By Ryan Broomfield, Systems Architect
As a resident of downtown Kansas City, Missouri and a Systems Architect at Rhythm Engineering, I am filled with an enormous sense of pride and satisfaction to be making a difference nationally and also locally in my own community.
One of my favorite corridors we have developed technology for is the corridor that serves the Kansas City Streetcar. The Streetcar is a project that has exceeded every projection and has been an instrumental addition to the ongoing revitalization of Kansas City’s downtown. Original estimates of riders were highly ambitious and put daily ridership at 2,700. Incredibly, ridership has beat all expectations and averages over 5,000 per day — resulting in numerous expansion initiatives and funding approval for additional cars.
Not only has the Streetcar been successful based on its own projections, it is one of the most successful streetcar projects in the country — beating out similar projects with both free ridership and paid fares in cities across the U.S., including Atlanta, Washington D.C. and Seattle.
The system has become a national example to other cities of how a streetcar can be successful and for locals it is a strong source of KC pride. Additionally, the system has earned rave reviews from riders about being clean and well-lit, as well as being the transportation method of choice for downtown entertainment options.
Rhythm Engineering has contributed to this project by being the adaptive provider of choice for the traffic signals located along the Streetcar route. Balancing vehicle, pedestrian and streetcar demand in the heart of a major city’s urban grid is a challenging task for any adaptive system, and In|Sync delivers proven results.
In|Sync accomplishes this feat by incorporating Transit Signal Priority (TSP) into its core algorithm. Many other TSP solutions take a naive approach and simply extend green intervals, create a forced early return to green, or, in some cases, abandon coordination and go into a transition state. In|Sync works with TSP differently in that we balance TSP demand as another type of important demand, rather than performing a deliberately responsive action. It also doesn’t abandon coordination to accomplish this goal.
While this approach is less direct, it has resulted in significant improvements for the Streetcar’s travel time since it began public operation in May of 2016. A significant, measured reduction in travel time for the Streetcar was achieved over the baseline operation of In|Sync’s adaptive technology when measured with before/after studies. Here are some travel time studies that were performed on the Streetcar corridor with TSP enabled and without TSP enabled.
Personally, it has been a pleasure to ride the streetcar. I have used it for easy access to cherished Kansas City landmarks, such as Union Station and World War 1 Memorial, all the way down to the historic River Market, where fresh produce can be bought at the Farmers Market. Along the way, there are a variety of wonderful businesses, some old, some new, that benefit from the increased exposure of the streetcar. It’s absolutely worth spending a few days to discover some new favorite haunts, destination spots and storefronts.
Overall, we are all proud at Rhythm Engineering to have been a part of such a successful project and to have delivered on our mission of helping citizens get to their destinations faster and safer. We look forward to contributing to the future expansion and success of the Kansas City Streetcar.