High-Res cameras monitoring CWS traffic

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June 19th, 2015

Cameras monitor five intersections around TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

Cameras monitor five intersections around TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. Of the City’s 1,000 street lights, only 10 are currently a part of the new monitoring system. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)


 

The City of Omaha’s new Traffic Operations Center is a high-tech facility, located in a non-descript building off 50th Street. Inside, a wall of flat-screen monitors tells the story of traffic in the city. One screen is a map of the city, with traffic flows mapped out in red, yellow and green. Just like stop lights, green means traffic is moving, red means it’s not.

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The other screens display video feeds of intersections. City traffic engineer Nicholas Gordon said the video is a real-time feed from a high resolution camera.

There are 10 intersections in Omaha with these types of cameras; five of them around TD Ameritrade Park downtown.

Murthy Koti is a city traffic engineer in Omaha's Public Works Department. He said it will cost $35 million to install cameras on every traffic signal in the city. However, most of that money, 80 percent, is federal money. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

Murthy Koti is a city traffic engineer in Omaha’s Public Works Department. He said it will cost $35 million to install cameras on every traffic signal in the city. However, most of that money, 80 percent, is federal money. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

They’re part of the city’s traffic signal master plan. Murthy Koti, also with Public Works, oversees the project. He said the 2015 College World Series is the first time the system is being put to the test.

“There’s different software that we can pull up on [the] video wall, and manage the traffic in real time as necessary,” Koti said, adding that the system is mostly automated to help keep traffic flowing during peak congestion times. The system can be over-ridden by police officers directing traffic, and also adjusted to account for a number of different factors. Like when 45 thousand fans decide it’s time to leave the ballpark.

“For instance when [a] game is about to be done in the bottom of the ninth, we change to an outbound plan where the initial focus is on pedestrians, because everybody will be leaving the stadium in an inning or so, and they’ll be leaving to walk to their cars. So the first 15 minutes or so, usually we focus on the pedestrians,” Koti explained.

Once the foot traffic clears, Koti said the system can then adjust to make sure vehicles leaving downtown are given priority.

Koti said during the next decade, every one of the thousand or so street lights in Omaha will be integrated into the new system.

In addition to camera feeds, the new traffic monitoring system converts traffic flow data into an easy to read digital representation of the intersection. Color-coded lines indicate direction and rate of travel. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

In addition to camera feeds, the new traffic monitoring system converts traffic flow data into an easy to read digital representation of the intersection. Color-coded lines indicate direction and rate of travel. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

When asked if he’s concerned whether the cameras constitute an invasion of privacy, Koti said, “No. The cameras are high resolution, but we do not—I repeat—we do not record anything at this time. All we do is monitor [traffic] in real time. The purpose of these cameras is to view the traffic conditions, adjust them as necessary to make sure the congestion and the air emissions are all reduced and we contain those as soon as possible. But there should not be any privacy concerns because we do not record anything.”

After the College World Series is over and the City completes testing on the new traffic system, Koti said eventually the information the system gathers will be made accessible to the public. The computer server used to operate the system is already on line, Koti said, making remote access to real-time camera feeds just a few clicks away.

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