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Regional Transit Signal Priority (TSP) Implementation Program

Introduction to Transit Signal Priority

In order to reduce bus delays at traffic signals and improve bus service reliability, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Pace Suburban Bus are collaborating with various Departments of Transportation (DOT's) in northeastern Illinois to implement Transit Signal Priority (TSP) on strategic bus corridors throughout the region.

TSP utilizes existing vehicle location and wireless communication technologies to advance or extend green times at signalized intersections. When a TSP-equipped bus is late, it requests extra green time so it can proceed through the intersection. This can help reduce bus travel times, improve schedule adherence, and reduce operating costs.

With over 350 million trips made each year on CTA and Pace buses, up to 50% of the Chicago region's transit riders could potentially benefit from TSP. And TSP is also an important component of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Arterial Rapid Transit (ART) systems now being developed by the CTA and Pace.

Program Background

To ensure that a seamless and integrated TSP system is implemented across the different transit and highway jurisdictions in Chicago and its suburbs, the RTA is providing funding and program management services for a comprehensive effort known as the Regional Transit Signal Priority Implementation Program (RTSPIP).

The overall goal of this program is to develop and implement a regionally-interoperable TSP system that works for both CTA and Pace buses traveling on roadways maintained by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), and other local DOTs. In addition to the RTA, CTA, Pace, CDOT, and IDOT; other stakeholders include the Cook, DuPage and Lake County DOTs, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Program objectives include using existing bus and roadside equipment to the extent possible, as well as utilizing off-the-shelf technology for bus-to-intersection communication.

The regional TSP program will involve 13 priority transit corridors spanning about 100 miles of roadway and 400 signalized intersections across multiple jurisdictions in the six-county northeastern Illinois region. The funded TSP corridors are as follows:

CTA TSP Corridors

Pace TSP Corridors

The programming of specific TSP corridors and the limits of the improvements are subject to change based on funding availability, program planning and engineering considerations. A table with additional information regarding the TSP corridors funded by this program is provided below.

Transit performance will be measured by travel times along TSP corridors, travel time variability, the amount of delay and number of stops at traffic signals, and other measures as deemed appropriate.

Program Funding and Components

The RTA secured a $36 million federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) grant and is providing $4 million in local match. These funds are being combined with other federal grants to the CTA and Pace for specific TSP corridors. Together, these federal grants and local match funds are supporting the following program components:

  1. Program Management: Program administration services including implementation oversight and post-implementation evaluations.
  2. TSP Design Engineering: Traffic and signal engineering services including preparation of preliminary and final engineering plans and specifications for vehicle and wayside components.
  3. TSP Implementation: Development and installation services for TSP hardware, software, and communications components.

Previous Program Achievements

Building on lessons learned from prior TSP demonstrations in limited geographic areas, the stakeholder agencies followed a systems engineering approach to develop regional TSP standards and implementation guidelines that are now being utilized to guide TSP deployment on multiple corridors throughout Chicagoland.

The following documents were prepared by the RTA's systems engineering consultants:

  1. Development of the Concept of Operations ("ConOps" - April 2013) - This document describes how a regionally interoperable TSP system will function throughout the region. It includes a high-level operational description of the proposed TSP system from each stakeholder's perspective and a summary of the operational needs and impacts.
  2. Completion of the Technical System Requirements (May 2014) - This document defines what the regionally interoperable TSP system will do and how its subsystems will function under the RTSPIP. It sets the technical scope of the TSP system to be implemented and serves as the basis for verifying the correct operation of the system.
  3. Establishment of the Regional Standards and Implementation Guidelines (December 2015) - This document provides the regional standards and guidelines to be followed by agencies in deploying an interoperable TSP System in the Chicago region. The Regional TSP Standards that are defined for the RTSPIP include: 1) the Regional TSP Message Set, and 2) the 5.0 GHz frequency and 802.11n Wi-Fi communications protocols to be used between buses and intersections. These two standards will enable regional TSP interoperability between Pace and CTA buses and intersections throughout the region at which TSP equipment has been deployed through the RTSPIP.
  4. Development of a Verification Plan (May 2014) - This document provides guidance on how a regionally interoperable TSP system will be tested for compliance with the Regional TSP Standards and Implementation Guidelines.
  5. Establishment of the Regional TSP Message Set (February 2015) - This document represents data elements for service request communication between a Priority Request Generator (PRG) and a Priority Request Server (PRS). They are based on NTCIP 1211 Version 1.38 with additions made for regional needs.

Under a Technical Services Agreement with the RTA, CTA completed preliminary engineering for TSP on the Ashland Western Avenue corridors in early 2014. Design engineering for TSP began for portions of these corridors in 2014, building on the wireless communication approach that was successfully tested by CTA and CDOT in February 2014 for the Jeffery Jump TSP project (using non-CMAQ funds). That communication approach is consistent with the Regional TSP Standards mentioned above. However, additional software development is required for CTA buses and CDOT traffic signals in order to send and receive the Regional TSP Message Set, which contains additional data not included in the Jeffery Jump TSP message set.

Also under a Technical Services Agreement with the RTA, Pace began preliminary engineering for TSP on six corridors in early 2014: Cicero Avenue, Grand Avenue (in Lake County), Roosevelt Road, 95th Street, Sibley Boulevard/147th Street, and 159th Street. This recent preliminary engineering work complements previously completed work on other segments of these same corridors, as well as several additional corridors: Cermak Road, Dempster Street, Halsted Street, and Milwaukee Avenue. In conjunction with preliminary engineering, Pace and IDOT have been implementing optimized traffic signal timings along these corridors - in advance of TSP implementation - in order to provide immediate benefits for buses and general traffic. This work is nearly complete. For all of these TSP corridors, preliminary engineering will be followed by the design engineering and implementation phases.

