Feb 25, 2011

The Great Fraud

Have you ever sat at a stop light cursing the morons who "timed" that appliance so that, no matter which direction traffic is coming from, traffic is impeded by the light? Have you ever wondered why a stop light was necessary at all at a particular intersection? Are you old enough to remember "yield" signs? Do you remember how well they worked? This British study proved that stop lights are, in fact, the gigantic waste of energy that many of suspect they are. In a world of vanishing resources, increasing fuel costs, and more sophisticated vehicle-driver communications systems, stop lights are as archaic as buggy whips.

For that matter, stop signs are a historic hang-over of when public employees had near-infinite power to make irrational decisions and nobody questioned their "expertise." Today, at least half of the country seems to believe that government officials are incapable of doing anything right. I wonder why that opinion hasn't spread to the gross oxymoron "traffic control?" Minnesota is even dumb enough to put stop lights at freeway entrances, creating gigantic lines of smog-spewing vehicles at every rush hour intersection, slowing freeway traffic to a crawl, training drivers to merge incompetently, and wasting fuel on an irresponsible scale. We experimented, a few years back, with shutting off the lights. Found that traffic was unaffected in any positive way by the existence of the lights, and . . . the lights were turned back on.

That's not entirely true. MnDOT's 8 week 2000 study actually concluded that ramp lights provided all sorts of traffic enhancement value. So, they turned them back on, sort of. After making gigantic claims about the state's light-controls, MnDOT reduced the operating time of the lights, sped up their operation, and effectively eliminated the lights' purpose during rush hour. Now, the only time the lights hold you up is when traffic is low and the lights are a complete waste of energy. 

A few months back, I had the pleasure of driving through a small Minnesota town that had not been hit with the moronic neighborhood stop sign bug and, instead, had a well-placed collection of yield signs in their place. Neighborhood traffic flowed smoothly. People were considerate and I felt like I'd stumbled on to civilization in the midst of a culture of ignorant savages. Letting regularly timed lights control irregular traffic flow is lazy, ignorant, and inefficient. It's time the damn things are torn down and the department that put them up is disbanded.


Chris said...

reducing the traffic lights would be great. you forgot to mention how so many of them are mis-configured and their metal detectors in the street don't work on bikes. Very annoying.

T.W. Day said...

Agreed. I think the whole concept of stop lights is 1840's technology.