Over the past decade or so, I have written numerous letters to various government officials and departments concerning one needless and wasteful problem: incorrect traffic signal progression.
For those of you not familiar with the term, the concept is reasonably simple: the traffic signals along a route should change in a sequence and timing that corresponds to a vehicle traveling at the posted speed. If the posted speed is 40 mph, then you should be able to travel at 40 mph and have the traffic signals remain green. Obviously, there are factors that affect the actual progression of traffic through the signals including too many vehicles on the road, vehicles traveling too fast or too slow causing unnecessary stopping or delays, and emergency situations.
In every case, when I have written to the officials with a specific problem, I have received either no response, a snooty response or one that says the problem is really, really, really difficult, but every available person is working on the problem. In truth, millions of dollars have been spent on the issue, but with strangely little improvement.
In the Detroit Metropolitan area, there are about 5 million people... maybe 6 million. If there are 1 million vehicles on the road each day and they travel, on average, 30 miles per day, that is 30 million miles traveled in just this area. Typically, stop and start travel consumes about 30% more gasoline than steady-speed travel. Let's assume for argument sake that of the 30 million miles traveled, 15 million miles are over roads controlled by traffic signals. Let's further assume that the average mileage for these vehicles is 15 mpg (we have small cars to large trucks).
That gives us 1 million gallons of fuel used for the roads with traffic signals.
Now let's presume that the traffic signals are poorly timed for half of those miles. That's 1/2 million gallons of fuel used. If the mileage were improved to 19.5 mpg by steady-speed driving over those roads, then instead of 500,000 gallons of fuel used, the consumption would be 385,000 gallons. That is a savings of 115,000 gallons @ $2.30 per gallon or $264,000 PER DAY.
That's almost $100,000,000 of waste per year or about 42,000,000 gallons of fuel used unnecessarily JUST IN THE DETROIT AREA. Even if these estimates are somewhat high, the message is obvious:
It would seem that somewhere we can find $1 or 2 million to address this problem just a little more.