A Stoplight With A Countdown

Designer Damjan Stanković has proposed a stoplight with a "progress bar," the same sort of countdown that many walk signals have today. Zach Patton wonders if this is a good idea.

Patton Writes at Governing Magazine: "The idea is that, if drivers know they have a long wait, they might not be as frustrated by the wait itself. The designers also say it would allow drivers to turn off their engines for longer waits, rather than idling in place, wasting fuel and causing added pollution.

Is this something cities will want to put in place?"

Full Story: Is a Stoplight with a Progress Bar a Good Idea?




Not a good idea for America, I'd say. The driving culture / environment here is, by and large, not the same as it is in many parts of Europe; and as Streetsblog NYC mentioned when they blogged on this piece the other day, once equipped with such traffic lights many of our intersections are bound to become something akin to drag racing start lines as the last "progress bar" approaches.

Sure, drivers can sort of do the same thing already using pedestrian timers and yellow lights on the other side; but do we really want to 'officially' encourage such behavior, especially considering the potentially deadly effects this may have on slower-moving pedestrians and bicyclists?

As far as the environmental / eco aspect, I honestly don't know the answer to this question... but is turning engines off and then back on 60 or 70 or even 90 seconds later really of any benefit? I'm thinking there probably isn't much difference, if any at all, especially considering the majority of models on American roads. Of course, I could be wrong on that. But I'd be surprised.

Waste of Time and Money

The use of these types of signals assumes that the timing of certain phases remains constant throughout the day or even from cycle to cycle. For the most efficient movement of traffic many traffic planners, along with utilizing a closed loop system, will make their signals fully actualized; a side street will not be serviced if no vehicles are present.

The use of these countdown indications, unlike for pedestrian signals, will have the reverse effect of causing more frustration among drivers, and may even be used like the "christmas tree" at drag races. Drivers who regularly travel the same route to work (or wherever) know the timings of the signals. Traffic planners are best advised to spend their money elsewhere.

Countdown lights in China

Photos from 2003:


There may be some validity to the 'it won't work here' observations about US v. Europe; last year in France I was amazed at the way most drivers stop on yellow.

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