Newport Beach has completed a $6M project aimed at synchronizing traffic lights through key intersections in the City. The hope is that by using video cameras, software and good timing algorithms, motorists can drive through the city all the more speedily.
I learned this at a Meet-the-Mayor session Saturday morning at the new Civic Center. Running out of time, I missed the tour of the new facility where I would’ve seen the monitors that allow staff to tweak the timing system in real time, weekdays only though. I’m gonna ask for a private tour sometime soon.
“If you’re a pedestrian, you might wait longer for a WALK light,” Mayor Curry anticipated a potential objection as he described the completed project. I had noticed.
Also mentioned, the City has committed to a Bicycle Master Plan. Lots of great outcomes could be achieved — less congestion, reduced parking demand, increased tourism, economic development, thriving neighborhoods, healthier residents with more disposable income jingling in their pockets, too. As Tim Blumenthal at Bikes Belong told me, “Everything’s better on a bicycle.”
But we’re not there yet. Even though these benefits accrue to other cities that have already taken the steps the Master Plan will outline; there will be many in the community who will doubt.
As we press to define and then implement new bike safety improvements we’ll have to put the brakes to projects like the timing of traffic lights, because the net result of better timed lights is that cars can travel faster while pedestrians must wait at crosswalks. As the speed increases our local arterials look more like the highway infrastructure they were designed to mimic. To many, the higher speeds and longer waits will discourage biking and walking. It’s safe to say that timing traffic lights will cause fewer, not more, mothers of small children to encourage their kids to bike to school.
It’s gonna take awhile to dream up the features that will go into the Bicycle Master Plan, then if it’s a decent plan there will be push-back from motorists, merchants and others who either resist change in general or are simply uninformed. This happens everywhere.
Once complete, in whatever form, we’ll hunt for money to fund the plan. Ironically, the $6M for the traffic light timing would probably pay for it two times over.