Countdown clocks have issues, but dancing signal may be helping

Around the holiday season, I especially enjoy some of the things Warrior readers send in to brighten my inbox.

After some of the carnage they’ve seen on local streets lately, Warrior readers Don and Chris said all they want for Christmas are a few well-placed countdown signals that have been tested across the country and are in use in some cities in Asia.

You know what I’m talking about. Wouldn’t it be great if in addition to the traffic lights at busy intersections there also would be a digital countdown clock showing the number of seconds until the light changes to the next cycle?

Many motorists already have a de facto countdown clock they rely upon — the pedestrian signals on the side that tell those on foot just how much time they have to get to a safe spot when crossing the street.

Unfortunately, those aren’t always reliable because some of them go to another signal phase before turning from green to amber to red.

Many like the idea of having a countdown clock to provide better information to indecisive motorists to make the decision of whether to go through an intersection or to come to a stop.

According to transportation studies, those advocating countdown clocks should be careful for what they wish for because they might get it and a resulting bigger problem.

Countdown systems have been tested in Rockville, Md., San Jose, Calif., and Abilene, Texas. They’ve also been tried in Toronto and Abu Dhabi and installed widely in China, Malaysia and Singapore.

Researchers have studied the effect they’ve had on accident rates.

Possibly the most comprehensive report was written by the Journal for the Institute of Transportation Engineers. A paper by Hongyun Chen, Huaguo Zhou and Peter Hsu concluded that countdown clocks at intersections actually increase the number of collisions. The researchers believe the reason is that the surety that the light is going to change in 3 … 2 … 1 seconds makes motorists overconfident in their decision-making.

What usually happens is that a motorist trailing another car assumes the lead car is going pass through the intersection. So, instead of slowing down, they hit the gas and the result is a rear-end collision.

“The objective of the device is to inform a driver’s current signal status so that installing the device might have some effects on decreasing delays and increasing safety by reducing drivers’ response time,” the report said.

“It was long believed that the increased level of certainty would improve the drivers’ decision-making ability, awareness and safety. However, based on real-world data, the anticipated safety and operational benefits were not realized.”

Similar research reports made the same conclusion. There was either no difference or worse safety records at intersections featuring a countdown system.

That’s why we’re not seeing any movement to bring the devices to American cities, despite what seems like a great solution to the red-light-running problem we have in Las Vegas.

Warrior readers Fran and Dennis shared another traffic signal update that made my day.

This one came from Lisbon, Portugal, where traffic engineers were finding that pedestrians simply weren’t paying attention to the “walk” and “don’t walk” signals that were displayed in a prominent public square.

Lisbon arranged to install the Dancing Traffic Light Manikin by Smart to change that.

A YouTube video promoting the product says, “Nobody likes to wait. That makes traffic lights the most dangerous spots for pedestrians in the city.” The video then asks, “But what if we made waiting more entertaining?”

The signal showing a waiting pedestrian suddenly springs to life and begins dancing. Until the green “walk” cycle begins, the figure within the signal is showing moves that would make John Travolta proud.

The technology that makes the signal come to life is a camera in a booth near the crosswalk that captures volunteer dancers and translates their actions into pixels that are shown in real time within the signal. Volunteer dancers have their choice of several different musical genres to show off their moves.

According to Smart research, 81 percent more people stopped at the traffic signal to watch the performance before they crossed the street.

Wouldn’t this be a cool attraction here to get pedestrians’ attention, especially considering Las Vegas is the Entertainment Capital of the World?

Because the Strip is criss-crossed with overhead pedestrian walkways, it probably would make more sense to install such an attraction at the crosswalks beneath the Fremont Street Experience rather than on the Strip. Pedestrian inattention has resulted in a number of near-misses at the Fourth Street and Casino Center crossings at Fremont Street.

If downtown businesses collaborated to buy a system, they could develop an entertaining safety feature that also could become a new tourist attraction for the downtown venue.

— Questions and comments should be sent to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number. Follow the Road Warrior: @RJroadwarrior

ROAD WORK AHEAD

— The westbound lane of Twain Avenue between Nellis Boulevard and Cabana Drive will be restricted through Wednesday for sewer line construction. Westbound traffic will be shifted onto eastbound lanes from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

— Lane shifts have occurred along the northern 215 Beltway between North Fifth Street and Aliante Parkway for the construction of permanent roadway, a concrete barrier and street lights. Speed limits are reduced to 45 mph and the shift will be in effect through December.

