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Better Days are coming

NWA improving traffic management capabilities

BY BALFORD HENRY
Observer senior reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 12, 2018

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Motorists sitting out current traffic jams in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMR) can rest assured that the National Works Agency (NWA) has been increasing its traffic- management capabilities in order to improve the flow of traffic.

The traffic congestion caused by the multiple projects is probable the worst motorists have ever experienced in these urban roads, but they can find some relief in the project outcome of these projects.

In the meantime, the NWA seems determined to prove that it can maintain at least a realistic level of management of flow, even while the challenge persists, and move on, hopefully, to a fully technological system of monitoring and managing the traffic.

One of the most valuable tools in this programme has been the Traffic Management Centre, which utilises technology to monitor vehicular movement in Kingston andSt Andrew.

The agency says that its capacity to improve traffic flow, public safety and assisting the security forces to maintain law and order, has increased considerably through the work of the centre.

With cameras linked via video feed to a central control room, the NWA is able to make “real-time” adjustments to traffic signals or request police support, when necessary, to ensure smoother vehicular and pedestrian travel.

There are plans to expand the system by adding more cameras, new locations, monitoring additional towns across Jamaica, and by establishing a second monitoring centre in Montego Bay.

The current centre is housed at the agency's Maxfield Avenue offices in Kingston. It has been in operation for 12 years now, and is manned by highly skilled and trained persons.

The system has been helpful in the ongoing re-routing of traffic resulting from the construction work on the major road projects in the Corporate Area.

“We are able to provide real-time monitoring of the traffic… the police have been a part of it and they have been able to call in their resources where they are needed, because they can actually see what is taking place out on the road,” said Stephen Shaw, NWA's manager for communications and customer service.

Shaw says that the centre improves the agency's response time to effectively manage traffic by saving time, as NWA officers do not necessarily have to go on the road to do physical counts as they can watch it from the centre.

He says that eventually it is intended to link all the major town centres, or to have satellite centres established over time.

Shaw also told a Rotary Club function earlier this year that: “We are going to be putting up one in Montego Bay, so that those persons there will be in a position to monitor traffic movement and make decisions. Of course, it will be linked to the main centre in Kingston. The cameras are up, and we can see the traffic in Montego Bay.”

The Traffic Management Centre has been outfitted and funded over the years from the resources of the Road Maintenance Fund, the NWA's operational budget, and through support from the Ministry of National Security.

Prior to the establishment of the centre, a team would be dispatched to specific locations to collect the relevant data about traffic volume and flow.

But, he says that even with the technology-based system in place, the agency still carries out physical traffic counts to collect information.

“A team will physically go to an intersection and do physical counts. They sit down with a clipboard and a form and they literally count the traffic. Another way is to put strips of rubber across the road with electronic monitoring, which capture data, but then we have to go back in, plug it into the system and have it analysed,” he noted.

He also pointed out that computerised system came out of a plan to link traffic signals in a way that would allow for real-time modification.

He said that the camera-based video feed enables the NWA to take decisions in a more timely and precise way.

“It takes a bit of the guessing out of what we do in that respect,” he admitted.

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