Citizen tells mayor: Get lights synchronized
Benjamin I. Feldman, a self-described "concerned Baltimorean" from Homeland, believes the traffic lights in the city are perpetually out of sychronization and wrote Mayor Stephanie Rawllings-Blake with his concerns:
Dear Mayor Rawlings-Blake:
I write to ask your assistance to improve an aspect of life in our city. Over the last several years, our traffic lights have become unsynchronized. This is especially apparent when traveling on one-way streets that in past flowed easily. At present Charles St, St Paul St, Calvert St, and Park Ave—to cite a few—have become completely hosed. A light turns green, and one moves a block for the next light to immediately turn red.
This situation is made worse by bad timing at intersections. For example, minor cross streets, that might carry little or no traffic, will hold the green for a long time while the major thoroughfare is blocked. For example, this morning I traveled downtown at 6:00 am, when traffic should have flowed well. I only have a drive of 7 miles, but even at that hour, it took 30 minutes because I went from red light to red light. Traveling south on Charles Street, the light for the entry to Mary our Queen and then for entry to Friends School, both favored the cross street for many minutes even though not a single car used the cross street. Those two lights alone consumed five minutes of the drive. While it is true that at specific hours of the day or week, these intersections are active, the activity is specifically limited; it is not 24/7.
Other timing issues are deplorable. If one travels west on Northern Parkway, the light at Falls Road is timed to favor eastbound travel. The problem is with the timing for the left turn lane. On any morning or afternoon, it takes at least five cycles of the light for westbound traffic to clear the light.
You are too young to remember that the famous “Barnes Dance” was developed in Baltimore, when our then-director of traffic pioneered the scheme for using one-way streets to allow traffic to flow smoothly. Until recently, one could begin at the southernmost foot of Calvert Street and drive all the way to Guilford without stopping once; one only needed to drive at correct speed to maintain the synchronicity. If one missed one light, one could immediately recycle into the flow. Not now, not early or late.
In my present circumstance, I work for an hourly wage. The hours I spend burning fuel at red lights do not translate into income for me or taxes for the city. Only the oil companies benefit.
Toward the end of Mayor Dixon’s tenure, the Sun reported that Baltimore had procured a new system to order our traffic flow. Clearly this office has not been staffed or has not been staffed well. The easiest way for you to confirm this is to drive around some on your own.
Good traffic flow in a city is like healthy blood flow in a body. The city is a living organic whole. They way things are at present can be improved with the application of some intelligence and talent.
I respectfully ask that you consider raising this issue with the appropriate members of your cabinet.
Benjamin I. Feldman
Feldman's concerns are well-expressed and deserve a response from the city. But one caveat to keep in mind is that nobody who gets a green ever perceived the lights as being out of sync, while those stopped at a red frequently think so. (Have you ever heard anyone complain that the green light on the street they've been traveling lasted too long?)
That being said, with the exception of the existence of bicyclists, out-of-sync lights in the city are perhaps the most common source of complaints received at Getting There. In past articles, I've passed along the candid admission from transportation officials that lights that are in sync don't necessarily stay that way because of equipment glitches and other reasons. They depend on the public to report instances where lights have ceased to work properly.
What they've told me is that primal screams about citywide problems don't help much but that specific reports about where lights are out of sync and when can alert them to problems that otherwise might have been overlooked for some time. They say that calling those reports in to 311 will get action. Readers should taken them up on that offer -- and let Getting There know if they get no response.