Los Angeles First Big City to Synchronize All Traffic Lights

But whether it will make a big dent in gridlock is unclear

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 2, 2013 2:05 PM CDT

(Newser) – Somewhere in a bunker underneath downtown Los Angeles works a guy named Edward Yu, traffic god. Yu runs the software that controls all 4,500 traffic lights in the city, explains the New York Times, and this is noteworthy because LA has become the first major metro area to sync every one of its lights to ease gridlock. The system uses a comprehensive network of road sensors and cameras, and it seems to be having some success. City officials can trot out stats showing that it now takes 17.2 minutes to drive 5 miles in the city, down from 20 minutes before synchronization.

But 7 million cars is still 7 million cars, and a USC professor is skeptical that even the most sophisticated system in the world can keep LA's congestion at bay. In fact, it might even backfire: “If we reduce average travel time in Los Angeles by 20%, then we will see more people traveling." Only rush-hour tolls on the busiest thoroughfares might truly help, he adds.

  (Shutterstock)
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