Skip to comments.(Houston) MOVE IT! Motorists fuming at area traffic lights
Posted on 12/13/2004 12:15:50 AM PST by weegee
continue(sic) to receive numerous reader e-mails concerning problems with traffic signals. Let's tackle a bunch of those questions today:
Q: Is anything in the works to do something about this situation of so many drivers running red lights?
Peggy Garcia, Houston
A: Houston plans to install cameras beginning next year to monitor red-light violations at up to 50 intersections with high collision rates. Mayor Bill White announced his support for the idea earlier this month and is expected to ask for City Council approval this week.
The city attorney has concluded Houston may issue civil citations for motorists captured on the cameras in an intersection after the signal has turned red. If City Council goes along with the controversial plan originally proposed by the Houston Police Department, cameras could be up by spring.
Privacy advocates, motorists groups and some state lawmakers strongly oppose the cameras, however, and the issue could end up being decided in Austin.
Q: The traffic signals downtown are still a joke. They all turn green (or red) at once! On Austin Street, for example, all the lights from south to north in downtown turn green at once. The objective (I suppose) is to go as fast as you can to make as many lights as you can. When are they going to fix this?
David Kester, Houston
A: The traffic signals downtown are synchronized, meaning the lights on north-south and east-west streets change at the same time. This is by design, said Wes Johnson, spokesman for the Department of Public Works and Engineering.
In other parts of the city, public works has been sequencing the traffic signals. Sequenced signals turn green as traffic rolls along the major street, meaning a motorist traveling the set speed (usually the limit or 5 mph under) won't usually have to stop.
The city has agreed with the Metropolitan Transit Authority that the Main Street light rail line is the most important aspect of downtown signal timing. Trains receive priority at intersections and the system is designed so that they should not have to stop between stations. This makes sequencing downtown lights impractical, Johnson said.
He said the massive street repairs downtown since 1998 have disrupted normal traffic patterns, making it difficult to sequence the signals even if MetroRail were not a factor.
Q: A fairly new signal at Woodway and North Post Oak Lane in the Galleria area is not in synch with the other lights. It causes quite a backup on both sides of the West Loop.
Leslie Friedman, Houston
A: Johnson said a public works crew will look at the signal timing and see what adjustments are necessary.
"Work on the West Loop might also be adding to the traffic delays at this location," he said.
Q: On the Texas 249 feeder road between Louetta and Cypresswood there is a street called Chasewood. It has a five-second green for Texas 249 and 55 seconds for Chasewood. The traffic count is phenomenally backward as there is no cross traffic ever when I'm sitting at the red light. What can be done about this?
Robert Lindgren, Houston
A: "We found problems with two of the traffic sensors at this intersection," responded Janelle Gbur, Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman. "On Dec. 3 we repaired the sensors and the signal is now working normally."
Please e-mail comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, call 713-362-6832, fax to 713-354-3061, or mail to Lucas Wall, Houston Chronicle, 801 Texas Ave., Houston, TX 77002. Include your name, city or county of residence and daytime phone number.
HOUSTON (gridlock) PING
Dec. 12, 2004, 9:15PM
Camera's goal is safety?
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
Shift in responsibility is bad
The Chronicle's Dec. 5 article "STREET SAFETY / Crossing signal troubles persist / Year after death of a pedestrian, downtown repairs remain in progress" indicated that of 76 downtown intersections on four streets, the Chronicle found 32 to be defective. Further, the article mentioned that responsibility for these intersections is split among the city of Houston, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Houston Downtown Management District and various construction contractors.
Now with the city's consideration of cameras to catch red-light runners, it will be abdicating control of traffic to yet another private contractor!
If the camera contractor will be under a contract to share revenues with the city, it will surely try to control traffic signal timing to ensure its revenue stream. Do you want the yellow warning time reduced to where no one can get through intersections without being caught on camera going through a red light?
Cameras should be used for improving safety, not to increase revenue. As part of a safety program, yellow time might even need to be increased to reduce red-light running.
Traffic control in Houston is the responsibility of the city of Houston not any other entity's. The city should accept its responsibility and assert authority over signal placement, timing and all aspects of traffic control.
