Foreword: This is a brief blurb I drafted and published for the University of Southern California’s Institute of Transportation Engineers chapter (USC ITE / ITE USC). We toured the Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s (LADOT) Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control center.
On Friday, October 21, members of our ITE USC Chapter toured the Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control (LADOT ATSAC) center, located four stories below City Hall in Downtown LA. We were guided by Brandon Wong (a transportation engineer at LADOT and a fellow Trojan) and other ATSAC staffers. Originally conceived to manage traffic around the Coliseum for the 1984 Olympic Games, it has since grown to govern one of the most advanced traffic signal systems in the nation today, including over 4,600 signals and 600 traffic observation cameras. Although ATSAC’s duties, such as implementing signal priority for Metro transit vehicles, adjusting traffic flows during large-scale events, and programming the street-level systems that control individual lights, are incredibly challenging and important to the city, we could feel the strong bond between the people there. We also learned about the wide variety of technology that powers traffic management in LA, such as software developed in-house to have a “birds-eye” view of every signal in the city, and electromagnetic detector loops that let signals know when road users are queuing and change lights automatically. ATSAC leverages this technology to deliver on critical goals like Vision Zero, a mission to eliminate all traffic fatalities by 2025. As its scale continues to grow, ATSAC will soon be moving to a brand-new facility located across the street in the Caltrans District 7 building. At ATSAC, we all gained a greater appreciation of the humble traffic light and its indispensable role in keeping Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest city, safely moving.