Sign in / Join

Eliminate the stoplight

From a fascinating article on Traffic Control by Kenneth Todd in the current issue of Regulation:

Official reports have attributed 40 percent of the vehicle delays in urban areas to traffic signal inefficiencies. If that figure is correct, the annual nationwide loss comes to 5.7 billion vehicle-hours, or $95 billion, plus $28 billion for wasted fuel and other vehicle operating costs.

Some places in the US are making greater use of roundabouts and all way stops, which Todd argues are more efficient in many applications where stoplights are currently installed. I'll buy that. In Clemson we have a perfect candidate for elimination: the stoplight at College Avenue and campus. This light perfectly fits the cartoon of signs accompanying Todd's piece, with a seemingly infinite array of periods, each granting one entity or another the exclusive right to travel through the intersection. The result: waiting, and lots of it.

Consider this however:

Experiments in the Netherlands have shown that running traffic in urban areas at 30 kilometres per hour, encouraging eye contact, eliminating traffic rules, signals, and other controls all together - and leaving road users to their own devices, their own judgment, and their common law duty of reasonable care - has cut accidents, delay, and congestion, and saved public funds. ... So successful were those trials that other European towns are copying them.

I'm certain the campus planner and city engineer will scoff at this, but they'll both be getting a copy of Todd's article. You should too.