What about those traffic lights that change for no reason whatsoever in the middle of the night, using pressure sensors, and not a car for blocks around?
It's almost like they're encouraging folks to run 'em.
We have cameras in Chicago and they don't generate revenue! They were sold in the name of safety, and the cost is $5.1 million!
But do they cut down on red-light running?
That's the purpose after all isn't it?
Red-light camera violations carry a $90 fine. As of October 5, more than 67,400 violations had been issued.
"The project is the first stage of a planned citywide video surveillance strategy that will link City departments into a single network."
CTA buses each carry a new full-time passenger who never blinks and is invaluable in solving crime. The new passenger is a digital camera that takes approximately four pictures per second.
"Lt. Clark Schroeder of the Public Transportation Section said: "We're watching. That's all I can tell you. We're out there and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.""
The article in Wired Magazine?
Seems the solution to traffic problems is to basically eliminate traffic lights, road signs, lane markers, and pedestrian walkways.
Well, we probably need them. We have something of a culture of red-light running here and probably need to take whatever means necessary to change it. Probably means I'll get a ticket, though I try not to do it.
Someone told me that in NJ the culture is to take off real fast from the light. That will get you killed in a hurry in Houston. NJ and Houston drivers apparently do not mix.
Privacy? It's a public street.
My route home when I lived in H. Glad to be out of the traffic!!!!
I've seen some traffic lights that "get stuck" sometimes and never turn green for example (A) one side is STUCK green for 10+ minutes or (B) a left turn lane only gets a signal every 3 cycles.
At what point do you get to determine that a light is broken and roll on through (when the road is clear)?
Will we be facing tickets and court appearances over this (even if the movement is justifiable)?
If an officer had to be present to write the ticket, no such court appearance would be necessary for broken traffic lights.
As someone else has noted, Metro bus drivers ROUTINELY run red lights (and it is not uncommon to see them start up from a dead stop to do so after waiting at a bus stop). Will they be cited for their violations or granted an exemption?
Most lights nowadays have all-red periods built into the timing sequence, which didn't used to be the case. Drivers know that once the light goes red, there will still be a few seconds before the cross traffic gets the green and starts up. Hence, more people try to run the lights. Of course, this also gives incentive for drivers to anticipate the green, and start up before they actually see the green. Lengthening the yellow, or extending the all-red buffer just gives drivers more incentive to try to cheat.
Make violators stand in a court house corner for 8 hours on their day off. Perhaps wearing a dunce cap. That would suck far more than being fined $90.00 and there would be no reasons to play games with the lights.
Polling centers are public places too but you will find all cameras banned in them too despite rampant vote fraud at times coordinated with polling officials. That pesky privacy.
You have the right to face your accuser and that cannot be done when you are being accused by a machine.
Essentially this is the case with defensive driving class.
They are mandated to run a minimum of 6 hours and the tests can be impossible to fail if the instructor so chooses.
It is essentially a time out in the penalty box for being a "bad boy".
The city has erected Jersey Barriers on our freeways and city streets all over town but it still hasn't kept the NJ drivers off the roads...
The real purpose is to generate $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ not only for the city but the companies building/maintanining these systems!
As for safety:
The cameras do lower red light running and therby t-bone crashes (headon collision into side of crossing traffic). These are the more deadly kind of collisions.
But many more rear end collisions occur at the light as some drivers thinking that they can make the light run into the drivers ahead of them who decide they need to stop.
Jersey driving is a state of mind. They are everywhere.
They're all over the place in N.VA but I still see people running lights daily. Pretty much at every intersecion :-/
If they are going to go for revenue, they should actively trail school buses then as the top fine was raised to $1,000 if I recall (Elanor Tinsley in the mid 1990s).
Er, that fine is applied (in varying amounts) to drivers who pass a stopped school bus that is loading/unloading children (flashers on) even if you are coming the other way (on a road that does not have a divided esplanade of concrete or grass).
With Houston being swamped with immigrants, most of them illegal, it's not surprising that their traffic problems are those of a third world country. Good luck on getting any of these law breakers to come in after being caught on candid camera!
