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
   (Shutterstock)

(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.

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Showing 3 of 9 comments
$3586407
Apr 2, 2013 6:12 PM CDT
This will save time and fuel, but is no silver bullet for traffic congestion. We need this everywhere. One day GPS routing will be able to synchronize with the traffic lights to find you the most "green" route.
Scott60561
Apr 2, 2013 3:21 PM CDT
I would have liked to think this was already happening all over, but I guess not. I do notice that in downtown Chicago, like traveling south on State Street, the lights do seem to go green a few seconds apart as far as you can see. Seems so simple to keep traffic moving, especially in areas where the whole system is on some sort of grid (maybe no such grids exist). and of course there will be problems with this, but on its face, it at least seems like a good idea.
GeorgeL
Apr 2, 2013 3:18 PM CDT
I used to live in the suburbs of L.A. And from personal experience I know that traffic there is mostly full throttle, or full stop. They may have their traffic signals synchronized, but until they can synchronize their drivers, it probably won't solve much.