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Stuck In Traffic In Miami-Dade? See Who Has The Power To Make That Red Light Go Green Again

Wilson Sayre
One of the new work stations at Miami-Dade County's revamped Traffic Managment Center.

Do you remember the newer version of The Italian Job with Mark Wahlberg?  

A team of glorified thieves is trying to steal back a couple million in gold bricks. Their escape in a fleet of mini coopers hinges on their computer wiz’s ability to hack into the city’s traffic control center and make sure their route is free, and their pursuers get stuck in traffic.

Film still from the 2003 film, The Italian Job, where Lyle aka Napster, played by Seth Green, hacks into the traffic control center to help his co-conspirators make off with millions in gold bricks.

Well that traffic puppeteer possibility is now a reality in Miami-Dade County, which for the first time has a centralized system to view intersections and change lights with the few clicks on the computer.

The county just unveiled a $1.3 million project that has revamped the traffic management center just north of the Miami International airport. The aim was to bring the county up to what has become standard in most major metropolitan areas.

Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN
A look at what the original traffic management center looked like, with half the number of traffic lights to manage.

“You need eyes and ears as to what’s happening in the field, so that you can make adjustments and that’s what we have with this center now,” explained Alice Bravo, director of Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

And they’ve already seen some reduction in commute times—almost 15 minutes in some areas, she says.

“We’ve started with 12 major corridors and so that’s where we’ve documented the time-saving improvements,” said Bravo, listing US 1 to the south and NW 36th Street as two examples.

Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN
What the traffic management center looks like today, after a five-month, $1.3 million revamp.

Before, drivers who noticed a problem had to call in with complaints of congestion. Then, traffic controllers would drive out there, see what’s going on and then change the traffic pattern.

“That, that was probably about a year ago,” Bravo said with a chuckle.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, overhearing her, added that he used to be one of those frequent callers.

“Technology is critical to our vision of increasing access to services like transportation for all Miamians,” said Gimenez.

Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN
Ricardo Marin, a traffic engineer for Miami-Dade County says the changes at the traffic center give him more tools to help reduce traffic.

He says in the near future, commuters will be able to use their smartphones to pay for transportation fares and by the end of the year the county can expect the first test of an autonomous car in the county.

The county has about 400 cameras at various intersections around the county so far. And they’ve integrated things like Waze—the traffic and navigation application that some of us drivers use—to see user-reported alerts about traffic signal issues, bus breakdowns or lane closures. The traffic management center then uses that data to figure out where they need to concentrate their efforts.

“Before, we only had pliers. Now we have pliers, we have a level, we have a measuring tape, which is very convenient for us, making our jobs easier,” said Ricardo Marin a traffic engineer at the center, where he’s worked since 2007.

Next time you need an escape route, he’s the guy you want to make nice with. Watch below as we tour the new center and we change some traffic lights at SW 8th Street and Le Jeune Road with Marin.

Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN
Traffic corridors in Miami-Dade County.

But, lights are only part of the battle. Miami drivers might be the downfall of your heist.

“If we have aggressive drivers,” said Bravo, “maybe that leads to more incidents on the roadways, more fender bender, more accidents. So, I think that increases our challenge here because he have more incidents we have to deal with.”

So this new traffic control system will help with normal everyday congestion. But things get a lot more complicated and backed up when there are accidents.

So we just all need to chill out a little bit… for the greater traffic good.