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Traffic Engineering from a Global Perspective

By Dr. Beverly Kuhn P.E., PTOE, PMP posted 17 days ago

  
Growing up in a suburban town in the 1970s and 80s, my awareness of traffic engineering practices was fairly run-of-the mill, especially for someone who didn’t give any thought to a career in transportation until college. Our community had the typical street network with a handful of traffic signals, a rail line running through it, and a major interstate that connected us to the beach in Galveston, TX, USA and the big city of Houston, TX. Like most of my peers, I learned to drive at 15, navigating typical Texas roadways with little variety as to their design and operation. My first exposure to a different type of intersection control was at the age of 19, riding through a roundabout in England on the left side of the road with the driver on the right side of the car—talk about culture shock! I also appreciated the messages on the pavement at crosswalks in London telling pedestrians to look right for oncoming traffic.

Now, as a seasoned transportation professional, my observations of international practices are a bit more knowledgeable. During my recent vacation in Europe, I took particular interest in the different approaches to pedestrian signal operations. In the downtown core of Barcelona, Spain, every traffic signal cycle accommodates pedestrians, eliminating the need for pedestrian activation. In Paris, France, I noted the absence of a “flashing don’t walk” portion of the pedestrian cycle and observed numerous cycles to understand how it relates to the vehicle signal phases. There are many other similarities and differences in the design and operations on international road networks, but the common objective for all of us is to improve safety and mobility for all transportation system users, and to help build smart and livable communities.

In our daily work, we sometimes focus on the immediate problem and can forget we have a wealth of experience and knowledge at our fingertips. Members of ITE are a global community, spanning more than 75 countries serving our profession as transportation engineers, transportation planners, consultants, educators, technologists, and researchers. With a quick message on the ITE Community, we can get direct input that can expand our view of alternatives to solve our most critical transportation challenges. ITE’s mission is to provide theglobal community of transportation professionals with the knowledge, practices, skills, and connections to serve the needs of their communities and help shape the future of the profession and transportation in the societal context. We can learn much from experiences beyond our borders, whether it is across town, in a neighboring state, or half a world away. The diversity of innovations shared at the recent Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA, USA is a testament to the value of sharing perspectives on our common vision.

As we continue to embrace the vision of being an international community of transportation professionals, let us learn from each other about how we can improve the lives of our neighbors and utilize our traffic engineering expertise to ensure safe mobility and prosperity for all system users. Through global engagement, we can find the solutions to the challenges we face. Do you have some interesting observations you want to share about global traffic engineering practices? Reach out to me on the ITE e-Community or on Twitter: @BeverlyKuhn.
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