17.4.06

THEY'RE BEGINNING TO CATCH ON. Maltimed traffic lights are generally the consequence of laziness, not malice. All the same, there are advantages to getting the timing right.
Badly timed traffic signals rank among the chief traffic complaints of commuters and lead to frustration, gridlock, wasted fuel, worsening pollution, lost productivity and road rage.
Chicago is making some progress on timing lights, but there is still work to be done.

The experience wasn't as good driving northbound on State Street--against traffic lights favoring the southbound evening traffic flow out of the downtown. The travel time was longer than on Michigan due to a string of red lights a block apart encountered on the trip from 16th to Superior Street.

To balance out such situations, Chicago's traffic management goal includes having the ability by the end of the year to remotely adjust the red-and-green cycles on about 200 of the existing 400 interconnected signals by using cameras positioned above the streets and computers inside the traffic authority's headquarters in the West Loop.

In the loop, where there are a number of one-way streets as well as traffic signals each block, timing everything is probably difficult. But there must be some linear program somewhere that enables a designer to obtain thirty seconds of clear time at each intersection in each direction subject to the constraints of vehicles moving at 25 mph reaching the next signal in each direction with another thirty second window open.

Buses are also being equipped with a special over-ride. (A lot of good these will do with the bus stops on the near side of the crossing?)
Devices placed aboard buses extend the green-light time to permit buses approaching the intersection to make it through. The system has been particularly helpful in getting late buses back on schedule, officials said.
This being Illinois (motto: we will parole no governor before his time), I expect a scandal involving the Transit Authority and unauthorized purchases and sales of these over-ride devices. Question: if you were doing consulting for the Transit Authority, would you accept one of these gadgets as in-kind compensation?

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