Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Every Monday at 2pm on Claycord.com.
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Greetings, all! This Claycord.com column is for everyone who negotiates the highways and public transit of the Bay Area. It runs every Monday at 2pm and answers your commuting and transportation questions.
Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Beloved Claycordians, the Jammer published a complaint about the signal timing at Cowell Road turning onto Ygnacio Valley Road in Concord last week, and a tsunami of Concord-traffic-light-related complaints broke loose in response.
Along with the individual complaints, TOB asked the meta-question, “Why does the city keep messing up the lights? Claycordians want answers!”
Here are some answers to the questions asked last week – plus, some great news from Concord Traffic Czar Kuzbari:
“We are going to re-time the Treat Boulevard corridor. We are re-timing 80 traffic lights,” Kuzbari said. “We are working with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to update the signal timings so that the system is more efficient and traffic flows more smoothly. The project is scheduled to be completed in June.”
Here are the streets/intersections that will be re-timed:
- Diamond Boulevard/Burnett Avenue
- Concord Avenue between Diamond Boulevard and Laguna Street
- Willow Pass Road between I-680 NB off-ramp and Sutter Street
- Clayton Road between Market Street and Ellis Street
- Clayton Road between Sixth Street and Alberta Way
- Treat Blvd between Bel Air Drive and Winton Drive
- Monument Boulevard between Cowell Road and Mohr Lane
- Cowell Road/Mesa Street
- Concord Boulevard between Parkside Drive and Ayers Road
- Oak Grove Road between Whitman Dr and Minert Rd
Hopefully, these planned changes will address some of Claycordians’ concerns.
Now, let’s move on to the complaints readers made in the comments last week.
COMMUTER: Why doesn’t Concord use trip sensors on weekends on Clayton Road? They leave them timed 24/7 – 7 days a week. Sucks on weekends having to make a left turn on Clayton to wait forever and no traffic.
TRAFFIC JAMMER: There are two traffic control systems under discussion here. One is, as TOB said, trip sensors. When you drive up to a traffic light, often you’ll see one or even two or four circles in the asphalt just before, and beneath, the light. This is because trip sensors are embedded there.
The sensor detects, or senses, when a vehicle is above it, and sends a signal that is transmitted to the traffic light. This triggers, or trips, the mechanism that tells the light to change (if it’s red) so the vehicle can proceed.
The second approach is signal coordination. With this approach, the traffic lights on a main road, also known as an arterial, are set to turn green in sequence so oncoming vehicles get a continuous series of green lights. This is the traffic control system of choice when large numbers of cars are driving down main roads and need to flow smoothly.
TOB wants trip sensors to rule on Clayton Road on weekends, rather than signal coordination. Traffic Czar Ray Kuzbari responded:
“We do have signal coordination even on weekends. People are out shopping, running errands and going to various events. We want to make sure traffic flows smoothly.” However, Kuzbari added, “The hours in which signal coordination are in effect on Clayton Road are limited to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.”
Even when signal coordination is in effect, as Claycordians already know, that doesn’t mean the main street will have a green light all the time. It just means the main street will have a green light the lion’s share of the time.
COMMUTER: At 6:30 to 6:45 a.m., on East Street by the hospital after pushing the crosswalk light, with no traffic coming either direction for a couple blocks I can wait for the “white man walking” signal for a good 2-3 minutes. Is there some kind of sensor in these buttons that may need adjusting?
I generally will become a jaywalker in the morning because there’s no traffic that’s anywhere close to me.
—Pedestrian Through Downtown Concord
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Kuzbari said, “I suspect this is related to the fact that signals on East Street are synchronized to allow traffic to flow without stopping.” This means vehicles on side streets and pedestrians crossing East Street have to wait a bit longer during commute times.
PTDC, Kuzbari wanted to know if this is happening right at the hospital, at East and Almond? Let the Jammer know where it’s happening and the Traffic Czar will check to make sure the signal is functioning properly.
