal Technology to Keep Traffic Moving

Motorists driving on Palo Alto's streets may find things a little smoother along some major corridors, thanks to smart technology the City is rolling out to improve traffic signal timing. All of the projects are aimed at making travel on the streets safer and more efficient for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Starting this week, traffic signals along Embarcadero Road from Bryant Street to Geng Road will be re-programmed to adjust based on "time of day" traffic patterns. Currently, all of the signals are on a continuous timing plan that doesn't take into account the different traffic flows during different hours of the day. As the new timing is rolled out, City staff will be making adjustments in the field to ensure that the new programming is operating as efficiently as possible.

Also this summer, the Town & Country/Paly traffic signal will be equipped with a new communications device to extend the timing plan to El Camino Real, and will run in coordination with the Caltrans-operated traffic signal at the El Camino Real intersection.

In mid-August, traffic signals along San Antonio Road from East Charleston Road to Nita Avenue, as well as the intersection at East Charleston Road and Fabian Way, will be equipped with SynchroGreen software that automatically adapts and adjusts traffic signals based on traffic flow. The software makes changes to the traffic signals in real time to smooth the flow of cars.

The City has used the SynchroGreen software along the Sand Hill Road corridor since 2014, which has shown reduced travel times. While the adaptive technology is part of Palo Alto's Smart City efforts, the idea to put it in place on San Antonio Road came directly from members of the community who attended a Neighborhood Town Hall Meeting at Cubberley Community Center last December. Thanks to feedback from several residents, the City found the mix of land uses and irregular travel patterns along the corridor were ideally suited for the adaptive traffic signal timing.

As motorists travel more smoothly around town, the City is also working to keep pedestrians safe. The City will implement leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs) at downtown intersections to give pedestrians a three-second head start when entering an intersection with a green signal. LPIs enhance the visibility of pedestrians in the intersection and help reinforce the pedestrian right-of-way for vehicles making turns.  

"Green waves" will also be rolled out downtown along Bryant Street and University Avenue to make bicycling on these important routes easier. Green waves uses modified traffic signal timing so that bicyclists encounter a series of green lights as they ride along a street. The green wave signals will be timed for 12 mph to allow bicyclists to travel more easily down these two corridors. 

As these new traffic signal timing plans are introduced, the City reminds motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists to drive, walk and pedal safely, particularly at intersections.

Top