Efficient Management

SMC deploys intelligent solutions to ease mobility issues

Spread across 474.18 square km, Surat is the fourth fastest growing city globally. The city’s population increased from 2.8 million in 2001 to 4.4 million in 2011. The 62 per cent increase in population resulted in an increase in the number of vehicles to 1.67 million in a span of 10 years. The resulting congestion on the roads has increased the average travel time from 13 minutes to 25 minutes and decreased the average travel speed from 28 kmph to 18 kmph.

As of July 2020, there were about 3.4 million vehicles running in the city. The need for easing mobility was felt in light of the increasing traffic numbers. From increasing the number of traffic signals to the deployment of an integrated traffic control system (ITCS), Surat has come a long way in easing the mobility woes of its citizens.

Journey so far

The Surat Municipal Corporation’s (SMC) journey of easing mobility issues started in 2014-15. At the time, there were around 30 traffic signal junctions, operating in a fixed time mode. They were deployed in the core areas of the city where the traffic footfall was relatively high. With the launch of the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) in June 2015 and the need for rapid movement of buses, the SMC launched Phase I of the bus rapid transit system (BRTS) in 2015-16. The corporation deployed another 45 traffic signal junctions on a vehicle actuated mode. Following this, 45 traffic junctions were added under Phase II of the BRTS project to regulate bus traffic movement in the city.

The ITCS project

Taking into consideration the rapid population growth, during 2017-18, the SMC along with with the Surat Traffic Police carried out a joint survey to identify new locations for deploying traffic signals in the city. With a view to catering to the increasing traffic in the city, the SMC invited bids for the implementation of the ITCS during the same year. The city corporation identified 267 major traffic intersections and pedestrian crossings for the deployment of the ITCS.

The ITCS project is based on four key pillars – an adaptive traffic control system (ATCS), a traffic surveillance system, a traffic enforcement system and an information dissemination system. The scope of work under the ATCS involved the deployment of new traffic signal junctions and upgradation of existing traffic signal junctions. Accordingly, all the signals were provided network connectivity and were brought under the purview of the city’s integrated command and control centre. The signals were connected via the composite signal control strategy application, developed by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, Thiruva-nanthapuram.

In order to keep a third eye on traffic in the city, the SMC also introduced traffic surveillance system under the ITCS. A number of smart solutions such as the installation of pan-tilt-zoom cameras and automatic number-plate recognition systems have been included under the purview of the surveillance system. However, along with the surveillance system, the SMC also installed a traffic enforcement system to ensure efficient implementation of the former. Under this, a red light violation detection system, a speed violation detection system, a wrong direction/no-parking violation detection system and handheld e-challan devices were installed.

Further, an information dissemination system has been installed to ensure efficient circulation of information. Under this, variable message signboards and speed control signboards have been installed to give travellers information regarding special events. Besides, the SMC has also been using its website and mobile application to provide relevant information to the citizens.

Pain points

One of the key issues faced by the SMC in the implementation of the ITCS was with regard to the existing geometry of the traffic intersections. Uneven arm width, presence of rotary intersections and U-turns in mid-blocks posed serious challenges in the implementation of the traffic control system. The presence of underground utilities such as gas pipelines, water lines, drainage lines, electrical power cables and communication lines, along the project alignment also created impediments in project execution. Further, a lack of awareness among commuters in terms of following traffic rules added to the woes of the city corporation. Other challenges included illegal parking, blockage of lanes, mixed-traffic flow, and lack of non-lane-based discipline.

The way forward

In light of the positive response to the ITCS system, the SMC plans to install an intelligent transit system on its BRTS corridor. The system will be based on an automatic vehicle location system, under which all the vehicles can be tracked via a web application/website. It is expected to significantly enhance speeds on the BRTS.

Based on a presentation by Rajesh Pandya, Deputy Engineer, SMC and Surat Smart City Development Limited, at a recent India Infrastructure conference




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