Most Orange County residents, driving during rush hour, want as much green time at traffic lights as possible to help ease their commute times.
The team at Orange County’s Traffic Management Center (TMC) in the Public Works Division is the eyes of the County working behind the lights to optimize commute times for drivers throughout the region. Six dedicated employees at the TMC manage about 600 traffic signals throughout unincorporated Orange County and interact with field devices to troubleshoot problems and change light timing — depending on traffic conditions.
“In a small way, we are helping to make citizens’ commute more efficient and safer,” Orange County Chief Engineer Hazem El-Assar said.
There are 110 live traffic monitoring cameras at key locations throughout the County, however the cameras do not record traffic patterns. Additionally, TMC maintains all school zone flashing beacons for Orange County Public Schools.
Project Manager Hector Bertran described the TMC workflow as a “mixture of art and engineering.” In essence, a balancing acting that combines engineering, state-of-the-art technology, predictability and efficiency.
For the past decade, the Traffic Management Center has operated five days a week, for 12 hours a day. When the Orange County Convention Center brings in large conferences like the Home Builders Show, which attracts more than 100,000 attendees, TMC staff work during nights and weekends to effectively manage the additional traffic.
As the region's most populous county and with 13 towns and cities located within our county borders, the public’s awareness is helpful.
If citizens observe a light malfunction or issue, they are advised to call 311 so the problem can be fixed directly by the TMC team. The Center receives an average of four reports or inquiries per day.
The ability to remotely access signals is also critical to keeping things operating smoothly. “During thunderstorm season, we have a lot of power outages and can usually get back up and running remotely within two minutes rather than sending a maintenance technician in the field, which can take up to 45 minutes,” TMC Operator David Rodriguez said. “In fact, almost 90 percent of our signals can be accessed remotely.”
TMC is funded predominately by federal grants, with the County making small contributions. Several new federal grants – including one for $3.3 million – were recently awarded to help upgrade the equipment and expand the system capability to improve efficiency.
Some of that funding was earmarked for Adaptive Signal Systems, which uses input from field sensors to adjust the signal timing to fluctuating traffic conditions. These systems optimize the timing at intersections and along corridors to minimize delays. A new Adaptive Signal System was recently installed at Sand Lake Road and Orange Blossom Trail – and the results are impressive. Compared to previous traffic conditions, travel time was reduced by 14 percent and the average delay time was reduced by 37 percent.
Other expansive counties and some larger municipalities also maintain their own TMC systems.
“We are working with other agencies in the region on a plan to interact more seamlessly in our traffic management efforts,” El-Asser added. “For example, State Road 50 includes not only unincorporated Orange County, but towns and cities of Ocoee, Orlando and Winter Garden.”
Ultimately, the TMC helps the County run more efficiently and citizens benefit with less commute time.
“I always like to let citizens know that someone is behind all the traffic lights to try to make their lives a little easier,” Business Unity Data Network Specialist Tony Albert said. “That’s a great job to have.”
Traffic Management Center By The Numbers
Unincorporated Orange County has:
- Traffic signals in Orange County: 600
- Miles of fiber throughout traffic signals: 225
- Traffic monitoring cameras: 110
- Ninety percent of all signals can be accessed remotely
- Citizen calls from 311 to the TMC annually: 770