Performance Measures for Railroad-Preempted Intersections

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - coordination, operations - traffic, operations - performance, infrastructure - bus/tram priority, infrastructure - traffic signals, ridership - commuting, organisation - performance, mode - rail, mode - bike


Traffic signal priority systems, Traffic signal preemption, Traffic signal networks, Traffic signal coordination, Traffic signal control systems, Synchronization (Traffic signals), Signalized intersections, Signalised intersections, Railroad grade crossings, Preemption (Traffic signals), Performance measurement, Monitoring systems, Monitoring, Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, Linked signals, Level crossings, Interconnection (Traffic signals), Highway railroad grade crossings, Highway rail intersections, Grade crossings, Data collection, Data acquisition, Computer controlled signals, Clearance interval (Traffic signal cycle), Automatic traffic signal control


The "Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices" provides guidance on when traffic signals should be interconnected with railroad crossings. Various other manuals and reports deal with how the traffic signal preemption logic should be configured. Maintenance practices typically require technicians to perform routine checks to ensure that preemption circuitry is functioning, and agencies often log the preemption events as part of a system-monitoring procedure. However, no procedure or software allows a controller to tabulate performance measures on how effective the preemption logic is at clearing conflicting phases before a train’s arrival. This study introduces the concept of using an event-based data collection system to monitor the railroad preemption input, vehicle detectors, and phase indications to develop performance measures for evaluating the effectiveness of clearing movements that cross the tracks before train arrival. These techniques are applied to statistically compare the impact of steerable traffic signal indications at a location where the tracks are within 60 ft of the traffic signal stop bar. Based on a comparison of 700 preemptions before the signal heads were installed with 2,102 preemptions after signal heads were installed, no statistically significant difference was observed.