New air quality messages on overhead freeway signs will prompt road users to make smart travel choices.
The UDOT Traffic Operations Center uses variable message signs on freeways to provide helpful information for road users. Messages about travel times, crashes or other unexpected events and air quality all take turns on the limited but highly visible real estate above the freeway. Limited space means TOC Operators, who have primary control of the signs, need to provide messages that have good utility to road users.
UDOT has used the VMS to alert the public to air quality conditions since Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics. The alerts are based on data posted on the website Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Air Quality. Utah’s air is monitored by the DAQ – air monitoring stations around the state measure pollutants and that data is compiled to rate the quality of air as yellow or red.
When DAQ makes the call to notify the public about an upcoming red alert day, UDOT will post messages that are designed to give motorists the chance to adjust travel plans the following day. UDOT has evaluated the phrases used on freeway VMS with an eye to providing a useful message that targets commuters and encourages road users to make a decision about how they travel. The new messages will read in part “For Better Air” followed by an action phrase such as “Avoid Rush Hour Tomorrow.”
Drivers have an array of choices when it comes to travel. UDOT’s TravelWise website is a good source of information for people who want to select appropriate alternatives. TravelWise strategies such as carpooling, tele-commuting, taking public transportation or flexible work schedules can help reduce traffic volume on red air days, as well as help motorists avoid traffic delay and get around more efficiently.