Incoming Traffic MonitoringMy first complaint is not how long I have to wait, but the fact they don’t take “incoming” traffic into account; only traffic sitting and waiting at the light.
This scenario happens to me regularly. I am sitting at a red light with to no cross traffic. A vehicle begins to approach the intersection (figure 1). The light turns red and they have to stop.
Lights with FeedbackNow let's address wait times. I have been assured by a civil engineer the longest you’ll ever have to wait is 2 minutes. That may be true, but what about lights that get so backed up have to wait two or three cycles.
Perception is reality, and with that in mind red lights are red for a long time. I believe this is a combination of stopping sucks after you've been going fast, and not knowing when the light will change. You can see lights in the cross direction and have a good idea, but what if lights gave more immediate feedback?
I propose making all traffic lights work like load bars. The picture below is an example of a green light. The dark green outline represents green light that stays on the whole time the light is green. The brighter green represents light moving right to left, it’s intuitive. Someone who’s never seen this will know something is going to happen when the green runs out.
The system is not perfect. A gander at the next image may point out why rather quick.
This system does have the added benefit of having more light. The surface area of the border can be thick enough to be greater than the surface area than current lights. Led panels can be made to support a variety of colors and have other information built into it them like turn arrows and yield symbols. Another added bonus is they can all be made the same since their display is programmable; no need for special turn signal lights.
Point of no Return LineFinally, an intersection idea that needs no figures and can be put into place right now with a can of paint, “Point of no Return” lines. I’d guess they’d be yellow lines painted on the road perpendicular to the direction of traffic a ways back from the intersection (I guess I could include a figure here). If you are going to speed limit, and you are still behind the line when the light turns yellow, you should come to a stop. By the same token, if you are across the line when the light turns yellow you should be able to continue at the speed limit without any problems.
The “Point of no Return” line shouldn't be attached to any laws, though it could be useful for prosecuting someone who has caused an accident by running a red light. “The video clearly shows the plaintiff was beyond the line when the light turned yellow (and there would be a video if cameras took incoming traffic into account like the first idea).
For me there are times I’m not sure how long the light will be yellow. Perhaps I’m just not good at judging the distance. There have been times I've come to a quick halt because a light turned yellow, and there have been times I've caught the first half-second of a red light as I flew through the intersection. A line could put some of those concerns to rest.
I’m not saying these will happen. I’m not even saying they should happen. I’m just sharing the things I think about while waiting at a red light.