My Big Beef With District Traffic Lights

Below is a letter I sent to The Washington Post’s Dr. Gridlock today.

Subject: Response to today’s column.

Dear Dr. Gridlock,

Love your column and all you do — 
it’s one of the best public service features of the
paper. But there’s one thing I’d like to offer some
push back on: District traffic-light timing.

In a word, it’s abominable. Worse than any other city
I’ve lived in, big or small.

At intersection after intersection, in neighborhood
after neighborhood, for pedestrians and drivers alike,
traffic signals are simply not appropriately timed.
Light cycles are either too long or too short — and
though I am not a traffic engineer, the timing does not
seem synced to other intersections. It promotes
gridlock and dangerous maneuvers rather than traffic flow and safety.

All too frequently, the direction(s) of traffic with the
heaviest volume do not get the longest green-light time.
All too frequently, there is not sufficient time to safely
cross the street on foot in at least one direction. The result
is encouraging walking against the light and drivers trying to
beat the light. And I’ve never seen pressure plates or the like
at any District intersection to adjust the timing to suit the current
traffic conditions. (On this last point, I realize I may just not see it.)

I beseech you to help bring attention to this problem. My efforts over
the years to put in specific work-order 311 tickets, as your interviewee
today William McGuirk suggests, have never once resulted in any change
to timing. I’d love to volunteer to help address this problem, but how?

Jonathan Make
Washington Post subscriber

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