Baltimore traffic once depended on a system of homemade signals

When drivers and transit passengers get frustrated with Baltimore traffic lights, it’s worth recalling that for 30 years Baltimore endured a do-it-yourself system of homemade traffic control devices.

Although electric traffic signals had been around since the 1920s, Baltimore only surrendered its last hand-operated system in 1951. It was not at an obscure suburban location. It was on Lombard Street in today’s Inner Harbor, one of the busiest intersections in the city. The other hand operated signal was at Pratt and Charles, then a wholesale produce area where live chicken wagons mixed it up with tomato and string bean trucks.