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Palm Coast Will Spend $500,000 to “Optimize” a Few Traffic Signals, But Expected Gains Are Vague

| June 14, 2016

traffic signals optimization

To be optimized. (Palm Coast)

The Palm Coast City Council today signaled it would approve a $500,000 plan to start “optimizing” a few of the city’s traffic signals, and spend more in future years to extend the plan to more of the city’s 50 traffic signals. But don’t expect the signals to be synchronized. And don’t expect them to change the way they operate now.


The promised “optimization” is largely speculative: the city provided no plan or method indicating how it would measure promised improvements when it presented the proposal to the city council this morning, and council members barely asked more than token questions.

The system would depend on the city-run FiberNet network, the high-speed internet cables the city started installing six years ago. It would also depend on a new network of closed-circuit traffic control surveillance cameras trained on traffic intersections, “which in this case would only be used for monitoring, not for recording whatsoever,” Sean Castello, the city’s traffic engineer, said, along with traffic controllers—he’s not referring to individuals, but to technology already used at intersections, though some of it must be upgraded– and “vehicle detectors.”

It would also mean a city-run traffic management center. That would amount to “a couple of work stations” at City Hall and another at the city’s Public Works, Castello said.

And it would mean extending the city’s FiberNet wiring to enable the system, even though the FiberNet system was initially designed, and sold to city council, as a way to extend high-speed internet to local businesses and government agencies.

For now, the system will not need additional staff, he assured council members in a briefing on the new system this morning. The city is calling it the Advanced Traffic Management System. Much larger urban areas, including Seminole and Brevard counties and Gainesville, with whose officials Palm Coast staffers consulted, have been using it for years.

Landon claims the system will save staff time, because less time would be spent in the field to monitor and adjust traffic signals.

City Council member Bill McGuire wasn’t convinced. “From a manpower utilization standpoint, if you’re shortening the work requirement, what are you going to replace it with?”

“We will get it done quicker,” Landon said. But it was still not clear how precisely the large expense—which would be only the first of many such expenses in coming years—would translate into substantial improvements for drivers.

“It’s not going to change how the signals operate,” Castello said.

“How does the system manage traffic better?” council member Jason DeLorenzo asked.


Only the spending is not speculative for an “Advanced Traffic Management System.”


“It’s still managed by us, but we have the ability to now manage it from a central location and be able to look at the whole system instead of just being out there and Tyler is at one intersection and I’m at the other one,” Castello said, referring to Tyler Gibson, a signal technician for public works. “To keep coordination is hard without having something to centrally manage the whole thing that way the whole thing is working together as one system.”

The city wants 12 intersections networked by the end of this year, starting with Palm Coast Parkway from Florida Park Drive to Pine Cone Drive (including the segment the city just spent millions of dollars widening, ostensibly to improve traffic flow), adding two dozen intersections networked on four arteries in 2017, centered on Belle Terre Parkway, Palm Coast Parkway and State Road 100.

The initial $500,000 is just for its first phase this year. A fifth of that would be spent on buying the software. Another $229,000 would be spent on extending the FiberNet cables to the individual signals. Installing cameras, creating the Traffic Management Center, buying testing equipment and some additional needs would account for the rest. About $6,000 would be spent on upgrading pedestrian signals, providing countdowns, at nine intersections. That does not include the $7,000 to $8,000 a year to maintain the software.

DeLorenzo was curious when the system would need additional staffing. The administration is not clear on that, though Landon said it’s a matter of size: the larger the system, the more there will be a need for additional staffing.

Based on numbers the city presented to council members—the numbers were attributed to the Department of Transportation, but without more precision or methodology–the system supposedly could reduce travel time from 8 to 35 percent, increase travel speed from 8 to 17 percent, reducing fuel consumption and emissions, reducing stops from 11 to 75 percent, and reducing crashes from 28 to 31 percent. The administration provided no examples, scenarios or case studies to substantiate the claim. Council members did not ask for any.

“Always have to stress,” City Manager Jim Landon said, “we’re not talking about synchronizing all the signals. That is not practical when you have streets like Belle Terre, Palm Coast Parkway. It works very well in a nice downtown area or someplace where you have every block you have a signal.” It doesn’t work as well, he said, when there are a mile or two between signals. “But we can do a lot better than we’re doing now. There are some signals that make no sense at all” in the way they currently operate.

“The key to it is getting people from their point of origin to their point of destination as quickly and safely as possible,” Landon said. “The less time you sit there idling at a stop light, the less fumes you have, the less frustrations.”

The administration did not provide dollar figures for the cost of future years—only that there will be additional spending each year through 2019. But the council is expected to approve the expense at a meeting later this month.

“If we don’t see the kind of improvements in traffic, pedestrian safety, so on and so forth, we can always reevaluate this,” Netts said.

But the administration gave no sense of how the city will objectively evaluate the system, based on what baselines, methods or assumptions. It is very unlikely that once approved, it would abandon future years’ spending on the system, given the expense of the first installment.

