City of Denver Transforms Traffic Control Network Operations
To address its population and infrastructure growth, the City and County of Denver – Colorado’s largest municipality – underwent an upgrade to its traffic control network. Despite the size and operational complexities of the Denver area, city officials can now confidently manage their current and future traffic control needs with reliable, high-performing next-generation technology.
Sitting among the top 20 most populated cities in the United States, this has been no small feat for the City and County of Denver, which began its journey to modernization after its primary devices were discontinued by its long-standing vendor. Denver’s network had already experienced dozens of failures with its existing technology, and with its main technician retiring, they had to act fast. City planners reasonably began to worry there was only a matter of time before bottlenecks and outages—or worst-case scenario, a complete crash of the system—would cause detrimental effects.
As Denver continued to experience rapid population growth, its traffic control network (TCN) currently consisting of more than 6,000 devices, legacy systems wouldn’t cut it. Continued network expansion was inevitable for this large-scale project. Its massive size and complexities required a highly configurable, reliable and comprehensible solution that could grow along with its network.
Traffic control systems are essential to the orderly movement of vehicular and pedestrian traffic and ensuring safe and steady mobility. Traffic lights, cameras, sensors and other connections are an integral to large urban areas. Despite the public’s reliance on the organizational structure and uptime of roadway signals, many are unaware of the resources necessary to effectively manage these systems.
For any TCN project, signal management consists of many moving parts. Aside from maintaining outages, teams are tasked with geographic configuration, proportioning population to the number of signals, congestion mitigation, signal timing and more.
The increasing number of high-throughput devices such as cameras, have only increased complexity. While traffic divisions rely on the active prioritization and collection of information to expedite critical data transfer, higher bandwidth requirements have created issues for legacy systems. As one of the transportation industry’s most visible services, officials must prioritize traffic engineering and operations.
City engineers sought a solution that could expand enough to meet the needs of Denver’s quickly—and constantly—changing infrastructure. Reliability, ease of use and defensibility were primary considerations during vendor selection, but also top-of-mind for Denver engineers was timelessness.
For this transformation, a future-proof infrastructure meant:
- Attention to design. There was little need for redundancy capabilities & segmentation of Denver’s existing layout, meaning the network needed a ground-up redesign based on rapidly evolving IoT device installations.
- Configuration with legacy devices for minimal downtime. To ensure continuity & avoid potential for any kind of major network malfunction, the City needed technology to comply with load & security specs found in today’s connected IoT traffic devices, without disrupting functions directing existing traffic operations.
- Higher bandwidth and scalability. Previous iterations had significant performance limitations with lagging or prolonged traffic signal delays. To remediate, higher throughput to expand network capacity without another device replacement was also key.
- User-friendly maintenance. Traffic operations are mission-critical to any city and downtime must be resolved as quickly as possible. Systems that were too complicated to configure were not practical in this environment. Knowledge of network design and maintenance needed to exist outside of those involved with maintenance and upkeep.
“From CV technology to UPS systems, traffic operations field equipment is increasingly reliant on IP networked devices. We needed a field hardened, reliable, high-bandwidth network switch to meet our rapidly changing transport systems equipment. Our decision to go with Belden has provided us with the proper edge-deployed equipment so we can continue to modernize our transportation system safely and effectively.”
-Michael Finochio, engineering manager, City & County of Denver
As part of the planning process, officials and Belden engineers worked together in the field to identify issues that would likely become problematic down the road and mapped out a customized plan.
A network as large and complex as Denver’s city-wide traffic system physically could not be converted to a new platform in a single instance. This large-scale conversion continues to be conducted in stages to ensure performance and uptime, while building safeguards and redundancies on the backend.
Why Redundancy Matters
At the heart of the Belden network solution is a core redundant ring topology, which facilitates multiple subrings that provide redundant network connectivity and robustness to Denver’s TCN.
By using this technology, as opposed to integrating other redundancy techniques, Belden significantly increased the availability and resiliency of the network—providing multiple paths for communication. Apart from the industrial-grade equipment recommended, Belden has the advantage of a fault-tolerant network that can handle multiple consecutive failures happening in a very short period.
The design integrated robustness and contingencies that allow the TCN to operate transparently, regardless of the disruptions that arise—whether it be a network failure, disconnection of copper or fiber cables, or another unexpected circumstance. Essentially, the industrial ring topology makes transition more seamless and comprehensive for engineers with little or no experience in design or upkeep.
The City and County of Denver relied on Hirschmann products to transform its TCN operations.
Belden was able to support the City and County of Denver with their traffic network upgrade thanks in part to our partnership with AM Signal. AM Signal helped support the planning, design and implementation of the network.
“Our partnerships have equipped the City and County of Denver with one of the most reliable high bandwidth traffic signal network systems available. A growing number of additional IP field devices rely on crucial and time-sensitive signal control every day. Communication devices that connect traffic signals to each other and to the traffic operations center must be fast, reliable and field-hardened. With AM Signal’s experience and trust in Hirschmann, we provided the City and County of Denver with multi-layer devices to efficiently and reliably perform the necessary tasks.”
Zac Ward, Sales Director, AM Signal