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Downtown Traffic Signals


ToolMan

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TRAFFIC SIGNAL CHANGES!

Beginning Saturday, November 17, downtown's traffic signals will switch from simultaneous green to progressive green (domino effect rather than all at once).

The goal is to reduce stops which should reduce travel times, emissions and fuel consumption.

City engineers will be watching traffic closely to evalute the new plan and make adjustments as necessary.

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Wow. We're finally getting back to where we were 20+ years ago.

Lights used to be timed so that if one travelled at exactly 24 mph on north-south downtown streets, he could hit every light green.

Absolutely true.

Although with the rail there now, its a whole new enchilada.

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I rememer the 24mph. Although I thought it was 19mph. This was very handy buzzing out of Power Tools at 3:00am.

What do y'all think about the timers/clock things on some of the lights?

They are already out of whack. Some have extended timing from 0 to yellow to red. Some go from 1 to red with no yellow.

Hopefully this will fix that.

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Why did they change it?

I've often wondered why they all turn red at the same time.

They 1st did this because of all the construction that was going on, and because of the train. Along the East / West streets that cross Main Street affects the train. Right now the train has signal priority, meaning that the cross streets will serve the train as soon as they can

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I remember pretty well that it used to be both around 1985-1990 or so. It would do about six to eight simultaneous greens during rush hour (not sure about the morning, very sure about 5 PM) and then change to sequenced 24-mph greens during the day and later evening. I remember Bell Street, near First Methodist Church, was out of sequence and very annoying. My friends and I used to speculate if multiples of 24 mph would also work... :lol:

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Actually, they retimed everything as part of Mayor White's traffic signal timing initiative. Apparently, the belief was that having them all change at once improved mobility. Whether the problems in keeping them in sync or studies showing it did not improve mobility is the reason for switching back, I do not know.

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Whatever the reason, I'm thrilled! I can finally drive properly downtown again -- watching the third light in the sequence, just like my mom taught me.

I understood from a traffic engineer that the traffic controllers were too old to cascade and work with the train traffic light requirements. Perhaps they've replaced the controllers finally?

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So wouldn't it work the other way as well? If you hit a red light, wouldn't you continue to hit them all the way through downtown? Now that would be annoying.

if you hit them all the way through, then you wouldn't be stopping on red.

Edited by musicman
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Actually, they retimed everything as part of Mayor White's traffic signal timing initiative. Apparently, the belief was that having them all change at once improved mobility. Whether the problems in keeping them in sync or studies showing it did not improve mobility is the reason for switching back, I do not know.

Yes, but everything changing at once was there a few years before Bill White was elected mayor. I remember when Louisiana was first rebuilt (I think it was the first street in the downtown streets project completed) around 2000-2001 and all of the lights were synchronized to change at the same time. This was before MetroRail too.

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Toward the end of the Brown administration there was a lot of talk about adjusting the traffic lights this way. Too bad it took all these years for it to happen.

the brown admin ensured that they weren't sync'd so that they could get some type of transportation initiative passed. what is interesting is that i was just downtown and there is no rhyme nor reason as to light cycling. 2 were red 3 were green 3 were red. definitely something has changed in the last week.

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Damn.

That means I can no longer turn on a yellow and catch the next green.

That's going to suck for awhile.

Ohwell.

Tell me about it. The past two mornings have been TERRIBLE getting stuck at every single red light with no rhyme or reason. Until this week, my route to work and my route from work were pretty simple - keep going in one direction and then turn when you get to a yellow light, keep going in the new direction similarly and turn again on the yellow (or with the counting down walk signals, which are AWESOME), and so on and minimize the numbers of red lights and time spent waiting at them. Now it's all stop and go from I-10 to my office and back again. You might get a green light when you turn and you might not. Then when it does turn green, you get to go ONE BLOCK and stop again. UGGGH.

I don't get it. What was wrong with the old system? Synchronizing the lights to stay green for your whole trip down a particular street is great if you always stay on that one street, but who does that? Most people aren't driving through downtown, they are driving to a destination in downtown and have to turn at some point. What a mess this is.

Maybe Coog is right that something was out of sync because the whole thing felt like one big cluster____.