"It's almost like they're encouraging folks to run 'em."
How's this going to change anything? Houston's streets have always been bad and as far as I can tell; this is going to continue.
I've witnessed drivers in Peru, Belize, Amsterdam, and the Czech Republic as well as Canada and Mexico.
Traffic lights don't mean the same thing to some countries (I've seen "traffic cops" controlling the flow where we would have lights! In America, you will only see that in an old cartoon or 3 Stooges film today).
There's an interesting article in Wired Magazines about Traffic circles, with the removal of basically all traffic signs and lane markers, being the answer to traffic problems. Basically, it makes people tentative and careful, and cuts accidents drastically.
Figures Wired would be shilling for anarchists.
Why don't they urge the same concept in data processing? What would it do to throughput?
I've found that if you take off from a downtown light when it turns green and drive 88 mph, you can make four lights before you have to stop.
The hard evidence seems to be that that it works.
These problems aren't anything that more tax dollars can't fix. Right?
There is still a financial incentive. I mean remove the incentive period.
No $$$$ for anybody. Make it purely about safety and the entire system will short-circuit.
Government cannot function without graft.
That already happens in Houston. I think it will decrease with the cameras. If I am well short of the light as it goes yellow, I stop. I have narrowly avoided bing rear-ended many times, as the driver(s) behind me assumes I am continuing through.
Fear of the camera should at least make it clear to such drivers that you can no longer assume the guy in front of you is going to speed up at a yellow light.
Well, the camera light intersections here in Maryland still have rear end collisions even after three years.
One thing that the Montgomery Co traffic folks did do right is the pedistranian cross walks and red lights have a digital countdown in seconds to red! This should help the rear end collision rate, but some people will never learn! LOL!
Curious argument, isn't it? I wonder how long I'd last in traffic court arguing that the police violated my right to privacy when they arrested me for running a red light, or speeding, or any other traffic infraction, for that matter.
"With Houston being swamped with immigrants, most of them illegal, it's not surprising that their traffic problems are those of a third world country."
Um, I actually like living in Houston, those nasty immigrants and all. Shocking, isn't it? And the traffic is no worse than most cities with over 4 million residents. Actually, I've found that getting around Houston is a whole lot easier than LA, Boston, NY, and Chicago. Just use a map. There are about 10 different routes to every destination.
No they are not all over the place in N.VA
The only red light cameras that I know of are on 28 south of Braddock Road, on 7100 at Pope's Head Road, on 50 at a street whose name I cannot recall right now, and in Alexandria in front of Landmark Mall.
Those cameras you may see on TOP of the lights are not red light cameras. Those are traffic detection cameras and replace the failure-prone loop detector so that the light won't stay green for cars that aren't there or fail to give a green to cars that are.
What do the pressure sensors sense to make the light change, if there's no car around?
They're loop detectors (basically metal detectors), not pressure sensors, and they make the light change because they're damaged and the signal controller is always sensing the presence of a vehicle there.
What really makes me wonder is that most of the time, the agency responsible for the traffic light doesn't fix this problem until someone complains about it. It's like they either have no way of remotely monitoring the signal controller or don't know how to remotely monitor it. Or if they do they have no idea what to look at to determine if there's a problem (Hint: If the controller reports that the loop detector has been detecting a vehicle there continuously for days on end, IT'S PROBABLY BROKEN!)
Interesting new driving phenomenon, courtesy of our recent Latin arrivals; never seen this before last year, and now it's not unusual: while sitting at a red light, the driver decides he's waited long enough. He'll just take off against the red. In one instance for sure, it looked like the guy was showing off for a chica in the next car. No es mas macho to wait for a green light, when you can just go against the red.
Yep. It's always the mexicans, isn't it? In the good old days, nobody ran a red light. Sheesh.
That is, if you don't transport back to 1956 first.
The activity I described is new in this area. I've been driving 20 years and never seen it before. I now see it, at all, and when I do see it, it's Hispanic drivers doing it. Got any more brilliant comments?
"Got any more brilliant comments?"
No. I just can't beat the brilliance of anecdotal nonsense.