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Old 03-13-2009, 04:19 PM   #1 (permalink)
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America's Red-Light District & 38 mpg CAFE

I've been reflecting on a document I've had since 1993.It's from the Texas' Governor's Office.In brief,a hand full of oil companies were found guilty of price violations,they were fined,to the the tune of some millions of dollars,and since the state didn't know how to reimburse every motorist who'd paid too much for fuel,they tried to spend the money on programs that would help everyone in the state.

The funds came from the Oil Overcharge Restitution Act.Here's what caught my eyes.

Traffic signal lights were synchronized across many towns and cities in Texas.After a period of assessment,it was discovered that for every dollar spent on traffic light synchronization,the citizens got back $ 62 worth of benefit,in the form of saved time,conserved fuel,cleaner air,fewer collisions,lower insurance premiums,lower health-care expenditures,etc.

Let me repeat myself.You put in a dollar,you get 62 dollars back,tax-free,guaranteed.

The nut-case that I am,I started pushing buttons on the calculator to see what this sort of thing might mean.

From my own mpg profile,on,let's say the T-100,I know that it performs best on the highway (36-mpg ),but I get beat up in town ( 21-mpg ).At in-town speeds,the truck is capable of 41-mpg.

In a technical world,as I approach town,a computer display might present a prompt,displaying the proper speed to "make" the first light.If I "made" the first light,it would be possible to synchronize all the following lights,such that I "made" every other light,until I either arrived at my destination,or changed direction.

In this scenario,my "city" mpg goes from 21 to 41,a 95 % increase.With the 55%/45% EPA City/Highway protocol,my "combined" mpg would increase from 27.7 mpg,to 38.75 mpg.That's a 39 % increase in mileage without any changes to the vehicle whatsoever.

If present CAFE standards are presently 27.5 mpg,by synchronizing traffic lights,the "effective" CAFE is raised to 38.4 mpg,with virtually zero modifications to the cars on the road today.

A modest proposal would be to freeze any new safety or emissions requirements for new cars for say 12-years,and divert all this related money for R&D,tooling,manufacturing,and integration,to municipalities for traffic light synchronization.

The air quality would improve faster than with emission controls, do to the doubling in in-town fuel economy.Billions of dollars now wasted at traffic lights could go into the economy.Carbon dioxide emissions would be cut in half in town,accident rates would go down,insurance rates would go down.Emergency room visits would go down.US reliance on foreign oil would fall remarkably.Marines,soldiers,and airmen would not be placed in harm's way,escorting foreign oil shipments at no cost to multi-national oil companies,with costs borne by citizens who don't even drive or own a car.

After 12-years we could see where we're at.Simple math dictates that we'd be trillions of dollars ahead.Jobs,schools,hospitals,parks,homes,new cars,etc.,now going up in smoke at red lights.How the U.S. ever hopes to compete in a global marketplace with behavior like this is beyond me.

I say it's time we lay off the automakers and allow their products to perform as they will,if allowed to operate in an environment not scuttled by the impotence of our elected officials.You take our tax dollars to pay traffic engineers,what do we get for it? It's the $ 62 question.

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Old 03-13-2009, 04:48 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The lights in Chicago have been timed for as long as I can remember. I've seen it crop up in many citys for a long time. People still drive like ijits though.
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Old 03-13-2009, 04:52 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Phil, would you please post the document or at least give us the title so we can hunt for it on line?

Thanks a bunch.
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Old 03-13-2009, 04:54 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I don't agree that we should take pressure off the mfgs. As we know, there are tons of things they could do to cars to make them more efficient.

I do agree about looking at stop lights though! These could really be looked at and optimized to decrease tons of waste as Phil stated. Out of the five lights I go through each day, there are two that are programmed horribly. One changes directions every 10 seconds, and only allows one way to go at once with a left hand turn light. There are ALWAYS people waiting there. The other light isn't quite as bad, but it changes after a long time (1 minute?) in each direction. It is a bit smarter and only uses the left turn lights when needed, but it still gets me often enough.
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Old 03-13-2009, 04:59 PM   #5 (permalink)
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document

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Originally Posted by TestDrive View Post
Phil, would you please post the document or at least give us the title so we can hunt for it on line?

