Innovative Intermodal Solutions for Urban Transportation Award: Developing Intermodal Traffic Signal Solutions for Portland, OR, USA

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, infrastructure - track, infrastructure - bus/tram priority, infrastructure - traffic signals, planning - route design, planning - safety/accidents, place - urban, mode - bus, mode - rail, mode - tram/light rail, mode - bike, mode - bike, mode - pedestrian


Traffic signals, Traffic signal priority systems, Traffic signal preemption, Traffic signal phases, Traffic signal hardware, Traffic signal cycle, Traffic safety, Traffic lights, Traffic control signals, Signalized intersections, Signalised intersections, Preemption (Traffic signals), Portland (Oregon), Pedestrian traffic, Pedestrian detectors, Pedestrian control signals, Pedestrian actuated controllers, Loops (Control systems), Light rail transit, Intracity bus transportation, Intermodal transportation, Intermodal systems, Highway traffic signals, Electronic traffic devices, Cycling paths, Cycle tracks, Cycle (Traffic signals), Control loops, Case studies, Bus transit, Bikeways, Bicycle trails, Bicycle routes, Bicycle paths, Bicycle crossings, Accessibility


Portland, Oregon has a national reputation for livability. Part of this livability stems from providing traffic signal control that promotes and enables all modes of travel. This article reports on the various multimodal aspects of traffic signal operations in Portland. The city has developed preemption and priority signal systems for its bus and light rail transit lines. To improve the pedestrian experience, pedestrian signal heads are at almost all traffic signals unless it is necessary to restrict crossing for safety reasons. An active accessible pedestrian signal program has been in place for 10 years, and passive pedestrian detection systems are being tested. The city has also designed and installed vehicle loops that are sensitive enough for detecting bicycles at intersection approaches. A unique bike signal head has also been designed for one major bikeway. This head is tied to an exclusive bike phase that allows cyclists to make a diagonal crossing on the bikeway. The city plans to continue to look for ways to provide the best traffic signal control possible for all residents and visitors.