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News Link • Transportation

In Attempt To Break Gridlock, Los Angeles Becomes First City To Synchronize Every Streetlight

• Rebecca Boyle via

It’s amazing how frustrating it can be to drive in L.A. Superhighways are jam-packed, cars crawl along in the worst rush hour of your life even though it’s only 2 p.m., and yet no one rides the scary subway. Last summer, it took me two solid hours to travel 28 miles--and that was on the highway, following a route Google said should take maybe 35 minutes.

L.A. officials are trying to do better, however, and they recently finished a decades-long project to synchronize all of its traffic lights.

It took city planners 30 years to build up the system, at a cost of more than $400 million, but L.A.’s Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control system is unique in its size and scope. The New York Times reviews its highlights:

Magnetic sensors in the road at every intersection send real-time updates about the traffic flow through fiber-optic cables to a bunker beneath downtown Los Angeles, where Edward Yu runs the network. The computer system, which runs software the city itself developed, analyzes the data and automatically makes second-by-second adjustments, adapting to changing conditions and using a trove of past data to predict where traffic could snarl, all without human involvement.

It automatically adjusts to account for issues at individual intersections, and it changes light timing to accommodate buses if they’re running behind. Without the system, it takes 20 minutes on average to drive 5 miles in L.A. With the system, that drops to 17.2 minutes, according to the NYT.


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