If there was an easy way to cut the amount of time that you spend sitting in traffic, wouldn’t you expect the government to find a way to use it? Synchronizing traffic signals so that people can get to where they’re going with a minimum of stopping is something that everyone thinks that cities are already doing. Unfortunately, this is not the case at all.
In the recently released 2007 National Traffic Signal Report Card, transportation agencies received a grade of D for traffic signals. This is an improvement from last year’s D-minus, but it’s still unacceptable given the clear benefits of traffic signal synchronization:
Traffic flows more smoothly when vehicles aren’t forced to stop at every intersection.
Improved Gas Mileage
Acceleration uses up gas quickly. Less stopping and starting means that vehicles will get better gas mileage.
Fewer Road Rage Incidents
Being stuck in traffic makes everyone frustrated. If traffic flows smoothly the frustration level will drop dramatically.
So, with all these benefits, why aren’t cities properly synchronizing their traffic signals?
Sadly, the answer comes down to money. Traffic tickets, red-light cameras, speed cameras, vehicle seizures, and other punitive measures all bring in revenue to the city. In contrast, traffic signal synchronization costs the city money in engineering fees. With cities developing new ways to make money from traffic violations everyday (automatic license plate recognition, etc.), it’s clear where their focus lies. It’s time for cities to do the right thing and make traffic signal synchronization a priority.
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