Traffic Engineering Operations

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Currently, the City of Pasadena Department of Transportation (DOT) operates over 340 traffic signals in its Transportation Management Center (TMC) via a highly sophisticated Traffic Control System (TCS) that automates and adapts to all motorized and none-motorized moving traffic occurring within city streets thus providing the most logical and efficient mobility strategies 24-hours a day to maintain the City’s traffic signal network.

The TMC is equipped with an extensive fiber optics communication system that allows City staff to view traffic operations at key locations. Thus, allowing the system to adapt and modify traffic operation plans as necessary to facilitate the needs traffic flow demands. The TMC’s Traffic Control System and the Special Events Unit of the Pasadena Police Department share the responsibility of managing transportation mobility during all Rose Bowl Stadium and city street events.

Traffic signals have become a valuable tool for ensuring traffic flow throughout the community. All of the traffic signals in the city are programmed to operate in a “synchronized” operation with adjacent traffic signals in order to allow continuous flow of several traffic signals within a “street segment” or corridor. As such, motorists driving at the posted speed limit will see the correct sequence of “green” indication as every signalized intersection is approached, providing continuous flow through a designated street segment.The following are two main types of signalized intersection operations within the City:
Fully-Actuated operation: signalized intersection that is outfitted with vehicular detection capabilities which exist within the City signalized intersections in the form of roadway, radar or video sensors. These sensors detect the presence of vehicles and allow the traffic signal computer to assign amount of “green” time based on demand at the intersection.

Pre-timed operations: signalized intersections that are not out-fitted with vehicular detection systems and are programmed to have “green” times based on historical vehicular movement data. This data referred to as “traffic counts” are updated frequently in order to have traffic plans that offer the most efficient “green time” splits at a signalized intersection.

The goal of the Traffic Engineering Operations team is to provide the most comfortable ride as possible by getting the greatest number of vehicles through the roadway segment with the fewest stops. It would be ideal if every driver could drive without stopping from their origin to their destination. But, reality is the City of Pasadena enjoys a world class destination status which brings among other things a high vehicular count that adds to the mobility complexities of city’s every day and already busy roadways and free flow is just not possible even with the most intricate well-designed systems.

However, the City of Pasadena DOT, is always investing in new technologies and methods to enhance traffic flow within its signalized street network. As well, the City’s DOT continuously works with the County of Los Angeles and the State of California (CALTRANS) to incorporate newfound technologies or techniques that would assist make the City’s boundaries flow as efficient as it is possible.

The California Vehicle Code provides detailed explanations for traffic signal color indications and a brief summary is below:

Flashing Red Indication

According to the California Vehicle Code, when a red lens is illuminated with rapid intermittent red flashes, a driver shall stop before entering the intersection and proceed according to rules established at a 4-way stop controlled intersection.

Traffic Signal Blackout or “Dark” Signals

When traffic signals at an intersection are not operating due to a power failure, all drivers must stop before proceeding through the intersection and follow the same rules as a 4-way stop controlled intersection.

Traffic Control Officers

Any time a peace officer is directing traffic, motorists must obey the officer regardless of the indication of the traffic signal.

Flashing Yellow Indication

Driving motorists stopped at left turning lanes at some intersections in the city may see the sign on the left, next to the signal head.    The sign indicates a “Flashing Yellow Arrow” operation (FYA) occurs at the intersection.   When the FYA operation is in effect, left turning motorist will see the yellow arrow indication in a flashing mode, which allow the left turning movement on a permissive mode or proceed when safe by “yielding to opposing traffic.”   This operation is beneficial in that it reduces “wait” time by allowing left turning vehicles to turn permissibly for a longer time than a conventional solid green/yellow arrow sequence.   The FYA mode begins by displaying a flashing yellow arrow and will follow by the required solid yellow arrow before displaying the solid red, concluding the left turn movement.

Traffic Signal Equipment


Traffic Signals consist of the following main components:
• Traffic Signal Controller (computer)
• Signal Heads (typically with red, yellow and green faces)
• Vehicle Detectors (equipped at most signalized intersections)

Traffic Signal Controller (computer)


The traffic signal controller is the means of changing the signal indications and consists of computer controls that operate selection and timing of traffic movements in accordance to pre-programmed sequences and vehicle detection.

Red Light Running and Traffic Enforcement (Tattletale devices)


Unfortunately, there are drivers who tend to push the limit on “making” the traffic signal by running red lights and thereby causing a danger to others that may be entering the intersection. Red-light running is a serious safety issue across the nation. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Traffic Safety Facts 2008 Report, there were more than 2.3 million reported intersection-related crashes, resulting in more than 7,770 fatalities and approximately 733,000 injury crashes. For this reason, the busiest signalized intersections in the City of Pasadena are equipped with special devices to assist the police department in citing red light violation motorists. The DOT and the Pasadena Police Department (PPD) review the high accident location, as generated by a city-wide traffic collision database, almost monthly in order to address vehicular accident history within city streets. For locations showing an increase in collisions deemed caused by red light violation, the DOT and PPD assign locations to be outfitted with a “specialty blue light indication” that is set such that a PPD officer can use to clearly determine a vehicle that has violated the red light indication at a traffic signal. This method, in combination with other traffic engineering methods is part of the City of Pasadena red light violation program and it strives to eradicate this serious type vehicular accidents.

Signal Heads

A signal head consists of one or more signal faces that can include solid red, yellow or green lights and faces with turn arrows using one or more of the same colors.

Vehicle Detectors

The City of Pasadena uses a combination of in-pavement loops (wired system embedded in the roadway) video and radar to detect vehicles in the intersection to determine whether a vehicle is present.

DOT Performance Metrics Dashboard

First page:  Collisions from 2014 to 2018 in City of Pasadena
Second Page: Travel Time on 16 Major Corridors in City of Pasadena

Traffic Volume Counts

The City of Pasadena has a longstanding interest in protecting neighborhoods from cut-through traffic and speeding vehicles. As early as the 1980’s, the City authorized installation of speed humps to slow traffic in residential areas. Today, almost 400 of these traffic management devices have been installed along with many other traffic management measures.

Traffic counts are conducted throughout the City of Pasadena either through resident requests, development projects, specific and general plans, or engineering studies. The Department of Transportation has collected these traffic counts and made them available to the public through the use of a Traffic Count Database.

Current traffic counts can be found using this interactive map and interface. Intersections can be searched by name or though the map interface. The Traffic Count Database System (TCDS) provides 24-hour approach counts. The Turning Movement Counts (TMC) tab provides turning movement counts for peak hours at intersections. On the map, approach counts are identified as blue squares and turning movement counts are identified as blue circles or traffic signal icons (if the intersection is controlled by a traffic signal)

Public Safety Committee Presentation – May 17, 2017

Special Events

The Pasadena Department of Transportation (PDOT) works closely with other City departments to minimize the impact to city streets. Certain events may require lane or complete street closures of a vital corridor in the City. The City works with the event organizer to create transportation management plans. Major transportation management plans include, but not limited to temporary traffic control, traffic advisories, and traffic signal timing modifications.

Construction Zones

Moving traffic around construction zones is a high priority for city of Pasadena Department of Transportation. To ensure adequate traffic flow while helping maintain safety and efficiency at major construction sites, PDOT may require a transportation management plan.

Traffic Advisory

Welcome to the on-line traffic advisory for major construction in Pasadena. Please visit this web page often during times of construction activity affecting your commute. The on-line traffic advisory page will include the scope of the construction project, geographical limits and impact to traffic.

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The are designated truck routes in the City of Pasadena for vehicles exceeding a gross weight of 6000 pounds.

Truck-Routes-Map-PDF