Thursday, September 20, 2018
Transportation

Dr. Delay: Signal timing meant to move traffic, not frustrate drivers, county says

What is going on with the traffic lights on 66th Street? The way they are timed could be causing road rage.

Going either north or south on 66th from 102nd Avenue N to 54th Avenue N, it used to work like this: The light would stop both lanes, those traveling north and south, at the same time so both turn lanes going either east or west could make their turns.

Now what happens is the east and west traffic sits there and watches a northbound car pull into the turn lane to go west, complete the turn, that lane’s red light comes on, and traffic resumes going north and south. If a car going south pulls in the turn lane to go east, the same routine happens again (even if it was only a minute after the other car made its turn) and traffic resumes going north and south. All this time, the traffic on the side streets wanting to cross to go east or west waits a long time before they get to go.

Jim Deveney

We shared your question and comments with Norm Jester, traffic signal system manager for Pinellas County Traffic Management, who said the control system in place on 66th uses real-time traffic data to adjust the timing and control of the signals in response to traffic conditions.

What this means is that the flow and volume of traffic is constantly monitored, and adjustments are made in response to conditions based on data that determines the most efficient use of time to minimize stops and delay.

The changes in the signal patterns you noticed means the control system is adjusting rather than malfunctioning. Adjustments happen according to demand, so main corridors such as 66th Street will always have priority over smaller side streets. All of the timing changes are within parameters that traffic engineers have set and programmed into the system.

As you’ve noticed, some traffic signal phases (like a protected turn arrow) may run twice within a cycle, and it’s because of how the system has been programmed to service that intersection. There are a few intersections along 66th Street where the waits are indeed longer on the side streets, but the tradeoff, Jester said, is much better progression on 66th Street.

Email Dr. Delay at [email protected] to share your traffic concerns and questions. Follow @AskDrDelay.

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