How can I get my city to improve traffic signal timings?
October 28, 2012 4:20 PM Subscribe
I live in San Diego, and I hate the traffic lights along a particular road that I always drive on (Genesee Avenue). I'm regularly astonished at how soul-crushingly stupid they can be, and I'm constantly yelling at them from my car like an idiot. What can I do about this? My dream would be to talk to the traffic engineers in my city, really pick their brains and offer my observations. How does one go about making this happen?
posted by wuMeFi to technology (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I've tried calling the traffic division to report a "problem", but nothing ever gets done. Now, I realize that the timings are not an easy or straightforward thing to work out. The timings at an intersection have to work with all the other intersections. Or whatever. Maybe they don't... at least it seems they don't sometimes. I can understand tweaking the timing at an intersection so that the next block doesn't overflow with cars all stopped at a light, and things like that. But there are instances where a light definitely does not need to cycle to red (i.e., there are no cars or pedestrians, and the light following this one has just turned green); and there are instances where lights don't need to stay red for so long (i.e., a left-turn signal that stays red for about 2 minutes on a timer, even when there are no cars anywhere and it's just me and maybe 1 other car behind me). Then there are the left-turn lights that stay green for no one (thereby blocking the traffic that wants to go straight from the opposite direction), and then inevitably turn red just as a car is approaching to make the left turn. I'm also aware that these things are easier to notice because I hate them and they're stupid, and that I might not be noticing when the lights DO work. I feel like I've accounted for that. The lights that are smart ARE good, and I love them. But the stupid things I notice are repeatable, and happen consistently.
My favorite is a stretch along the UTC block where, if you start from a red light at Nobel and head towards La Jolla Village Drive, there will be NO CARS in front of you, and the light at La Jolla Village Drive will stay green (again for no one but you), but once you get to the light, it turns red. I always have to go like 65mph (limit is 45) in order to make the light. I swear it is taunting me.
OK, ranting aside... I would gladly volunteer to do simulations and work out scenarios for different amounts of traffic and etc etc, but I am at a loss for how I can offer this help. What would be awesome is if the city were like, "OK, here's how the intersections are laid out, here's where the sensors are, blah blah blah. Who can come up with the best timings?" and have people submit what they've figured out.. cuz whatever they're doing now can probably be improved. Do they gather real-time data? Do they measure how much waiting each person does? What are all the factors they take into consideration?