Could traffic signal synchronization ever happen?

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Los Angeles officials have announced a victory on that city's massive traffic problems – they claim they have managed to synchronize every one of their nearly 4,400 traffic lights. But Houston's mayor may be raining on their parade.

Mayor Annise Parker said Thursday "synchronization" is a somewhat meaningless phrase.

"We prefer to use 'optimize,'" Parker said.

In the case of Los Angeles, "synchronizing the lights" essentially means traffic signals are all tied together on a central system and signal patterns can be changed on the fly to match current traffic conditions.

Parker admitted Thursday that Houston does not currently have that capability, but nearly all of the city's traffic signals are on a predetermined and linked system.

The city of Houston is also in the midst of a "Traffic Signal Performance Improvement Program," as it is called.

The effort, started in 2009, aims to update signal timing at every one of the city's 2,300 traffic lights. The program includes intersection studies and new timing technology for traffic signals. It is slated to be completed later this year.

But Houston's public works department points out that traffic flow studies never end and lights around the city are tweaked when necessary.
If you have any questions or comments about the city of Houston's Traffic Signal Performance Improvement Program (TSPIP), contact Houston TranStar at 713-881-3172.

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