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yeah this "amazing" new change is actually awful. i take capitol in through downtown every day and i hit at a lot more red lights than i used to, sometimes i would only get to go one block and the next one was red. it used to be 3 cycles tops to get to the parking garage, this morning that at least doubled. i agree that the "all greens at once" system probably could have used some tweaking, but this is awful. hopefully they get it fixed soon.

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Can anyone expalining how timing could work? It the light switching is timed in ne direction it would not work in the opposite - right? Is it for one-way streets only?

It's a wave. On two way streets, the wave lets cars flow in one direction without interruption. Houston has one way streets downtown.

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Can anyone expalining how timing could work? It the light switching is timed in ne direction it would not work in the opposite - right? Is it for one-way streets only?

If the streets are on a consistent grid pattern (same distance between the cross streets along the arterial), it can be done. It can even ben done with irregular spacing, but the "through band" (the length of green time seen at every light when traveling down the arterial) will be narrower.

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What a mess this has become. 26-November and they still are trying to get it right.

I think Travis, Fannin, Smith and Milam may be in sync. But the rest of downtown is all out of whack.

In the parts that do work its like driving in a parade or a block of cars. That's just asking for a wreck. I prefer not to have a "wingman" as I drive downtown.

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What a mess this has become. 26-November and they still are trying to get it right.

I think Travis, Fannin, Smith and Milam may be in sync. But the rest of downtown is all out of whack.

In the parts that do work its like driving in a parade or a block of cars. That's just asking for a wreck. I prefer not to have a "wingman" as I drive downtown.

Over the weekend, it was wonderful. I stuck to mostly Fannin and San Jac, but noticed that even Webster was synced up.

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I was heading north(east) on San Jacinto Thursday and Friday, and I was able to hit green going about 30 mph (this was starting at green, not red - starting at red would probably be closer to 26/27 mph).

The only non-synced light I noticed was Pease, but it was just green and remained green.

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I am slowly coming around to these lights. I think some of my frustration last week had to do with my wanting to take the exact same routes to and from work that I took with the old lights; routes that were optimized with the old lights, basically zigzagging between Smith/Louisiana and Main.

I think the trick I am discovering is to just keep driving all the way north or south until I reach the cross street of my destination, then turn and wait at one light and then drive a long time again. Basically, instead of a zigzag, my route is now an 'L' shape.

Starting to come around...

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The only drawback I can find in this new staggered pattern is when I catch the bus in the afternoon along Louisiana. It seems the old syncronized pattern was more condusive to loading the buses and now it backs up pretty badly....oh well, I know they are still going to iron out the kinks.

:edited for typo:

Edited by cnote
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I'm sorry, but the entire grid is all fubar now. Where I could move through downtown pretty quickly, now I have to stop every 10 feet. Louisiana and Smith are by far the worst. Coming in during the morning, things back up onto the feeder onto I10 far more than they did with the old timing. Leaving in the afternoon (even at 4.15) I hit every intersection on the way out and the traffic is by far worse. Even leaving the parking garage is miserable now. We don't have the luxury of a Rent-A-Cop and it lets out onto a side street. I think my commute just increased by 10 minutes and I live only 8 miles out of downtown.

The synchronization sucks! If your light turns green, chances are that at least 4 lights in front of you are still red and will still be red by the time you get to that intersection.

Put it back the way it was!

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If your light turns green, chances are that at least 4 lights in front of you are still red and will still be red by the time you get to that intersection.

How fast are you driving? When I did it on Monday, I was able to hit all greens by driving about 30 mph.

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There is a bit of adjustment that needs to be made still by the city AND drivers. We just need to adjust our habits.

I was driving down Dallas near Caroline and saw the light out of the corner of my eye turn green and stepped on the gas, turns out it was the NEXT street that turned green and not ours. Oops. I barely managed to avoid an accident.

i work at the corner of milam & pease and have never seen SO MANY cars waiting for the light to turn green ever at 5:29pm.

So how's tricks? Are you the one in high heels :D

It's working wonders on Travis. Everybody else can go to hell. :P

That's the spirit! :lol:

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It doesn't appear to have been a very popular move.

Houston officials are not ready to retreat on their efforts to improve the timing of downtown stoplights, despite some bad reviews from motorists.

