How I think the traffic lights on Park Avenue should be [Opinion]

I have no background in traffic planning whatsoever, but what the heck; it’s my blog, so I get to write about whatever I want. If anybody wants to add their own theory, please let me know. I’ll post your own article. The idea is to create conversation on ways to improve the traffic flow through our city. Here is my view:

What is the current traffic light situation on Park Avenue:

Right now it appears that all the traffic lights turn green in unison within seconds of each other. It’s impossible to drive from Grand Blvd to Maple Blvd (visa versa) without hitting most, if not all of these lights. For that, we get frustrated, which just leads to aggressive and impatient driving.

How I think the lights should work:

Nothing here is scientific. I am making up a few numbers, but this is all based on a theory, so please bare with me here.

Let’s pretend at 30mph it takes exactly 10 seconds to go from one light to another. The idea is to set the lights to go green 10 seconds part. Cars going at 30mph will coast through every successive traffic light without stopping. A car going 50mph will have to either stop or slow down and wait the few seconds until it turns green. Eventually motorists will learn this behavior that slower is actually better and less frustrating.

An illustration of what the hell I am talking about:

Again, pretend at 30mph it takes exactly 10 seconds to go from one light to another.

In the image below, two cars travelling east are stopped at a traffic light (1) at 1:00pm.

light (1) turns green @ 1:00:00 
light (2) turns green @ 1:00:10
light (3) turns green @ 1:00:20
light (4) turns green @ 1:00:30

Car (A) driving 30pmh will coast through all the lights without stopping.

Car (B) driving at 50mph will either slow down or stop at each or most lights because they arrive too early.

(Of course, both cars have to stop at one of the lights in order for this chain reaction to kick in.)

How does this work with traffic coming the other direction and matching red lights? I have no idea.. haha. I heard Garden City has their lights programmed this way, so maybe we should just copy them. Like I said, I have no background in traffic planning, so please don’t shoot me. I’m just trying to create conversation on ways to improve the traffic flow in our city. Anybody have a better idea? Please don’t say to leave them alone, because driving down Park Avenue now is completely frustrating.

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9 thoughts on “How I think the traffic lights on Park Avenue should be [Opinion]”

  1. I grew up in Franklin Square, right next to Hempstead Tpke. While I know it is a dangerous road, you could drive to the Cross Island in 5 minutes during the morning commute. Not sure if it is still programmed that way, but the memory seems like a joy compared to our current Park Ave.

  2. Cynthia, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I grew up not too far from there myself.
    AllisonB, how about you read all that an report back. hahah. I’m just know that this works elsewhere. Perhaps a video would have explained it better. I don’t have my matchbox cars anymore, but I do have a bunch of legos. I’ll just make a scaled model of Park Ave.

  3. I’ll tell you what’s really aggravating… is that the lights on Long Beach Rd south of Park Ave are sometimes in sync so you can make it all the way to Broadway on green.. then other days they aren’t and you get stopped twice between Park and Broadway. One day I’ll get a ticket because I drive like an ass trying to make the lights. Actually all the lights around here are like that. I have to change my route depending on what the lights are doing. Maybe AllisonB can explain that? Also those two lights north of the bridge are sometimes perfectly out of sync. So the first light turns green and the second turns red. That’s always fun.

    Anyway, in Michigan, where I am from, there are main arteries with lights that you can drive 50 without stopping for miles and miles. So, you’ll see a bunch of lights turn green, then 30 seconds (or a minute?), the next set turns green. So, you aren’t hell bent on speeding, you go the speed limit and you’re hell bent on not getting stopped by a light. Of course you do have to think about the cross streets with heavy volume and other factors. The problem I believe is that our wonderful city hall officials decided this didn’t need to be done because they’re idiots. Their reasoning is that it takes the same amount of time to take the side streets as Park, so there’s no reason to do anything. Yes, if two things suck, then at least one thing doesn’t suck more than the other so leave it be. Brilliant.

    What about the bikes Anthony???? You didn’t even consider them! Sorry.. couldn’t resist.

  4. I’ve been saying the same thing as Anthony for years, but definitely have concerns about how the folks traveling N/S over Park would deal with the change in traffic patterns. Folks would eventually figure it out, but we’d see a number of T-bone accidents before it really sunk in.

  5. During the 90s and early 2000’s one could drive from Maple to LB Rd at a steady 30mph and never hit a red light. Of course that necessitated staying in the middle lane and everyone driving sanely. I do not recall being able to have that ease going east, but I rarely drove that way, so I can’t be sure. I have no idea why it was changed, or if it was deliberately changed. I suspect any interruption in power would throw the whole thing out of whack.

  6. There’s six lights after Maple (start of LB on the East End) before you hit LB Blvd. The lights all change in unison, which means all traffic is either west/east or north/south. If I drive the exactly 38 mph, I can just make it in two series. I.e., the light at Maple turns green and I make it past Pacific and Roosevelt before stopping at Neptune. I wait that light cycle and then continue past Franklin and Lincoln to make it to Monroe (which, if there’s no traffic, I’m in the intersection just as it turns yellow getting to that weird midway waiting place [is there a civil engineering term for this? jersey jas jug handles and we have … ?] for my turn onto Monroe.

    The LB Blvd light isn’t in sync with the previous half dozen due to being a different sort of intersection.

    Think of the current system (ignoring intersections such as Park and LB Blvd) as being operated by one giant switch that first says “OK, all west/east traffic, go” then after two minutes says “OK, all north/south traffic, you go” then, after one minute switches back to the first flow pattern.

    Now, Anthony, I understand your proposal, you want the lights staggered. You (and all the cars with you) start moving as one light turns green. If you proceed at the posted 35 mph speed limit, magically you’ll hit every light until you get to LB Blvd and the process will continue once you get through that mess as well. Think of it as a wave of motion, anyone with you is caught in this wave where the lights are magically timed for you, like riding in a wave at … the beach!

    But what happens if I’m at LB Blvd and want to head east just as your watching your wave moving you west without interruption? I can only travel when you can, the difference is, I’m driving against the allowed patterns of motion, which means I’m getting stuck at every light or every other light at best. As you can see, this means that the staggered approach you want is beneficial for those moving in one direction down a road but detrimental for those moving in the opposite direction. (Those wishing to cross the road or enter the road from the north/south are ignored to make this a simpler argument.)

    So we have a choice, we can optimize the travel on Park Ave for those leaving LB on weekday mornings which would be going east on the east side of town and going west on the west side of town (commuters heading to the mainland for word) and weekend afternoons/evenings (beachgoers returning home to the mainland) and then change the traffic patterns to optimize Park Avenue for those entering LF on weekday evenings and weekend mornings. But either way, someone is losing.

    Or, let’s not forget our second main west/east road (and no, I’m not talking Beech Street, that’s a whole nother story), Broadway with lights that don’t seem to be on any sort of pattern and operating completely independently, much to my aggravation most days. Park Ave is optimized to travel east on the east side of LB Blvd with Broadway optimized to travel west on the east side of LB Blvd. Park Ave is optimized to travel west on the west side of LB Blvd with Broadway optimized to travel east on the west side of LB Blvd.

    On a side note, if I get stuck behind someone going 25 mph down park and know I won’t make it to Monroe in time, I turn left on to Lincoln. Sure I have to sit at that light for 5-10 seconds, but it’s still quicker than getting to Monroe only to have the light turn red, wait for it to turn green, pull into the middle waiting area while that light is red, then wait for that light to turn green.

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