Head down Central Expressway at or near rush hour, and you're guaranteed to spend awhile sitting in traffic. There's no guarantee, though, that any other route will be quicker, so drivers are left to sit and wait and wonder.
You won't have to wonder for much longer. DART is rolling out a system next month aimed at better managing traffic on Central. A big part of that is a new website, 511DFW.com, which will put up-to-the-second information about accidents and traffic conditions at their fingertips. There will be a mobile version but no app.
"The idea is to catch people sooner," DART spokesman Morgan Lyons told the Morning News. "If you're about to pull on to Central and you're in the access road and find out there's an accident, it's a little late. Now we can intercept that motorist earlier and say maybe you want to come down Coit, maybe you want to take Greenville, maybe you want to take transit."
There will be other tweaks to how traffic is managed in the Central Expressway corridor. The stop lights along Greenville will be timed to improve traffic flow, for example, and DART trains will dispatch data on their location, available capacity and expected time of arrival. But Lyons says the takeaway is that commuters will now have a one-stop shop for traffic information, at least from Dallas to Plano.
This will make a commuter's life slightly easier, but it's only a modest improvement over, say, radio traffic updates or smartphone apps. The real benefits come when you look at the project as a whole.
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The U.S. Department of Transportation, which is providing the bulk of the funding for the initiative, predicts it will save nearly a million gallons of fuel, keep 9,400 tons of carbon dioxide from being belched into the atmosphere, and cut down the time spent in traffic 740,000 hours per year. The total economic benefit? A cool $26.4 million. That's not bad considering the project costs less than half that much.