Cynical Synapse

Mon, 06 Oct 2008

Traffic Lights Prevent Reduced Dependence on Foreign Oil

Filed under: Driving, Duh, Life, Michigan, Politics, Rants, Uncategorized — cynicalsynapse @ 1:19 am

Every now and then, I have to find a way around the slow/not moving traffic on the expressway. Today was one of those days. But, it’s a mixed blessing. While I was making progress, I had to stop at every fricking intersection! You see, the lights are not timed to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic at the posted speed limit. In fact, the lights in this particular area are so close together that you never get to the posted speed limit before you stop for the next light!

I’m not mentioning any names, but Harrison Ave in East Lansing MI isn’t the only culprit. I live in Oakland County, just north of Detroit, where many intersections are tied into the so-called FAST-TRAC system. This system relies on cameras at key intersections. The problem is, the cameras are aimed at the intersection, so they can’t see that traffic is backed up for a half-mile before the intersection. As a result, the traffic lights happily go through their routine sequences, thinking they’re moving traffic when, in fact, they are the cause of traffic back-ups. These same intersections seem to go through their programmed sequences, regardless of the presence or absence of traffic. Why, for example, does the left turn signal sequence still go through its cycle at 5:30 AM when no one’s in the left turn lane?

I have seen camera controlled intersections turn red for the main roadway even though there are no cars on the other roads. I often have occasion to drive on Southfield Road between I-696 and 13 Mile Road. This 2-mile stretch has 7 camera-controlled intersections that seem to operate independent of each other. Expect to stop at at least three of the lights. Similarly, I have on occasion exited I-696 and taken 12 Mile Road to avoid congestion, only to find myself stopping at countless traffic lights and sometimes taking 2-3 cycles just to get to the light. This inhibits traffic flow; it doesn’t facilitate it. In my opinion, camera-controlled intersections are waste, fraud, and abuse of the taxpayer’s money.

Besides being frustrating, stopping at all those traffic lights wastes fuel! This is the 21st century! We have the technology to time the lights properly, if we want to. Some streets are already well-timed, like Eight Mile, Telegraph (mostly), Woodward, and Mound. Why not the others?

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