Boston drivers may have noticed they are stopping at lights and refilling their tanks less and less now that the city has recalibrated traffic lights to prevent unnecessary idling.
The Boston Transportation Department will reset the timing of traffic lights, after an extensive study of traffic in the city to minimize the number of red lights at which drivers will have to stop.
Sixty intersections in the Back Bay have already had their traffic lights adjusted, according to an Oct. 1 Boston Transportation Department press release. The BTD estimates that traffic delays have been reduced by 29 percent since the calibration, and that 125,000 gallons of fuel will be saved as a result.
‘It is most cost-effective to focus on the city and use taxpayers’ money well,’ BTD Deputy Commissioner Jim Gillooly said. ‘We’re protecting pedestrians, the interests of drivers and reduction of fuel use.’
In a 2007 study about traffic light timing conducted by the Institute of Transportation Engineers, Boston was given a ‘D’ grade.
The city contracted local civil engineering firm Howard Stein Hudson and Associates to study traffic in the Back Bay in the spring of 2007, according to HSHA senior transportation engineer Jim Danila, who worked on the project.
They studied the number of cars passing or stopped at particular lights, how many drove straight, how many turned and how many ran a red light in a given period of time. They also study what factors affected traffic flow.
‘We’re out there from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. at all locations within a study area,’ Danila said. ‘We also spend some time both basically driving along the route and seeing if there are outside factors that could cause delays.’
Once data is taken for an area, the firm models the area and tests hypothetical changes. When the math is calculated and confirmed, timing changes are implemented and the area is observed once again to find any flaws.
‘We want to see if we can advance the traffic so that you’ll get greens all the way down the street so that you’re not starting and stopping,’ Danila said. ‘That’s where the delay comes in.’
Some other major U.S. cities have a preferential traffic system in which public buses send a signal to traffic lights to turn green as soon as possible. There is no word on whether the MBTA will implement this kind of technology.
The retiming project will improve fuel emissions and safety in the streets, but it’s clear that the overall goal is to make Boston drivers just a little happier.
‘No one wants to wait in traffic,’ Danila said. ‘The reduction of delay is a benefit for all the residents, and all the people that work in the city as well.’