SamTrans Completes Transit Signal Prioritization Pilot Project in East Palo Alto


Media Contact: Mahmoud Abunie, 650-730-6201

New technology allows buses to move more efficiently on San Mateo County roads, bypassing traffic and ensuring riders get to their destination faster

SamTrans has successfully completed a pilot project for a cloud-based transit signal priority system (iTSP) in East Palo Alto that allowed bus riders to move through the high traffic corridor more easily and efficiently.

iTSP allows traffic lights to hold for a few additional seconds when a bus is coming, allowing it to pass through and stay on schedule, while also ensuring its passengers are not overly impacted by traffic. Traditional transit signal prioritization systems use sensors and transponders to determine when a prioritized vehicle is approaching an intersection, holding the light so it can pass through uninterrupted as the existing TSP system on El Camino Real does already. By contrast, iTSP predicts the arrival time of buses using advanced machine-learning algorithms based on historical travel time and real-time traffic conditions, and communicates with signals using existing network infrastructure, requiring less hardware installation and lower costs.

The pilot, which was conducted on SamTrans Route 281 along University Avenue, reduced northbound intersection delays by 45%, while southbound intersection delays dropped 19%. This amounted to an 18% reduction in travel time for northbound buses and a 7% reduction for southbound buses. These are substantial improvements which would help to improve on-time performance and make buses more competitive with single occupancy vehicles for local

transportation needs. With over $178,000 of funding from the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County (C/CAG), SamTrans partnered with Sustainable Silicon Valley (SSV), and the city of East Palo Alto on this four-month pilot program, which ran from November 2021 through February 2022.

“We want to keep transit on the cutting edge of the latest technology,” said SamTrans Board Chair Pete Ratto, “iTSP has shown itself to be a great tool in accomplishing that goal.”

SamTrans recently implemented non-cloud based TSP infrastructure on El Camino Real which has been operational since 2021. El Camino Real is the home of the ECR, which is the most popular route in the SamTrans system. SamTrans will be considering future investments in TSP technology as part of a future countywide TSP plan.


About SamTrans: SamTrans operates 70 routes throughout San Mateo County. Funded in part by a half-cent sales tax, the San Mateo County Transit District also provides administrative support for Caltrain and the San Mateo County Transportation Authority. SamTrans has provided bus service to San Mateo County customers since 1976. 

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