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Technology enhancements play a major role improving the commute along I-35W and Cedar Avenue
Innovative technology is being applied in buses, at transit stops and on the freeway to help improve the commute on I-35W and Cedar Avenue from Burnsville to downtown Minneapolis.
Technology to help bus drivers in shoulder lanes see, feel the road
By early 2010, 10 buses operated by Minnesota Valley Transit Authority will be equipped with advanced technology that assists drivers operating buses in under-used 12-foot-wide shoulder lanes. Because using the shoulder depends on the comfort level of the bus driver, the goal is to use the technology on the bus to increase this comfort level.
The technology, developed at the University of Minnesota , uses both visual and physical cues to allow the bus driver to understand quickly and intuitively information that is critical to safety.
The technology surrounds bus operators with tools designed to make their job easier and the riders safer by keeping the vehicles centered in narrow shoulder lanes.
Information is displayed to the bus driver using a display unit mounted between the driver's head and the windshield. A projector behind the driver projects lane boundaries and images of vehicles in the driver's field of vision onto the screen, through which the driver also has a normal view of the road. Even if the driver's normal view is obscured by blowing snow or fog, he or she would still see lane markers clearly and judge distances to other vehicles.
A compact flat panel display mounted to the driver's left serves as a virtual rear-view mirror, showing representations of vehicles in the driver's blind spot as they are detected by a unit mounted low on the bus's left side.
A computer connected to the buses steering wheel provides resistance to the driver when the guidance system determines that the bus has begun to leave its lane. The driver retains control of the steering wheel at all times and can override the system by turning the wheel. While the technology is theoretically capable of steering the bus with no driver input, it is being used only to supplement driver skills, not override their control of the bus.
Another system lets bus drivers literally drive by the seat of their pants. A pair of computer controlled vibrators mounted beneath the driver's seat can be activated when the bus moves to the right or left, creating a pair of virtual rumble strips that the driver can feel without taking their eyes from the road.
Real-time information for transit riders
Commuters will see travelers information on signs along local streets and I-35W approaching select park and ride facilities.
One freeway sign will compare commute time by bus to that of a single-occupant vehicle in the general traffic lanes. Another sign will indicate space availability at the nearby park and ride facility. Once commuter enter the park and ride they will see real-time departure information for the next transit trips downtown.
Real-time bus departure information also will be available by phone and by computer and will be displayed on signs at transit stops along Marquette and Second avenues -- the primary express bus streets in downtown Minneapolis. Real-time bus information signs will also be added at the transit station at Mall of America, new park and ride facilities in Blaine, Roseville and Lakeville and the transit center in Burnsville.
Faster bus trips on local streets
Traffic signals along Central Avenue from I-694 to downtown Minneapolis will have the technology to give transit buses signal priority by extending a green light or shortening a red light to favor its passage through the intersection.