Thursday, June 09, 2005

Traffic Control by Happenstance

In the nuts and bolts area of city services the one item always good for coffee shop beefing session is traffic lights and signage. An example I run into daily is the stretch of Harris from Main through MLK/Randolph. Sitting at Main heading west one can watch every light in the string turn green at the same instant. Without going into drag race mode, there is no way to make three lights in a row, and I don't even count the pedestrian light at Shannon. Since Magdalen has been closed on the north, why is there even a regular light there? Sequence the change about 15-20 seconds apart and we get traffic flow instead of vroom screech, vroom screech.

There is more to this than mere irritation. At one time in the mid 90's when it was mostly frontage road, the Houston Harte frontage road lights were sequenced by TXDOT. I can tell you from experience, it worked well. When lights are properly sequenced, drivers quickly learn there is no point in exceeding the speed limit, you just get to a red light quicker and get to watch Grandpa slide by at a steady 40 about the time you get to peel out again. There is a lot less temptation to run a fresh red light when drivers can hit a reasonably long sequence just by obeying the speed limit.

The single most dangerous accident in city traffic is a T-bone with a car entering the intersection being hit at 40 mph by a light runner. The target car is being hit at a vehicle's weakest point and the driver or passenger is the second energy absorption unit after the door. Another of life's little inequities, modern cars have lots of built in protection against head-ons, so the guy who floored it and ran the light has a big edge on survivability over the poor person he hits.

We have useless signals and we have none where one is needed. Why is there a light at Main and Koberlin? All I've ever done there is wonder if the light would last long enough to get a hot dog at Hudman Drugs, almost never cross traffic. My guess is it is there from when Winn-Dixie was in the shopping center and actually generated some traffic on to Koberlin from the parking lot looking to turn on Main. For sure, there is precious little use for it now.

Were I a bit more paranoid, I'd think the tire shops at Irving and Concho pay off traffic control, it seems like I always get to stop and admire that intersection moving on Concho.

Then we have the ever popular unmarked intersection, usually residential. I have avoided several accidents by always making a near stop regardless of right of way rules. I don't know how many Angelo drivers know the rule on unmarked intersections, but it is surely a minority. (by the way, yield to traffic approaching from your right, but count on the other guy knowing that at your own risk, and I'll lay odds the bozo who hits you will be uninsured.)

I just point out a few examples, but this one in particular, we would love reader input. Go to comments and tell us your own favorites. I will check them out, bundle them up, and present the package to Signals and/or City Council.

1 comment: