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Comparison of Before–After versus Off–On Adaptive Traffic Control Evaluations: Park City, Utah, Case Study

Abstract

An adaptive traffic control system, the Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System (SCATS), was installed in Park City, Utah, to improve traffic performance at its network of signalized intersections. A field evaluation of the previous time-of-day actuated–coordinated signal timings was conducted before SCATS installation to compare the two systems. However, the post-SCATS field evaluation could not occur until two additional signals were installed and several other changes were made to the network. Two years after the original pre-SCATS field evaluation, the network was reevaluated with an off–on technique analogous to a before–after study. The signal timings and parameters in the off condition forced SCATS to use time-of-day actuated–coordinated control, similar to the before study but with timings readjusted for the additional signals and changed traffic conditions. The performance gains with SCATS on were measurably greater than those with SCATS off for travel time and number of stops and greater overall for stopped delay. These data provided the transportation agency with results anticipated by its traffic engineers. However, the original field evaluation data from 2 years earlier provided a less distinct conclusion. A methodology is presented to determine the relevance of an off–on study in place of a before–after study. The results show that “before” and “off ” data sets behave consistently 62.5% of the time. This value provides a basis of support for using off data, which better represent before signal timings on an after network. It also quantifies sensitivity to changes in the network, which are substantial in this case.

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