Friday, March 10, 2006


I'm glad to see in this morning's paper that the officials from the City of Erie are talking with the Leaders of Millcreek. That makes a lot of sense. So, rather than forcing a merger between the two at this stage, let's begin finding ways to work together to make the region a better place to live. I support such cooperation and I still think that Lawrence Park and Wesleyville need to be included in the dialogue.

Now, as this all moves forward, one of the issues that the City of Erie still needs to address is its traffic woes. Years ago, the City invested lots of money into a study and into the subsequent installation of hundreds of "pressure pads" at just about every intersection in the City. The "pressure pad" idea is based on the notion that, if a vehicle pulls up to the pad, the light will sense the presence of that vehicle and turn the light green.

While this concept may have worked for Erie in the past, when there were fewer cars, it clearly no longer works today. First of all, it's based on the idea that you have to stop a car before you allow a car to pass, and that idea is inherently flawed. The reason they did this in the first place is because Old School Erieites complained about sitting at a red light when there was no opposing traffic. So, to solve that problem, they came up with the pressure pad idea.

But there are far too many vehicles in Erie for such a patchwork approach to continue. For example, on Wednesday of this week, I had to drive into the City. It was "go a block, stop...go a block, stop...go a block, stop..." the entire time. I'm not exaggerating. It was infuriating.

Then, yesterday, I drove from my mom and dad's on the lower East Side to my home in Millcreek. I encountered 15 lights and "made" only two of them. It sucked. It makes me want to avoid going into the City of Erie at all costs. I feel like my life is being sucked out of me as I sit at all those lights.

The best way to solve this issue is for the Mayor and City Council to declare "Rights of Way in the City of Erie" and to synchronize the lights along those routes. Pick 'em: 12th Street, 26th Street, 38th Street for east/west traffic; East Avenue, Parade, State, Peach, Liberty for north/south traffic.

People would alter their driving patterns to adjust to the Rights of Way, because they would know that as soon as they got onto one of those routes, it would be fairly smooth sailing. Lots of green lights in the City of Erie! Can you imagine it?

However, as it stands today, drivers want to take all kinds of shortcuts to avoid routes like 12th Street, because they know they will sit at light after light all the way from East Avenue to Pittsburgh Avenue. With this scenario, we have a situation where these cars are sitting on the "pressure pads" at such ridiculously minor intersections as 12th and Wayne---stopping 100 cars so that a single car can enter 12th street. It's insane and no way for a City that is trying to attract new people and new business to behave.

And if there is a school on the Right of Way, the lights should only be active during those times when students are coming to or leaving school. Otherwise, the lights should be green.

So, we need to find a way to create more green lights in the City of Erie. I've traveled all over the US and I've never seen so many red lights in my entire life. In fact, people in other cities refer to these lights as "traffic lights," whereas in Erie, people tend to refer to them as "red lights."

How about that?

Anyway, this has been a problem for some time and it needs to be addressed. No more studies, no more bullshit. Instead, the leaders need to step up, identify the Rights of Way, and synchronize the lights so that traffic can move across town. Cars might have to sit for a while to access the Rights of Way, but the payoff will be worth it.

Believe it or not, the free movement of traffic is a good thing for a city, not a bad thing. We want newcomers to be able to have free and easy access to all things Erie; we don't want them to be sitting at light after light saying, "What the hell is going on in this town?"

That's all I have for today.



Ralph said...

I recall that you had done some research on this topic a few years back, and I absolutely see nothing wrong with your argument. The problem now, of course, would be getting funding to accomplish any of this.

I do think however there has been some synchronization done on Peach Street below 26th and Sass coming the other way. Maybe I just got lucky a few times..


DocTorDee said...

You're right. There has been some synchronization. Peach Street flows pretty good, and Sass flows from 12th to 26th pretty well. Now, let's take that idea and practice it elsewhere.

Ralph said...


Can you synchronize lights flowing in two directions - for example - could 12th street by synchronized to work as both an east and west thoroughfare? It would seem to me, no. But I guess you could set it up to flow one way or the other a different times of the day - based on traffic patterns. The problem is, however, aside from 12th, I don't know that any of our streets are set up to become East/West expressways.

Your thoughts?

DocTorDee said...


How about
10th Street
18th Street
26th Street
38th Street?

These are all solid candidates for EW corridors.

And I'm not saying they have to be "expressways" in the sense that they could handle massive amounts of traffic. My thinking is that they would be more like "thoroughfares" where the lights are typically green.

For example, 10th Street would be an excellent street for an EW corridor. Green lights as often as possible from end to end. Have you driven 10th Street lately? It's awful: "Go a block, stop...go a block, stop."

It just shouldn't be that way. If you're trying to cross 10th Street in a N/S direction--at a little intersection--then you have to wait because 10th Street is a thoroughfare. Them's the berries...

I actually think this is more about getting people to think differently than it is about spending a lot of money.

And remember, we don't need two-lane traffic everywhere; instead, we need traffic to flow in and out of the City without all the stop-and-go bullshit.

I have to believe that they can program the lights on the City grid. They should begin experimenting on a street like 10th Street and see if it takes any of the load off the Bayfront.

I know that if I was at GE and I could drive smoothly across town on 12th Street, I'd take 12th rather than going dowon to the Bayfront. However, as it stands today, if I work at GE and live on the West Side or Millcreek, I'd take the Bayfront. End of story and I don't need a study to tell me that.


DocTorDee said...

Oh yes, Ralph, I didn't answer your question about synching lights in two directions. Here's my proposal: You create a ratio for the cycle that enables a net excess of green.

For example, let's turn all the lights green on 12th Street for four minutes at a time, simultaneously. This would create a string of pretty green lights as far as you could see. Then you'd have to wait two minutes for the light to change (unless you were at a major intersection) and then you'd have a crack at four full minutes of green lights once again.

Those same lights would turn red for two minutes (except at major intersections, where the lights would stay red longer so that N/S traffic could move).

Just by creating the ratio of 4 minutes green to 2 minutes red, you're not only allowing traffic to cross the thoroughfare, you're also creating a net excess of green which you can redistribute. As it stands now, the net excess is red, so no matter how you slice it, you can't get acorss town.

Of course, there would have to be some conversation with other towns in terms of how they handle that kind of thing at the nuts and bolts level.

But I think the first step is to create an abundance of green on thoss streets designated "thoroughfares" and you tune the side traffic--and the opposing thoroughfare traffic--from there.

I may be completely full of crap with these ideas, but I really think that creating an excess of green on major streets would make them into thoroughfares that would carry traffic to destinations more effortlessly.

I guess I wrote about networking for long enough to gain some insight into how to move traffic. I just hope my ideas apply to automobiles.