In December 2014 the city spend $50,000 on a traffic signalization study that was to determine how to improve the system.

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17 Responses for “Palm Coast Will Spend $500,000 to “Optimize” a Few Traffic Signals, But Expected Gains Are Vague”

  1. Ken Dodge says:

    Statistics show ever-increasing opportunities for statisticians.

  2. Landon needs to be given the boot says:

    Jim Landon and the city council act like the sky is the limit and spend money like they have an endless supply. This is why our taxes keep rising. These leaders are out of control and this city manager is way over paid and has been here too long. Landon put red light cameras in just months before the laws changed. He is sneaky and underhanded!

  3. Jim Bob says:

    Those ugly blue signs have got every petty functionary in a piss away money frenzy!

  4. John Brady says:

    I am a candidate for Mayor and I am very disturbed at the way Council makes decision usually with a 5 to 0 vote. Council is presented with one option in a slick, rehearsed Power Point presentation. I have never heard the option of doing nothing.My change would be as follows:
    For anyone who has attended and followed City Council meetings, you have experienced the decision making process. The current process for addressing issues is as follows. The City manager and City staff have met and discussed the issue needing Council approval. A solution is determined and a PowerPoint presentation is prepared and practiced before being presented to City Council. Rarely is the Council advised of other alternatives including doing nothing.

    My suggestion is to involve Council more in the decision making process. This can be done by means of having the City Manager prepare a document to be presented at least one week before Council must make a decision. The document would be named Decision Analysis (DA). The document format would be as follows:

    PROBLEM
    A brief description of the problem.

    BACKGROUND
    A brief description of the background including the decision point to be voted by Council.

    OPTIONS
    All options including taking no action will be spelled out. Each option will have the “pro” and “cons” of each option. The cost and return on investment (ROI) will be included. Also if outside services are needed, rationale for why existing staff cannot address the issue.

    RECOMMENDATION
    Based on the above information, the staff will make a recommendation. Staff may decide to do a PowerPoint but the presentation would be after Council has reviewed the DA.
    There would need to be strong justification to spend this kind of money now and in the future of what could be a rabbit hole
    This process is not meant to make Council work harder but should make Council work smarter

  5. Dean Carpenter says:

    The next time someone comes up with an idea like this please reduce our taxes instead but if it must be done let’stop subsidizing golf courses and use that money to pay for it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    so we are back to having cameras at intersections…..and what will these cameras be doing that’s so important this time?

    big brother all over again!

  7. Realist says:

    Firmly agree Landon has to go and the red light cameras cannot return.

  8. gladfly says:

    Everything’s vague in this hell-hole except the crime.

  9. just me says:

    @ gladfly This place is a “hell-hole” ??? Crime is all over our County is NOT IMO a hell hole or bad place to live because of crime.

  10. DaveT says:

    You would think the City of Palm Coast could figure out a better way to spend money instead of waste money.

  11. steve miller says:

    IF THE GAINS ARE VAGUE WHY WOULD YOU PROCEED SPENDING THE MONEY ???

  12. Zito Offenheimer says:

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that the 4-way stop is one of the most efficient intersection traffic controls. So, Mr. Landon, Heidi and others, lets keep our tax payers money. Shorten each cycle to 15 seconds. Green light 15 seconds. Left turn 15 seconds. You accomplish two things: 1) you slow people down (do you REALLY care about T-bones? well extended greens allow drivers to gain excessive speeds and they WILL do it because they fear waiting 3+ minutes to get another green) and 2) everyone gets through the intersection faster. I dare you Mr. Landon, Heidi and other, prove me wrong. Z

  13. snapperhead says:

    A good place to start would be Corporate Dr. A blinking light would work fine there for traffic flow since there’s so little traffic at that intersection. There’s no need to have 10 cars going west on PC Parkway stop so 1 car going west off Corporate Dr. can exit that street.

  14. David S says:

    Give me that money I can spend it better than these people how about law enforcement to start off with.

  15. Markingthedays says:

    No one wants cameras at intersections until they are involved in a traffic accident (and we know we have plenty of those on this stretch of PC Parkway). Then they suddenly say to themselves “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could prove that person ran a red light and t-boned me.”

  16. Country Rock Dog says:

    Red light camera programs are a well known & documented law enforcement revenue producing scam & a fraud, non recording traffic intersection cameras should be outsourced to private alarm company central stations as a cost effective means of intersection monitoring & accident notification. Most of Flagler Counties intersections should be put on timed mode during the day & vehicle detection mode after evening rush hour & just before morning rush hour, the remainder of the less trafficked lighted intersections should be on timed mode only between the rush hour periods & on vehicle detection mode at all other times. those who need proof of innocence in traffic accidents can acquire dash cams with external video storage such as Cloud or sign up with Progressive Insurance “Snapshot” program. This is in no way a plug for Progressive Insurance, personally I have Geico Insurance & I don’t subscribe to Cloud, Good day all.

  17. NYC FYR DOG says:

    Leave early for your jobs & appointments just like you leave hours early to the airports.

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