— Work will continue through mid-January on soil and groundwater testing along highway and arterial rights-of-way for the Project Neon interchange between Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 95 and along Sahara Avenue, Charleston Boulevard, Martin Luther King Boulevard and Desert Lane. The Nevada Department of Transportation will bore 120 holes along the Project Neon corridor to ensure the security of the ground for bridge pilings. Lanes will be restricted and work will occur between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

— Work on the Regional Transportation Commission’s Flamingo Road Corridor Improvement Project will move to between Eastern Avenue and Jimmy Durante Boulevard through December. Daytime and overnight construction is scheduled. Construction will continue on the west side of Flamingo from Rainbow Boulevard to Hotel Rio Drive through fall 2016. Work will not take place on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day.

— Interstate 15 traffic has been shifted to southbound lanes at Milepost 16 in the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona for the demolition of a bridge that is being replaced. There will be a single lane in each direction of I-15, but state officials say motorists should expect delays of up to 15 minutes through December.

— Main Street traffic has been shifted to the west side of the roadway to the new pavement on the east side of the street to allow workers to begin sidewalk removal between Bridger and Bonneville avenues. Work will continue between Bonneville and the U.S. Highway 95 overpass through December.

— Lane restrictions are planned in both directions of West Charleston Boulevard between Montclair Street and Decatur Boulevard on Mondays through Thursdays from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Access to businesses may be temporarily altered and travel lanes reduced. Left-turn lanes at the intersection of Charleston and Decatur will be reduced to single lanes. Montclair will remain open, but there will be no access to or from westbound Charleston. Montclair will be restricted to right turns only onto Charleston and motorists turning from Montclair onto eastbound Charleston will only be able to turn right at Decatur. Completion is scheduled for late December.

— Westbound lanes of Patrick Lane will be restricted from Pearl Street to Pecos Road, Mondays through Fridays, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., through Dec. 30, for a water reclamation line project. Traffic will be shifted to the right lane during construction.

— A major sewer line project continues at Durango Drive-Rampart Boulevard and Cheyenne Avenue. The project will add 1.1 miles of 30- and 36-inch sewer pipe from that intersection to the Durango Hills Water Resource Center and eastward along Cheyenne past Cimarron Road. Tunnelling along the route will continue through December. Two travel lanes are expected to be maintained through the duration of the project, but Lake Mead Boulevard is recommended as an east-west alternative and Buffalo Drive is recommended for north-south traffic.

— Travel lanes will be restricted and a flagger present on a 21-mile upgrade of State Route 160, the highway between Las Vegas and Pahrump, between Mileposts 22 and 43. The project includes the addition of 14 paved median crossovers. Work is scheduled through early January, Mondays through Fridays from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Travel lanes will be open when construction isn’t occurring.

— Northbound and southbound Decatur Boulevard will be pushed to the east half of the street between Via de Palma Drive and Sahara Avenue, Mondays through Fridays through Jan. 15 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a sewer line project.

— Geotechnical exploratory drilling along the east and west sides of Interstate 15 between Sahara Avenue and U.S. Highway 95 at Martin Luther King Boulevard is scheduled during daylight hours through Jan. 15 for the Project Neon Spaghetti Bowl project. Moving lane restrictions are planned and there will be some temporary noise and vibration disruptions.

— Traffic will be restricted on Main Street between Bonneville and Hoover avenues through January for utility project. Southwest Gas pipeline relocations begun in mid-November will continue through January. Traffic will be reduced to single lanes during the work on the Main-Commerce project.

— Fifth Street in North Las Vegas is closed between Cheyenne Avenue and Losee Road through February for the construction of an overpass route that will connect Fifth to East Carey Avenue.

— Craig Road will be restricted to two lanes in each direction at Simmons Street for a water drainage project that will be completed in February.

— Restrictions will be in place through February on Lamb Boulevard between Wyoming Avenue and Vegas Valley Drive for a water pipeline rehabilitation project. Lamb will be reduced to one lane in each direction and left turns will be prohibited. Two lanes will be open in each direction during daylight hours. Work is scheduled Sundays through Thursdays, 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

— Robindale Road will be closed at Bermuda Road for sewer line construction with incremental road closures west to Gilespie Street through March 4. Construction will occur Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and closures will remain in effect while work isn’t being performed. Property access will be maintained throughout the project.

— Transit Route 109, the Maryland Parkway route, will be detoured because of road construction through April. Stops on George Crockett Road will not be served. Alternative stops are available on Routes 117 (Las Vegas Boulevard South and Silverado Ranch Road) and 217 (Warm Springs Road and downtown Henderson).

— The ramp connecting Sunset Road to the southbound Airport Connector is closed through fall 2016. Traffic lanes and shoulders will be restricted on the Airport Connector between Interstate 215 and the airport tunnel through mid-2016 for the construction of a flyover lane from the southbound connector to eastbound I-215.

GASOLINE PRICES

The average gasoline price Friday in the Las Vegas Valley was $2.53 per gallon. It was $2.49 in Nevada. The national average of $2 is down 2 cents from a week ago, down 13 cents from a month ago and down 47 cents from a year ago.

— Las Vegas Review-Journal

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