City of Fort Collins Tracks Your Bluetooth To Help Ease Traffic
File this under "Things I Didn't Know."
Next time you're driving around Fort Collins listening to music on your phone through a bluetooth connection, you may as well be listening to Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me." That's because someone - somewhere - literally is.
The City of Fort Collins has many different ways of collecting real time and historic traffic data. From cameras to sensors and more, they're constantly gathering and evaluating data on how to make the traffic flow throughout the city more efficient. Much of this work is done in the City's Traffic Operations Center, right there hidden in plain sight at 626 Linden Street.
Inside the building, you'll find something called The Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS) and some city employees keeping a watchful eye over vehicles moving about the entire city.
From the City of Fort Collins Department of Traffic Operations website, "Utilizing wireless communication and over 33 miles of fiber optic technology, the ATMS connects over 175 traffic signals, 42 closed-circuit television cameras and remote data sensors throughout the City, allowing traffic engineers to effectively manage and analyze real-time traffic conditions."
That includes anonymously sensing and following an enabled bluetooth signal from your mobile device as you navigate the streets of the city. Using the ATMS allows them to see how long it takes you to get from Mulberry and College to someplace like Harmony and Timberline and what route you took, including how long you waited at lights, which turn lanes you used, etc. You are literally a data point on the map, constantly feeding data back to the system for analysis on how to make the driving experience better in the city.
Managing real time traffic sounds like a real life SIM City video game, and almost is. Traffic engineers can monitor the transportation system, and literally modify how long a light stays red, when it turns green, etc. as it happens. Maybe they try leaving an arrow green for a few extra seconds to get more cars through after a backup. Maybe they see you coming and want to make you late for work, so they quickly throw you a red light. Kidding about that last part.
But this is exactly how and why a light stays green longer after a traffic backup - say, immediately after a train snarls things up around College and Prospect. There's someone watching all this unfold on camera and interpreting real time data, which allows them to adjust things on the fly to make it better.
All of this sounds very "big brother" like, but it's really for the good of the city. And while I'm filing it under "Things I Didn't Know," it's not because the city hides this fact. They've been very transparent about it for a number of years.
In fact, the city actually gives a very well reviewed tour of the Traffic Operations Center, for any citizens who would like to learn more about fascinating our traffic system.
Per their website, tours in 2023 are currently scheduled for:
- Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023
- Thursday, April 20, 2023
- Thursday, June 22, 2023
- Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023
All tours are 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Space is limited on each tour (16-20 participants maximum). To reserve a spot, call Traffic Operations at 970-221-6630 or e-mail TrafficOperations@fcgov.com.