Better, cheaper solutions for traffic control

Urban planning's black eye

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In the last two columns, we looked at the runaway proliferation of traffic signals in American communities large and small — even though, contrary to myth, their installation can actually slow down traffic flow and increase accidents. We also discovered that enlightened traffic departments often find simpler means of traffic control superior to signals.

Ironically, these simple means have been around for almost a century, but they’ve been continually displaced by all the fancy hardware so profitable to signal manufacturers. Under relentless lobbying from these companies, orthodox traffic engineers have been taught to reach for complex solutions even when simple ones work better.