Traffic Lights: Just Check Them Every Couple Decades Or So

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Seattle officials said Wednesday [July 2nd] that they’ve synchronized signals at 258 downtown intersections for the first time in more than two decades and promised quicker, less polluting trips through the central business district will result.

Drivers will still encounter red lights between Jackson Street, Denny Way, Boren Avenue and Elliott Bay, but the city predicted a 12 percent reduction in stops and 40 percent shorter travel times through the 1.25-mile long district.

Changes were needed, said spokesman Rick Sheridan of the city Department of Transportation.

“Roadway conditions have actually changed in the course of two decades,” he said.

The change reflects past developments and future complications. Officials said the last full downtown signal synchronization was done 21 years ago.

Twenty one years! Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated situation. Traffic light synchronization is largely ignored across the country despite its numerous benefits, which include:

Decreased Congestion
Traffic flows more smoothly when vehicles aren’t forced to stop at every intersection.

Fewer Road Rage Incidents
Being stuck in traffic makes everyone frustrated. If traffic flows smoothly the frustration level will drop dramatically.

Improved Gas Mileage
Acceleration uses up gas quickly. Less stopping and starting means that vehicles will get better gas mileage.

Instead of pushing irrational plans like the reinstatement of the 55 MPH National Speed Limit, politicians at every level should focus on things that will actually help drivers. And if they really want to help drivers conserve fuel, they can start with the low-hanging fruit of traffic-light synchronization.

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