Reduce Intersection Idling 

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A challenge to Salt Lake City Mayor Becker:

Ralph Becker likes to tout himself as the environmental savior of the valley, yet his city is loaded with idling cars because of Salt Lake City’s negligence and ineptitude.

Salt Lake has well over 70 lit intersections where hundreds of cars sit idling every day. In many cases, this is obviously necessary to allow cross traffic. However, far too often, cars sit waiting for nothing, literally nothing. No cars, no pedestrians, nothing but the tyranny of a red light holds them there, polluting our already over-polluted valley.

The best solution would be a smart streetlight system such as the ones being tested in Pittsburgh and elsewhere. However, this system is expensive and still in development; many other changes are cheaper and could be done right now.

First: evening changes to two-way stops. Traffic lights are put in place because a large amount of traffic makes them advantageous over a two- or four-way stop sign. However, between midnight and 6 a.m., many of these intersections have little traffic, so why don’t we change them to two-way stops as their traffic density demands? Simply make the main direction always green and the other direction flashing yellow. Hundreds of hours of idling cars would be ended, and people would save time. Most all intersections could use this at night, and some could use it much more often, as they have very low-density traffic except at peak hours.

Second: the no-pedestrian problem. Too often, multiple cars sit waiting for pedestrians to cross when there are no pedestrians. At the intersection near my apartment, both directions flash the white walk sign along with its obnoxious bird chirp, regardless of whether someone has pushed the pedestrian button or not. So, what was the point of installing those buttons if they do nothing? Shortening the light when no pedestrian is present could save hundreds of man-hours and spare the city pollution from hundreds of hours of idling cars.

And there you have it, Mr. Becker, a challenge to help the environment. Do you accept?

Salt Lake City

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