Global Traffic Technologies

Memphis Area Transit Authority adds Opticom Transit Signal Priority

Tens of thousands of people use transit services in Memphis every day. With the installation of Opticom GPS Transit Signal Priority (TSP) along the city’s two busiest transit corridors, many of those riders will reach their destinations in less time. 

“People are more willing to ride public transit if it’s convenient,” said John Lancaster, manager of planning for Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA). “Opticom TSP has helped us improve transit service for our riders.”

Opticom TSP was installed at more than 50 intersections along congested Poplar Avenue and Elvis Presley Boulevard through the heart of the city. More than two million trips are taken using transit services along these two corridors every year. MATA also installed Opticom GPS vehicle equipment on more than 140 transit buses.

Buses can now request a green light from up to 400 feet away or 30 seconds before reaching an intersection, even around corners, obstructions or other intersections.

“Opticom TSP is helping us improve travel times by almost 20 percent,” said Lancaster. “That has the potential of saving us five or even ten minutes every trip, every day, so we’re able to serve more people more consistently in less time.”

With nearly 50,000 trips along the two major corridors every year, MATA expects to reduce travel times by almost 7,000 hours. By improving cycle times, MATA may be able to accommodate the same number of riders using fewer buses. As Lancaster points out, removing even one bus from the route could save MATA about $200k annually.

Taking advantage of proven technology

For several years, the city of Memphis has used Opticom traffic signal priority control to help first responders reach emergency scenes more quickly. The city’s trolley system uses the system, too.

“The ability to extend or truncate traffic signals reduces the time spent waiting at red lights unnecessarily and improves our ability to serve the greater Memphis community,” said Lancaster. “So why not use a similar approach for our buses? We can reduce transit delays without compromising everyday traffic flow.”

Opticom is doing more than helping MATA save money though. In fact, it may even help them make money. Lancaster noted that if MATA can improve on-time accuracy even more, there’s a real chance to increase ridership by at least 10 percent. He added that with Opticom part of its foundation, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Memphis could be a reality in the near future.