Current Program Activities

CTA and CDOT are currently implementing TSP on South Ashland Avenue (Cermak Road to 95th Street), with activation of TSP functionality anticipated in summer 2016. CDOT has programmed and installed 39 new Advanced Traffic Controllers (ATCs) provided by the CTA. The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communication (OEMC) has installed the necessary wayside communication equipment including radios provided by the CTA. For the time being, the CTA will utilize the Jeffrey Jump TSP Message Set, pending software development and interoperability testing of the Regional TSP Message Set. Upon successful completion of that testing, anticipated in late 2016 or early 2017, CTA and CDOT will update the software on the buses and at the intersections to utilize the Regional TSP Message Set. TSP implementation on Western Avenue (Howard Street to 79th Street) is expected to follow in late 2016 or early 2017. Implementation of TSP on the northern and central portions of Ashland Avenue (Irving Park Road to Cermak Road) requires traffic signal modernization, for which the CTA has obtained additional CMAQ funding that will be combined with the RTA's CMAQ grant for TSP. Thus, engineering and implementation/construction of TSP and traffic signal modernization for those portions of Ashland Avenue will follow TSP implementation on Western Avenue.

In early 2016, Pace completed two important procurements for their next series of TSP activities, with one additional procurement that is currently underway. Pace has now hired a team of consultant firms to provide TSP systems integration and design engineering services, and Pace has engaged their existing Intelligent Bus System (IBS) vendor to modify the existing on-board equipment in order to generate the Regional TSP Message Set. The procurement underway will establish a vendor for developing and producing the necessary wayside equipment that will interpret the Regional TSP Message Set and translate it for the traffic signal controllers. Together, these three procurements will allow Pace to prepare for TSP proof-of-concept testing on portions of Milwaukee Avenue late in 2016 or early 2017, with TSP implementation scheduled for Milwaukee Avenue and additional corridors beginning in 2017. The proof-of-concept demonstration on Milwaukee Avenue (involving Pace, IDOT, CTA and CDOT) will test the interoperability of the Regional TSP Message Set with different traffic signal controllers utilized by the various DOTs in the region.

Beginning in 2015 and continuing in 2016, the RTA staff and consultants have been focused on baseline data collection and analysis for the performance measures mentioned above. This has included both field data collection/analysis for the Ashland Avenue and Western Avenue corridors - prior to installation of new traffic signal controllers and timing plans - and compilation/analysis of electronic data already being collected by the CTA and Pace through their Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) systems. Since field data collection is resource intensive; the RTA, CTA and Pace have been exploring how best to take advantage of the AVL data for ongoing performance measure tracking.

CMAQ-Funded TSP Corridors

Details on each of the CMAQ-funded TSP corridors are provided in the table below. To view a map and list of signalized intersections for each TSP corridor, click on the corridor name in the table.

To view all TSP corridors on an interactive map (with optional layers for traffic signals, signal interconnects and transit services), see Transit Signal Priority Corridors.

Click on a column header to sort the table by that column.

Corridor Name From To Length (Miles) Number of Signals Agency CTA Routes Pace Routes Programmed Engineering Year Programmed Implementation Year
159th StreetTorrance AvenueOrland Square (94th Avenue)18.142Pace 36420162017
95th StreetStony Island Avenue88th Avenue13.048Pace 38120172018
Ashland Avenue (North/Central)Irving Park RoadCermak Road7.051CTA9, X9 20172018
Ashland Avenue (South)Cermak Road95th Street9.042CTA9,X9 20152016
Cermak RoadCicero AvenueCollege of DuPage (Lambert Road)18.365Pace 32220172018
Cicero Avenue59th Street167th Street13.546Pace 38320172018
Dempster StreetDavis CTA/Metra (Ridge Avenue)O'Hare Transfer (Mannheim Road)17.562Pace 25020162017
Grand Avenue (Lake Co.)Waukegan Metra (Sheridan Road)College of Lake County (US 45)11.830Pace 56520172018
Halsted Street and Harvey TSP Upgrade95th StreetChicago Heights Terminal (US 30)15.539Pace 352, 35920172018
I-90 Transit Corridor Access IntersectionsRosemont CTA (River Road)Randall Road26.39Pace 600, 606, 610, 89520172018
Milwaukee AvenueGolf RoadJefferson Park CTA/Metra Station7.126Pace 27020162017
Roosevelt RoadLaramie AvenueWheaton Metra (Carlton Avenue)22.366Pace 301, 30520172018
Sibley Boulevard/147th StreetState Line RoadCicero Avenue13.734Pace 350, 35420162017
Western AvenueHoward Street79th Street18.699CTA49,49B, X49 20162017

Note that programming of specific TSP corridors and the limits of the improvements are subject to change based on funding availability, program planning and engineering considerations. Implementation of TSP on any particular corridor may occur in several phases spanning more than one calendar year.

Earlier Regional TSP Achievements

2001 RTA Regional TSP Location Study: Phase I - TSP Corridors

Regional Transit Signal Priority Location Study


2001 RTA Regional TSP Location Study: Phase II - Model Simulation

Regional Traffic Simulation with Transit Signal Priority


Corridor-Specific Investigations

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