Other Voices

Technology can help beat traffic tie ups in North Texas

The state’s AirCheckTexas program provides replacement vouchers or subsidies to help drivers replace or repair gas guzzlers.
The state’s AirCheckTexas program provides replacement vouchers or subsidies to help drivers replace or repair gas guzzlers.

Though it may not seem like it when you’re running late for work, traffic on Fort Worth-area roadways has slightly improved in recent years. A series of innovative public-private partnerships that will deploy new technologies to further ease congestion could make those morning commutes even faster — while positioning Fort Worth and the Dallas metro area as a model for how cities across the country can overcome their own traffic challenges.

According to a recent study, Dallas-Fort Worth had the nation’s 10th worst traffic in 2017 — an improvement on its seventh-place ranking in 2016 but still among the 25 cities in the world with the most congestion. And Mayor Betsy Price has already acknowledged that simply continuing to rely on the same outdated modes of transportation will no longer be sufficient to take on surging congestion.

To combat this problem and improve quality of life for residents, policymakers in the Fort Worth metro area are increasingly turning toward partnerships with the private sector to leverage technology and data that create smarter and more efficient traffic patterns that keep more people moving at all times and reduces overall congestion.

Beginning last year, the city of Fort Worth launched a partnership with the traffic crowdsourcing application Waze, providing municipal leaders with a constant flow of information coming from drivers out on the highway. By becoming the first Texas city to participate in Waze’s Connected Citizens Program, Fort Worth is pioneering ways that cities in the area can leverage new technology to develop insights that can help them continuously monitor and redirect traffic around backups.

Meanwhile, the city of Dallas announced a $9 million partnership with the global communication technology provider Ericsson to analyze traffic data and allow the city to synchronize traffic lights in real time. While these “adaptive signals” will not eradicate Dallas’s traffic woes, they will help make vehicles flow more efficiently through the area while reducing congestion and improving travel time reliability.

These are the types innovations that can help elevate Fort Worth and the surrounding Dallas metro area as one of the nation’s fastest-developing smart cities, which can unlock new quality-of-life benefits for millions of residents. But this can only be achieved if local policymakers continue exploring creative ways to work with the private sector to harness 21st technology and innovation for the public good.

At a time when some cities are taking a more antagonistic stance against technology companies — just look at San Francisco recently subpoenaing Uber and Lyft over driver pay data — Fort Worth-area policymakers are taking steps to work more closely with tech leaders to identify how they can help improve life for residents.

It’s a model for how cities should operate as new technology offers the promise of building smarter and more efficient public infrastructure systems. The partnerships with Waze and Ericsson to improve traffic flow, for instance, represent a roadmap for how other cities can leverage innovation in a way that can provide real, tangible benefits for their communities.

As technology continues to rapidly reshape our world and the way we live, the cities that take action now to work closely with private sector tech leaders will be best prepared for embracing these changes and putting them to work for residents. Policymakers throughout the Fort Worth area are showing how this can be done, and local governments throughout the country should be paying attention.

Joe Rinzel is a spokesperson for Americans for a Modern Economy, a consumer advocacy group focused on modernizing U.S. regulations and laws.