The case against traffic lights – removing the roads to nowhere

As some of you will be aware, I tend to share my thoughts and musings on topical issues on my “greening tasman” facebook page (see http://www.facebook.com/greeningtasman). However, to ensure others can hear about my thoughts and ideas, I have summarised them below.

A traffic light obsession

Why has there been such a heavy use of traffic lights in Richmond?

Do we have to many traffic engineers looking for work?

The reason I ask these questions is the simple fact that we have a lot of traffic lights in Richmond. So many in fact, they we’re starting to look like parts of Christchurch. Yet, probably the most successful traffic management system Richmond has experienced is the roundabout at the Queen street and Salisbury road intersection. The design has stood the test of time and been incredibly successful and very cost effective. Yet there are rumours of its planned demise and the introduction of traffic lights.

The Queen street roundabout has proven that roundabouts work in Richmond. Given the communities drive for cost savings from council and the roundabouts proven success, I hope we do not waste our money converting it to traffic lights.

It also baffles me why more roundabouts were not introduced further down Salisbury road. Instead, we have more traffic lights, which as the case studies below show, cause more costs and time wastage than they are worth.

In my opinion, we need less traffic lights, not more.

Interestingly, several jurisdictions in North America have instituted policies whereby the feasibility of roundabouts must be evaluated for all new intersections, for existing intersections where traffic signals are warranted, or where capacity or safety problems have been identified. New York State is one example. The Regional Municipality of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, is another (see http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/30/roundabouts-efficient-or-annoying/?_r=0).

Real life case studies

This brings me to the real life case studies against traffic lights. These case studies provide very compelling evidence for not using traffic lights. They show towns with traffic lights and then the effects after their removal. The case studies show improved safety and traffic flow. This is because cars slow down when approaching roundabouts, whereas they tend to speed up to get through traffic lights. Flow is also improved with a good roundabout design as the drivers are best able to self manage the process. As you will see in the cue studies, tacks of cars waiting to move to the next set of lights are removed and travel times actually improve.

The first case study is the regeneration of the small village of Poynton (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vzDDMzq7d0).

The Poynton case study provides a compelling argument for why we should be removing traffic lights and using roundabouts. Especially in areas like the Queen street intersection and along Salisbury road.

Other case studies, for example the village of Portishead, have shown what happens when traffic lights are switched off or temporarily removed (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeryaK22ntw). If all this interests you then check out the theory behind these real life examples above at http://www.equalitystreets.com.

In my opinion, these real life case studies are a lesson for Salisbury road and Gladstone road.

 

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