Thanks a bunch.
TestDrive,the place here where I use the computer will be closed tomorrow,but I'll grab the thing from home and post the details Monday.I may have a copy of it in my photo archive,but the print may be too small to discern all the characters.
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Old 03-13-2009, 05:19 PM   #6 (permalink)
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pressure

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Originally Posted by Daox View Post
I don't agree that we should take pressure off the mfgs. As we know, there are tons of things they could do to cars to make them more efficient.

I do agree about looking at stop lights though! These could really be looked at and optimized to decrease tons of waste as Phil stated. Out of the five lights I go through each day, there are two that are programmed horribly. One changes directions every 10 seconds, and only allows one way to go at once with a left hand turn light. There are ALWAYS people waiting there. The other light isn't quite as bad, but it changes after a long time (1 minute?) in each direction. It is a bit smarter and only uses the left turn lights when needed, but it still gets me often enough.
I was hoping the post would provoke a discussion and certainly I'm fully vested in the notion of pushing the auto envelope.I've witnessed a number of fatal collisions here that were provoked by an innocent motorist who ventured out into an intersection as the light turned green,only to be creamed by somebody caught by the red light,sailing through.It's a tremendous safety issue that nobody around here discusses,and from my post,the economic and environmental impacts are obvious.With CAFE at 27.5mpg standard,the actual fleet mpg for the U.S. is only 22 mpg.Most of the difference is in congestion.A large chunk of the congestion is "caused" by traffic engineers.I think they should be held to the same standards as automakers.In fact I think the American Automobile Manufacturers Association should bring a class-action law suit against Texas D.O.T..and federal standards should be enacted for any state that thinks it can run a highway dept.The cost are too great to allow this thing to gain any more traction.Perhaps university-trained engineers should be banned from such positions,and we bring in 2nd-graders.They probably have the wherewithal to fix everything.Okay,rant over.
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Old 03-13-2009, 05:20 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Thanks, Phil.

Having mulled this over for 10 minutes now. Traffic lights broadcast standardized timing data to an Intelligent GPS (programmed with a route to a destination) that operates the cruise control. Driver over-rides in the usual manner (tap brakes or cruise control to off).
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Old 03-13-2009, 05:31 PM   #8 (permalink)
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TestDrive -

Sounds like the Audi travolution experiment :

HowStuffWorks "How Audi's Travolution Device Will Work"
Quote:
Intelligent transportation systems involve numerous technologies, some already widespread, others merely developing. On the infrastructure side, intelligent traffic lights play a major role in keeping vehicles flowing along, and feature prominently in Audi's Travolution system. The city of Ingolstadt boasted 46 intelligent traffic lights during the summer of 2008, with plans for 50 more throughout the city. These lights are networked together, which reduces stopping time for vehicles. Again, the idea is not to simply create clockwork barriers for traffic to filter through, but to manage the flow of traffic for maximum efficiency.

The Travolution system also features an intelligent vehicle component, and this is where the system really appeals to hypermilers. The traffic lights don't merely communicate with each other; they communicate with the vehicles themselves -- in this case, specially augmented Audis. During the summer of 2008, the company had two vehicles on the road, but plans to add an additional 20 vehicles.
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Old 03-13-2009, 06:26 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Why do we even use redlights and stop signs anyways? On a trip to Europe I first got to experience traffic circles and roundabouts and I have to tell you it was a joy. Since then my city has seen fit to install some "traffic circles" too, but most turned out to be small traffic calmers on the side streets. There is one larger roundabout just a few blocks from my house and so far even the famously bad drivers of Vancouver have not had any trouble using it.
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Old 03-13-2009, 06:58 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ai_vin View Post
Why do we even use redlights and stop signs anyways? ...traffic circles and roundabouts... I have to tell you it was a joy.
Widely in use here as well.
The usual "keep it moving" tactic is employed by most drivers ( apart from the usual small percentage who seem to have little idea of anything going on around them ) and round abouts facilitate this very well.

Speeds may be slow but complete stops can usually be avoided to the benefit of FE but in established areas the traditional lights arrangement still prevails.

Round abouts are better for cars and occupants in decreasing the damage done in accidents as well.
The vehicles hit at an angle less than 90 degrees usually and the impact is much less severe.
In addition round abouts have better vision for the most part too.

There can be few things more frustrating than sitting at a red light with one or two other cars and no cross traffic or pedestrians waiting fro the change.

I hate "dumb" technology. If I want that I can operate my washing machine since they are about the same level and that heap of junk is around fifteen years old !


Pete.

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