Article Features Frederick C. DockJoaquin T. Siques

Traffic, Transit, Technology and the Rose Parade

Frederick C. Dock is director of the City of Pasadena Department of Transportation and can be reached at Joaquin T. Siques is transportation engineer for the City of Pasadena Department of Transportation and can be reached at

The City of Pasadena may be best known for the Tournament of Roses Parade, but it’s also recognized for its focus on transportation solutions, and the parade has a lot to do with how those solutions evolved.

With a population of approximately 146,000 and a busy commercial and cultural district, the city’s challenge is to address the needs for mobility while implementing its policy of “promoting a livable community where people can circulate without cars.”

Making Progress on Transit Issues

Recently named the “Most Bicycle-Friendly City in Los Angeles County” by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Pasadena has been assertive in promoting bicycle and pedestrian programs, including the development of its Bicycle Master Plan and the more recent Pedestrian Plan. In addition, the city has increased transit ridership on the Pasadena Area Rapid Transit System (ARTS) by 28 percent in the past three years and doubled the number of transit service hours in the past five years.

While non-auto travel modes are emphasized for their role in improving the city’s environment and quality of life, moving vehicular traffic through the city and providing access to the regional transportation network is also a priority.

With an area of only 22.5 square miles, Pasadena is traversed by two freeways and has the unique distinction of having two additional freeways terminate within its city limits. The city strives to protect neighborhoods from traffic’s impacts by improving flow on the mobility corridors and controlling traffic volumes, speeding and parking impacts on residential streets.

Traffic Management Center Plays a Vital Role

To manage traffic demands, Pasadena has led the way in the use of intelligent transportation systems (ITS). The Pasadena Traffic Management Center (TMC) plays a vital role in this ITS deployment. Launched in 1992, the TMC is a control center that communicates with all of the traffic signals within the city.

The need to manage traffic from a central location was driven by the number of large events that regularly occur in Pasadena, including the Tournament of Roses Parade, which brings more than 400,000 spectators to watch floats travel a route that encompasses nearly the entire length of the city. The Rose Bowl stadium, which is home to the University of California, Los Angeles, football team, draws up to 90,000 spectators six times a year, as well as an additional 50,000 to 100,000 visitors who participate in re lated activities in Pasadena during games. Occasional collegiate national championship games also attract large crowds. Finally, the Rose Bowl Game brings more than 90,000 visitors to the city.

Addressing Safety Concerns

As the city pursued its policy of promoting alternatives to auto travel, the TMC’s role and capabilities grew. In 2003, the Metro Gold Line light rail began operation through the City of Pasadena with three crossings of major arterial roadways. The light rail system allows Pasadena residents to travel quickly to downtown or other nearby cities. However, the operation of light rail crossing three major thoroughfares at street level presented some major challenges. The city closely examined the potential impact to safety and mobility at these crossings. This led to the development of new design standards, which have enabled efficient mobility — without any collisions at these cross ings for the four years that they have been operating. The city installed a “smart” traffic control system that adjusts traffic signal patterns to minimize the impact of the light rail trains on motor traffic.

The TMC has grown to include more than 330 traffic signals, 20 closed circuit television cameras with pan/tilt/zoom features and 10 permanent customizable message signs. Pasadena is in the process of doubling its fiber optic communication infrastructure to traffic signals and tripling the number of cameras whose locations are viewed from the TMC. The city provides transit vehicle arrival information at its bus stops and displays the number of spaces available at city parking structures. Future plans include expanding the municipal transit fleet as well as pedestrian and bicycle amenities.

So the next time you visit Pasadena, whether you arrive by bus, light rail or car, if you come across a traffic issue, let city staff know. Pasadena is committed to responding to the needs of its guests as well as its residents.

This article appears in the June 2008 issue of Western City
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