Sitting through a long red light is one thing. Jalopnik readers know some truly terrible traffic signals that make your commute seem easy.
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Traffic planners often have grand ideas how to fix congestion at intersections once and for all. Their plans aren't always good, but there's usually some city council that builds them. We, the drivers, are the ones who get shafted.
And don't forget to check out our list of the craziest intersections worldwide.
Photo Credit: Utah DOT
To speed up traffic during rush hour, Phoenix opened up "reverse lanes" on one of their busy streets. What this means is that during 6AM to 9AM, drivers can turn left going south and from 4PM to 6PM they can turn left going north. During the rest of the day, left turns are not allowed at the intersection.
Phoenix has had a hard time explaining all this to drivers just arriving at the intersection with a few signs. There have been accidents. They're nicknamed ‘suicide lanes.' It has not worked out well, as this news report explains.
In the late ‘80s, Hot Springs, AR decided to base a new bypass through the city on a 1963 traffic study. The idea was that a light on a loop near the highway would change on a trigger when three cars were waiting. If you showed up in the middle of the night, you'd have to wait until morning for the light to change. This was all set up in a multi-intersection system of these lights, with predictably confusing results. You can read more about Dysfunction Junction here.
This is the intersection of Rosecrans Avenue and Garfield Avenue in Paramount, California. It suffers from "split phasing." The lights are timed so that only one side of the street goes at a time. Everyone else in the other three streets waits. It is notoriously inefficient.
Single lights suck because if you see one, you know you're in Shitsville, Nowhere.
Drivers should understand how to merge correctly. Having to sit on the on ramp for a light to allow you to go is one of the most embarrassing, parental pieces of infrastructure we experience.
Traffic circles are great for doing donuts in your BMW, but they're not perfect. In New Jersey, some traffic circles that were too small for such heavy traffic have been replaced with lights. The problem is that no one can tell what lane is right anymore and cars periodically drive straight into each other. Sometimes it's better to stick with the circle.
In America, the right turn on red was first implemented nationwide by President Ford in response to the '73 Oil Crisis. The idea was that cars would idle less at intersections and save gas. It also had the byproduct of making traffic go a lot faster. Places like Montreal do not allow right turns on red, making traffic miserable for anyone wanting to go straight, but gets stuck behind a waiting right-turner.
Continuous flow lights seem like a good idea. As this Utah DOT video explains, they allow for more green light time at intersections than with traditional set ups. The problem is that they require drivers to be very attentive to other cars in other lanes, and that's even when drivers are familiar with the set up. Most people just take one look at all of the new lanes and lights and either give up or start driving the wrong way down the street.
San Francisco's is perhaps the worst place to own a car in the country. One intersection in particular justifies the reputation. Four major arteries intersect with a light rail line, a popular bike path, and this is all within a block or two of six schools and two shopping areas. And the red light last three minutes. Think about commuting through that.
In late 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, China's red Guard decided that it was disgraceful that red, the color of revolution, meant stop. They decided that red would mean go and green would mean stop, but to enforce this, they had to make every intersection manned. Obviously they could not man every intersection, and some drivers ended up going on red and others going on green, and there were a lot of accidents.
Drivers suffered this for a few months until, after a humorous debate, the worst traffic lights in history were scrapped.