COMMUTER: (Addressing Pedestrian Through Downtown Concord) This must be the exception to the rule. In my daily commute all along Clayton road (inbound, around 6:45 a.m.) the smooth flow of traffic is of no importance when it comes to pedestrian crossing interruptions.
Never mind that there is a long stream of traffic approaching, let’s stop it to allow a lone pedestrian to cross at his convenience. Same applies to cross street traffic, especially side street traffic making a right turn onto Clayton Road. These scenarios seem to repeat all over town. How hard would a little coordination be?
Hey, Janis, how about putting a bug in Mr. Kuzbari’s ear about this?
TRAFFIC JAMMER: FT, as AOL used to put it, your message has been sent. The Jammer shared your concern with the Traffic Czar. Are there any specific side streets you had in mind where the flow of traffic gets impeded during commute times?
If you read PTDC and FT’s comments, you get a good idea of the balancing act Kuzbari and other traffic engineers must perform. “Commuters coming from out of town get mad because they feel they should be able to drive without stopping, while the pedestrians who live in Concord feel they shouldn’t have to wait for people who don’t even live in Concord,” Kuzbari said.
COMMUTER: I drive down Treat every morning at 5:40 am from Clayton Road to Oak Road. Every single day I get stopped at two intersections without fail. First, the intersection of Cowell Road and Treat, even if there is no traffic waiting and it’s too long of a green for Cowell crossing Treat.
Even worse is the intersection at Bancroft, which again, will turn green for Bancroft even if no one is waiting (turn lanes included!). While there is generally more traffic around this intersection, the people on Treat at the light wait FOREVER for the green while all cross traffic is gone. Seems to me that the main drag should have the longer green than the side streets moving on to it.
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Noting that the Treat and Bancroft intersection is in Walnut Creek, Kuzbari acknowledged of Treat and Cowell, “That is a very congested crossing,” adding that help is on the way — the re-timing of the lights mentioned earlier is aimed at solving this problem.
COMMUTER: By any chance has the timing of the lights at Clayton Road and Ygnacio been altered? It seems like traffic coming from Marsh Creek Road the past two weeks has had to wait longer to get through the intersection. Traffic has been backed up more and it takes about 7 minutes longer to get the kids to the high school. Just curious as I know we can leave 7 minutes earlier if they can wake up.
–Hate to complain but…
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Kuzbari and his staff have been working on this problem for some time, the Traffic Czar told the Jammer. “We sent technicians and engineers to see if the equipment was functioning properly because we knew there was a problem,” Kuzbari said.
The testing confirmed that the signal was working right, so now, “we are looking for ways to improve coordination between the two signals,” he said. “We are looking at tinkering with the timing to improve coordination.”
COMMUTER: I mentioned the light on Concord Boulevard at Sixth Street *** AFTER 7 P.M. *** before and RayK made a joke about it being right near his work, but he never fixed it. Concord Boulevard traffic can only get three or four cars through before it goes green again for Sixth Street traffic. I’ve had to wait through three light cycles before getting through.
TRAFFIC JAMMER: “We will check the signal. I’ll have someone look at it,” Kuzbari promised. The Jammer will report back as soon as there is any news, RunnerDope.
Beloved Claycordians, there were a lot of questions last week on this topic. If your question was overlooked, please don’t hesitate to speak up again.
Also, there were many follow-up questions about the answer to Daily Bridge Crosser’s question, “How does the FasTrak system or bridge authority for the Benicia Bridge know if I actually have three people in my car when passing through in the carpool lane?”
Next week’s column will feature California Highway Patrol Officer Daniel Hill’s answer to the follow-up questions. Since this column is already longer than the tail of Haley’s Comet, I figured I’d save Officer Hill’s answer for the next one.
TRAFFIC JAMMER: That’s it for this week – see you next Monday. Be sure to cruise by Claycord.com at 2pm for more traffic intelligence. Remember, whether you drive, walk, bike or hop Amtrak, BART or AC Transit, Traffic Jammer Janis Mara is here to answer your questions.
Send your questions to email@example.com