Whether real or perceived a lot of people relate to anecdotes of people trying to get somewhere, but seemingly hitting every red light. As Colorado Springs grows and more lights are added, it may seem there will be more time spent at red lights. “Our signal equipment keeps improving, we’re able to improve the timing of the signals,” said Colorado Springs Traffic Engineering, Division Manager, Kathleen Krager. Traffic Engineers are working to prevent red light waiting.
The city is on the verge of reaching 600 signals. It is a lot of places to stop. All those signals are connected by high tech means to the city’s Traffic Operations Center. “We have three people who, it’s their full time job to fine tune signal timing,” said Krager. The can make adjustments in real time from a computer screen in the office. On major routes the goal is preset timing so cars going the speed limit see more green than red.
A common phrase used by people asking or complaining about lights, is saying they were in a hurry and hit every red. In a hurry often coincides with pushing past the speed limit. “My very first suggestion would be to check your speed and see if you’re driving approximately the posted speed,” said Kramer.
Another factor is a flip flop that can happen with time of day and traffic direction. "In the a.m. peak hours they’re going to be set to handle the majority of traffic that’s leaving the residential areas and going to office areas and retail areas." It is then different for the evening commute. The same road can also be different overnight with traffic signals prompting lights so cars do not get stuck at a red when there is little or no traffic.
Traffic engineering is a science assisted by high tech equipment. The goal includes convenience, but that is only one element of the work. Issues like minimizing pollution and public safety are equally important.