As Traffic Changes, Cities Adapt
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every facet of our society, including how we manage traffic signals. According to UConn researchers, speeds have increased during the statewide stay-at-home order, as have the number of fatal crashes. Additionally, pedestrian pushbuttons have been eyed as a vector for transmitting the virus in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic.
Several Connecticut cities are taking measures to address these issues by making changes to the way their signals operate. This is important as an FHWA study, Speeding Counts … On All Roads (2000), determined that over 50 percent of speeding-related fatalities occur on lower speed collector and local roads, which carry only 28.1 percent of the total vehicle miles traveled in the United States.
Hartford recently put several traffic signals in pedestrian recall mode so the pedestrian phase is served during every cycle. New Haven has taken the same approach at about 90% of its signalized intersections, with 263 programmed through the central ATMS system and 20 sites visited in person to make the changes. An added benefit of putting the signals into pedestrian recall is that they come out of coordination, which can help reduce vehicular speeds.
According to an article “Using Traffic Signal Control to Limit Speeding Opportunities on Bidirectional Urban Arterials” published in the Transportation Research Record in 2018, case studies show it is sometimes possible to substantially reduce speeding opportunities with little or no increase in vehicular delay by lowering cycle length, lowering progression speed, dividing an arterial into smaller ‘‘coordination zones’’ with each zone having its own cycle length, or by abandoning coordination altogether (Transportation Research Record 2018, Vol. 2672, Issue 18 ).
The City of Norwalk also took this approach, taking the intersections of Martin Luther King Boulevard at Low Street, East Avenue at Sunset Hill Road, and Belden Street at Van Buren Avenue and Riverside Avenue out of coordination. While we don’t know what the future of transportation will look like after the pandemic, Connecticut municipalities have adapted well to the changing transportation environment.
Speeding Counts … On All Roads (FHWA)
Transportation Research Record 2018, Vol. 2672
Additional traffic signal resources can be found on the T2 Center website: