Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Signal Timing, Trip Sensors, Waiting to Walk + A LOT MORE!

March 24, 2014 · 24 comments

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 trafficjammin@claycord.com.

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.

–TOB

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?

—Frank, too

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.

—Anon777

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.

–RunnerDope

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 trafficjammin@claycord.com

1 Anon777 March 24, 2014 at 2:10 PM

Thank you Jammer! So glad to see these getting addressed and fixed!

2 funny man March 24, 2014 at 2:39 PM

how many on the MTC also work/consult/get ‘donations’ from/own stocks in the refineries or oil companies cuz if i go exactly the speed limit on any of the long stretch roads, treat, clayton, etc, i hit EVERY red light and seems like i’m waiting LONGER at those red lights. so i just go 5-10 over and im only stuck at every 3rd to 5th light AND even at that speed people are passing me.

3 anonanonagain March 24, 2014 at 2:47 PM

It’s great that they will be re-timing those lights. I am sure that it is very frustrating for commuters in the morning. I’m well aware of all the traffic that surrounds me, as I live in the Canterbury Village area and see the impact every day.
They seem to take the Lancelot and Gladstone streets to cut through to Cowell. I see the cars zooming through my neighborhood and this is worrying as they forget there is a speed limit. This is very alarming, since many do not respect that these are residential streets and not a freeway. Almost every day, I’m not exaggerating, people speed through and barely glance or stop to see if there is any traffic that have the right of way or perhaps people backing out of their driveways, such as myself.
Our neighborhood has way too many intersections without stop signs and too many people think that means they can fly on through without nary a glance.
I understand that they are frustrated but I am tired of the aggravated, amped up drivers who tear through our streets. Slow down people and respect our neighborhood!!!…..please.

4 ClayDen March 24, 2014 at 2:56 PM

Yesterday evening, I was driving west on Ygnacio Valley (past Cowell), and at the point where the speed limit drops from 55 to 45, I was in the number one lane behind two cars going side by side; all of us were slowing and were down around 50mph. Then here comes this idiot (IMHO) on a loud motorcycle (sounded like a Harley) and he “lane splits” right between the two cars in front of me. I’m guessing he was going about 70-75mph as he went between the two cars. It would have been a nice time for a police officer to be there. And the lane splitters wonder why they have a bad name?

5 Taxpayer March 24, 2014 at 3:30 PM

In the interest of public disclosure, and as required by law, California cities are obligated to make public their compensation packages. You can check these for yourself at http://www.transparentcalifornia.com

Mr. Raed Kuzbari, received $127K in salary in 2012 and a total benefits package of another $65K, bringing the total compensation package to $193K for 2012. It was $181K in 2011. You can’t blame him for accepting a compensation package of this size, I would too. He simply agreed to the package offered. A taxpayer might think there are others who can do the same job for much, much less and still be perfectly qualified, or better qualified.

TJammer: Who authorizes the compensation package of the Transportation Manager?

Thank you!

6 uh1vce160 March 24, 2014 at 3:37 PM

Why the hell is the MTC evolved? That’s just going to screw things up more.
Leave local issues to the locals.

7 Jim Shoes March 24, 2014 at 3:46 PM

Clayton Rd. Is a mess. Thank goodness they are retiming those lights.

8 BagsFlyFree March 24, 2014 at 3:59 PM

Jammer.. Can we open some discussion on pedestrian safety on Concord’s main beaten paths without traffic lights?

Crosswalk technology has been improved for years now to alert drivers to crossing pedestrians (mainly flashing pavement markers and wide pedestrian markings). Can we get an explanation as to why Concord refuses to fund these installations at intesections where people have to cross traffic that exceed 40 mph? It seems like we prefer an either or approach with an entire stoplight or talking crosswalks/flashing overhead lights.

Thanks,
BFF

9 just a concordian March 24, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Wow… I am awfully surprised at the ME ME ME ME ME demands. Everyone wants their lights fixed. Faster, faster faster.
It seems timing the lights properly isn’t an easy job. I can understand many people complaining about one or two particular traffic lights, but to have several people all want different lights changed, it is just way too much. Retiming those lights will throw other lights out of whack, so then others will complain about those lights.
I’m all for a better and smoother drive around town but this is way too much, way too selfish and way too inconvenient for the public at large just so that some folks can have their 5 minute snooze.

10 Hate to Complain But.... March 24, 2014 at 4:34 PM

Thank you Traffic Jammer for the updates. Traffic has been wonderful since the middle of last week and today at least. I appreciate the difficulty in timing so many lights. It just seemed like it got bad all of a sudden. Then, all of a sudden it got better. :)

11 Can't we just March 24, 2014 at 4:39 PM

make all the lights green, all the time?

12 techno babble March 24, 2014 at 5:36 PM

I’m reading that concord’s traffic system is old and can’t do what a moderately priced PC could do, not running windows. It seams to me that a hybrid system would offer up the best of both worlds. If the commute program says stay green and the road sensors aren’t detecting any traffic at a given number of lights then go to on demand. After all this is just a logic problem with a specific set of rules.
For those of you that scoff at how trivial I’m making this sound, think about what goes into the programming of a modern POV shooting game and the fact that that game can be played single player or with lots of people across the world, all running on quad core processor running at a couple gigahertz, only costing a few hundred dollars.

13 nytemuvr March 24, 2014 at 5:41 PM

@ClayDen #4 & any F1 fans
If you haven’t seen Ron Howard’s movie “Rush” about the F1 circuit back in the 70s and the rivalry between James Hunt and Nicki Lauda, I highly recommend it. It’s the best movie I’ve seen for a long time. I was fortunate enough to see Lauda and Mario Andretti race in Long Beach in ’83.
Sorry about the lane splitter, not all of “us” do that.

14 ClayDen March 24, 2014 at 6:07 PM

@ nytemuvr

I tried to see it when it was at the theaters, but missed. I see it’s now out on Blu-ray, so I’m going to get it. I’ve been following F1 since 1963, and I got to Long Beach on Saturday in 1979, but couldn’t stay for the race. I did make it to Austin in 2012, and am seriously considering going again in 2015. Four of us rented a minivan and drove non-stop both ways; we put 4,000 miles on the minivan in a week and had a great time. I thought about it this year, but my schedule is too busy around race weekend. My five year plan includes Monza and Spa. I especially want to go to Monza and “hang with the tifosi.” I never saw Lauda, but did see Mario, Gurney, Clark, Surtees and others at Laguna Seca.

This season got off to an interesting start; I hope Ferrari can make it to the top. Malaysia practice is 11PM this Thursday.

15 Julio March 24, 2014 at 7:13 PM

My comment also, what the hell does MTC have to do with traffic/lights?

They screw everything up as it is.

16 crazytech58 March 24, 2014 at 8:43 PM

Have to chime in on the signal at sixth street and concord blvd., as noted by others….. after 7 pm, have seen the light turn green for concord blvd traffic and within 3 seconds, turn red again if there is a car at the trip sensor for sixth street. Has fooled a few people, myself included, as you start to move, and you are perhaps the 4th car back…… and a red light is staring at you !!

17 nytemuvr March 24, 2014 at 9:41 PM

@ClayDen #14
Timer is set on the DVR already for the race. They sure are different this year….no more buzzing bee engines…sad, lots of new tech which is pretty cool. Used to hit Laguna Seca fairly often back in my younger years, hop on the bike and go, and never split a lane. The movie has stock footage of the old races…it’s more of a docu-drama. I was 9 in ’63, but if there was a car race on TV, I’d be glued….unless Dad was watching the regular sports, which was always seems like.

18 ClayDen March 24, 2014 at 10:19 PM

@ nytemuvr 17

Indycar kicks off Sunday in St. Pete also.

19 Mimi (original) March 25, 2014 at 12:08 PM

thank you for the (always) informative column Traffic Jammer! I love reading that others are experiencing frustrations similar to (or the same!) as mine! Love that you have a great relationship with Kuzbari, what would we do without him?

20 MTC Issue March 25, 2014 at 12:38 PM

Years ago, I called up the city of WC to ask them why when you come down from Geary Rd. to Treat Blvd that the lights by the freeway and the BART station are never timed.

I was told that the city of WC handles some of the lights and the MTC or County is responsible for the ones close to the BART station.

21 Janis Mara March 25, 2014 at 2:12 PM

@MTC Issue #20, thank you for contributing your knowledge! That’s one of the greatest things about Claycordians – really appreciate your sharing.

@Mimi (original) #19, your’e welcome! I’m glad the lights are going to be re-timed. @Hate to Complain But… , so glad there has been progress!

Will gather up the new questions and see what I can find out, all.

22 Anonymous March 26, 2014 at 8:51 AM

Concord needs to focus on fixing the timing of the lights between 680 and Reganti on Monument Blvd. EVERY afternoon traffic is backed up in to the intersection at the bottom of the 680 ramps as drivers creep from red light to red light. These backups are NOT created by “school traffic” either, as it is worst on Saturday and Sunday.

23 Me-Me, it's all about Me March 26, 2014 at 1:57 PM

Janis, it is the East and Bacon, and East and Almond crosswalks.

And,Just a Concordian, I do believe I deserve more consideration as I have choosen to walk, not drive, both for my health and your environment

(TIC).

24 Lyle Burks March 31, 2014 at 12:11 PM

This is probably the 12th time I have asked for this. When will the City of Concord provide “conditional service” for the left off of Clayton Rd onto West St???????? It is a function provided at other city intersections. Having 40years in “traffic”, I know that it can/will improve the capacity/volume of traffic using the intersection more effectively.

Since the City is doing a traffic study to improve the signal timing/coordination for all the signals in the City, it would be nice it they would include this in their evaluations.

Your Majesty, I know you have never heard of this before, but maybe you have connections to someone who can provide it, or at least tell us why it is NOT being provide.

Long live the Queen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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