Thursday, March 11, 2010

Traffic complaints

A coworker passed this comic along to me, thinking I’d appreciate it. I certainly do, as I’m sure anyone involved in the public works field can as well. But I find myself in this same driver’s position many times... or, even worse, the signal fails to even recognize me waiting at the stop line. As I watch the signal go through the second cycle, I wonder if I would get ticketed by running the red light even though it’s safe.

Traffic signals have become much more advanced with video detection, advance detection, interconnect with other signals, fully actuated signals (i.e. they can tell if a car is waiting), emergency vehicle pre-emption, etc. Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) could be the new wave, but having seen it at school 15 years ago, I haven’t seen it really become commonplace. Small municipalities are never going to be able to afford this for their entire system.

I see at least three options:

1. Maybe some day in the future, we will all have the ability to control each signal... you’re waiting at a red light and there are no other cars in sight... and you’re waiting... and waiting... push a button in your car and the light turns green. Wouldn’t that be nice? Could we be trusted with that much power?

2. Maybe we’re just better off if there’s a person back at City Hall watching every signal and they can turn it green for us... if the City had the budget. The technology is certainly there.

3. Maybe the laws could change so it’s okay to run a red light. Have you seen how they drive in Mexico or Rome? Red lights don’t seem to mean much there and I don’t recall seeing any accidents during my visits. Apparently it’s been considered for it to be legal for bicyclists to run red lights and stop signs. Here’s one example:

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