Technology aids Auckland traffic management centre

A fibre-optic network built by TelstraClear for Auckland's local councils is playing a key role in a traffic management unit which opened recently in the congested city.

A fibre-optic network built by TelstraClear for Auckland’s local councils is playing a key role in a traffic management unit which opened recently in the congested city.

The network, which extends from Pukekohe in the south to Albany in the north, carries closed-circuit TV images from sites around Auckland to the unit, based on the city’s North Shore.

While 14 staff at the unit monitor the images around the clock, the fibre also transmits information about vehicle speeds, collected when traffic crosses underground cables, or loops, placed every 500m on motorways.

The fibre has been in use for several years — separately — by the four Auckland-based city councils, Auckland, Manukau, Waitakere and North Shore. In 2000 the councils agreed to pool their resources into the traffic management unit, to be managed on their behalf by Transit New Zealand.

The fibre network plays a vital part in the new unit, says Transit NZ traffic systems engineer Michael Daley. “Before 2000, we used a radio frequency network for the cameras, but if it wasn’t for the fibre we’d be struggling.”

The radio frequency arrangement worked fine, Daley says, but had bandwidth limitations, whereas the single mode fibre network has up to gigabit capacity, “which is more than we’ll ever use in the foreseeable future”.

The unit also centralises the four councils’ Scats (Sydney Co-ordinated Adaptive Traffic Control System) traffic light management systems, which allow staff to alter light timings to smooth traffic flow. (The councils license the Australian-developed system, which is frequently updated and redeveloped).

Hosted at the centre is Odyssey, another traffic management system, and Transit New Zealand is trialling a website which will show real-time video from Auckland’s roads. The website, which is being trialled by taxi, courier and trucking firms, is due to go live soon, says Transit NZ acting traffic operations manager Blair Monk.

Transit is managing $12 million worth of equipment at the unit, he says, but when the four councils’ own gear is included, it amounts to “millions more” under the unit’s management.

Auckland’s traffic management technology also includes seven message signs, which display advice on driving conditions.

Every day more than 200,000 vehicles cross the city’s busiest motorway interchange, known as Spaghetti Junction, and 150,000 cross the harbour bridge daily. About 660,000 cars, 93,000 trucks and 3000 buses were registered in the city last year.

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