Mayoral spokesman Patrick Trahan said Wednesday that the "cascading" or "progressive" system introduced last week

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How fast are you driving? When I did it on Monday, I was able to hit all greens by driving about 30 mph.

I would be lucky to hit 10 mph in the morning or afternoon. Most of the time, I'm on the brake. My point was by the time you proceed to the next intersection, there are 6-8 cars already there that are still at a complete stop. They're still stopped because the light is red. If they weren't there, sure you could maintain a steady 30 mph (maybe?) and hit all the lights green. The problem is they ARE there and it backs everybody up. I really didn't see a problem with all the lights turning red/green at the same time because everyone would either be moving or stopped at *gasp* the same time!

From the Chron article:

I got caught at a red light twice, both times because a motorist ahead had been slow to move when the lights changed.
EXACTLY. There are FAR too many people in this city who just can't pay attention and put their foot on the gas. Multiply this by about 100 at rush hour.
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I would be lucky to hit 10 mph in the morning or afternoon.

So the next light has already completed its cycle by the time you get there? That's crazy. It shouldn't even turn green until after the current light does, giving everyone plenty of time to get going.

The problem with the old way was that it pretty much guaranteed you would have to stop at some point. When the new way works, once you get a green light you can stay in the green light pulse as long as you like.

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When the new way works, once you get a green light you can stay in the green light pulse as long as you like.

dont get on st jos pkwy because it sure wasn't working last night. west of main they all turned green simo while east it was a more random pattern. you saw the light 2 streets ahead of you turn green but you're still stopped at a red light, by the time yours turns green, the light ahead of you turned red.

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So the next light has already completed its cycle by the time you get there? That's crazy.

Yes and no. Imagine if you will, looking south down Louisiana. By the time I exit, sit at the light at the feeder/HOV ramp and proceed through I see: RED -> RED -> GREEN -> GREEN -> RED -> RED -> GREEN, etc. When the reds turn green, the greens turn red, so this back up occurs. I always sit at the lights at Prairie, Texas, Rusk, sometimes Capitol, and McKinney (mostly because by then there's traffic backed up at the light at McKinney because they're all trying to get into the parking garage).

There is no way I could hit even 25 mph even at 4.15pm. Hell, I didn't even get to the speed limit when the old timing was in place! There was only a couple of times that traffic was moving at the posted speed limit just because I think most people don't even know what the speed limit is downtown.

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Yes and no. Imagine if you will, looking south down Louisiana. By the time I exit, sit at the light at the feeder/HOV ramp and proceed through I see: RED -> RED -> GREEN -> GREEN -> RED -> RED -> GREEN, etc. When the reds turn green, the greens turn red, so this back up occurs. I always sit at the lights at Prairie, Texas, Rusk, sometimes Capitol, and McKinney (mostly because by then there's traffic backed up at the light at McKinney because they're all trying to get into the parking garage).

There is no way I could hit even 25 mph even at 4.15pm. Hell, I didn't even get to the speed limit when the old timing was in place! There was only a couple of times that traffic was moving at the posted speed limit just because I think most people don't even know what the speed limit is downtown.

I think you mean Smith. Lousiana is one way north.

What time of day? As I posted earlier, I didn't like the switch at first because I was trying to fit my old commute to the new lights, but now that I have figured it out I will generally get stopped one time entering downtown, either at Franklin (1st light) or at Preston (3rd) but once those lights change it is straight green all the way to McKinney, where I turn left and stop one more time at Louisiana before continuing all the way to my garage at Travis.

Sometimes it feels like I'm going to miss a light on Smith, but they always stay green the whole way.

This is around 6:50 each morning. I think it's possible that with more traffic, as there certainly is as you get closer to 8:30 each day, you might get stuck.

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Yes and no. Imagine if you will, looking south down Louisiana. By the time I exit, sit at the light at the feeder/HOV ramp and proceed through I see: RED -> RED -> GREEN -> GREEN -> RED -> RED -> GREEN, etc. When the reds turn green, the greens turn red, so this back up occurs.

Then the lights aren't working as advertised. Maybe emergency vehicles screw it up?

When it works, you'll see waves of green and red lights moving forward. The waves move forward at a steady speed, with one red turning green and one green turning red at a time.

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