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What if Kingston…

Traffic signal synchronization I live and work downtown most days but twice a week I have to make the dreaded drive to Kingston’s west end.  It shouldn’t be a long drive but it is because on average, I hit pretty much every single red light along the way.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could drive from one end of town to the other without having to stop on every block?  What if Kingston synchronized its traffic lights? It is actually possible but for some reason we just haven’t caught on here in Kingston.  Timed traffic lights are an easy solution to grid lock and congestion and is something that has been implemented in many cities in North America including Hamilton, Toronto and countless cities in the United States.  With our goal towards being Canada’s Most Sustainable City, reducing traffic congestion is something we should be putting on our priority list.

The benefits of synchronized traffic signals include:

  • Improved air quality and reduction in fuel consumption
  • Reduced congestion
  • Saving time for everyone including commercial and emergency vehicles, buses and the public
  • Fewer severe accidents occur with smoother traffic flow with less stopping
  • Less aggressive driving and red light running
  • Postponing or eliminating the need for construction to accommodate additional capacity, thereby saving money

Many cities in The United States have already implemented the use of timed traffic signals, seeing significant benefits.   According to a video released by FedFlix, a state-wide re-timing program in California showed a 7% reduction in travel time, a 15% reduction in delay and 9% in savings in fuel usage with a benefit/cost ratio of 58:1.  Abiline, Texas, a small urban area comparable in population to Kingston, saw a 13% reduction in travel time, a 37% reduction in delay and a 6% reduction in fuel usage.  While the numbers speak for themselves, the benefits of signal re-timing are not limited to cost and time saving.  John Poorman, Staff Director of the Capital District Transportation Committee in the US commented:

Appreciated benefits are those that allow pedestrians to cross the street, allow the side street’s traffic to get out, and just produce a more pleasant environment.  Those can’t be quantified as easily as the vehicle hours but are equally as important to the community.

While 2-4 million dollars is certainly a large amount of money, compared to other projects, it is a reasonable cost to put towards improving the overall quality of life of Kingstonians.  Timed traffic signals are being used in many Canadian  cities as well, including Hamilton, Toronto and Richmond, BC, so why not Kingston?  Our history has given us an infrastructure that does not allow for easy widening of roads, eliminating that option in many parts of the city.  Traffic signal synchronization, however, is an easy, cost effective measure that could help get people around town more quickly and easily while reducing emissions and simply making people happier.

Below is a video of the drive through Hamilton from Dundas to Stoney Creek (close to 30km), stopping for only two red lights along the way.  Having done this drive myself hundreds of times, I can attest to the fact that it is as glorious as it looks.  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to do that here?

Thanks to Ted & Dani for today’s pic.

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Danielle Lennon

Danielle Lennon is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. She was the Editor, Community Event Coordinator and Contributor at-large (2008-2018). She is otherwise employed as a section violinist with the Kingston Symphony, violin teacher, studio musician and cat lover. Learn more about Danielle...

8 thoughts on “What if Kingston…

  • October 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm
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    This is probably because you are taking princess street from downtown fighting the traffic that the already timed traffic lights are optimizing. Take Brock out of downtown because surprise surprise it’s optimized for west bound traffic because it is the only direction you can go. Don’t expect the world to change for your convenience.

    • October 31, 2013 at 10:42 am
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      Oh, I don't try to fight the traffic on Princess to get out of downtown. I assume you're referring to the section between Division and Bath. I always avoid that stretch. I leave downtown via Brock or Concession. I was more referring to Bath Rd from the Kingston Centre to Bayridge and Princess St. from about Sydenham Rd. to Bayridge as areas where timed lights could be a real benefit to the city – the whole city, not just my convenience.

      • October 31, 2013 at 1:23 pm
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        The issue in traffic engineering is that you need to know what direction the majority of traffic is going. If the majority of traffic is traveling east in the morning the lights will by timed to allow them the fastest travel. It isn’t possible to time it so both directions always have green lights. There is quite a bit that goes into traffic engineering.

        • October 31, 2013 at 1:37 pm
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          Of course there is, and of course traffic patterns have to be examined first, but it's being done elsewhere so it's clearly possible to make some improvements. Just because something is difficult doesn't mean we can't discuss it.

  • November 1, 2013 at 12:08 pm
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    I think it would interesting to know how the City of Kingston's traffic lights are programmed or otherwise timed. I am sure not all of them are programmed beyond the "normal" cycle, and there may very well be times throughout the day where programmed lights revert to the normal schedule as well. Perhaps sharing which lights are timed with the public would allow the city to create faster/express routes in and out of certain areas at peak commute times.

    A tool I can't wait to have access to is the up to date traffic conditions via Google Maps. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the city is the only one who can supply this information to Google.

    • November 5, 2013 at 11:09 am
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      The inner workings of Kingston's traffic systems lights, is something I have given considerable thought to on my daily ins, and outs of the downtown core. The only conclusion I am able to come to is that it must be operated from one moment to next by an intricate network of drunken monkeys.

  • November 3, 2013 at 7:57 am
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    I agree that Kingston must be able to do better with light synchronization. So many times I have gone from red light to red light, e.g. on Gardiner or Bath road. While we're discussing this, the next step will be to have road sensors/cameras so that traffic can be monitored and traffic lights adjusted accordingly in real time.

  • November 18, 2013 at 7:05 pm
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    Hi Kingstonist, not sure where to post this but there is some important news happening in Kingston that you have missed. Tomorrow night (Tuesday)Council will be reconsidering bike lanes on upper Princess. Yes, and you probably thought this was all over. Certain councillors have been playing political games behind the scenes silencing public health and sustainable kingston to stay out of the way. So I encourage everyone to email or call the mayor and council before tomorrow to show your support for bike lanes. If you don't participate now don't be surprised when the bike lanes get pulled from the plan. I had been hoping the Kingstonist would be presenting the other side of the storey from the conservative/unprogressive writings of the Whig.

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