0277: "Long Light"

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danbeale
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Postby danbeale » Fri Jun 15, 2007 12:42 pm UTC

I used to work in sub-contract engineering. We built some equipment for a company that makes UK pedestrian crossings. I am now terrified whenever I cross the road; I know what our build 'quality' was like. :-(

But: If I designed 'push to cross' systems I'd easter-egg in some cross now morse code.

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Postby Iluvatar » Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:03 pm UTC

"If I designed 'push to cross' systems I'd easter-egg in some cross now morse code."

I'm glad I'm not the only engineer who never really payed attention in the mandatory ethics courses.
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Postby Elfer » Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:05 pm UTC

Alcari wrote:
rglenn wrote:
Mighty Jalapeno wrote:
Structural engineer wrote:Those extra pieces of rebar cost a lot less then the time I ahve to spend modeling and checking the results


From that moment on, I feel a lot less safe inside.


Doesn't seem that unsafe. You just take the upper bound of a Fermi problem and exceed it to make sure you have redundant strength.

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Postby Panda Pants » Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:25 pm UTC

...and now every frustrated engineer can think 'i wonder if somebody will think about me when they look at this'...

It would be a fun thing though, a searchable site where engineers can post up a 'why this is so' for various things. Most things would be stopped by patents held by their employer though, and other such non-disclosure business.

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Postby _codeMonkey » Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:37 pm UTC

I'll admit to getting frustrated when no matter how many times you hit the "walk" button, the light won't even start to change until a car pulls up, going the same direction as you.
I walk everywhere, so long lights just prompt jaywalking.
(And even EXTREME JAYWALKING. It's like a city-wide sport.)

There is nothing I hate more than when someone pushes the buttons and then walk anyway before the light changes. I say this as someone who walks more than he drives.

After getting that off my chest, i frequently think about how complicated it must be to time traffic lights correctly

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Postby sidelined_indefinitely » Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:48 pm UTC

Along the same lines...
I find myself annoyed with whoever designes the seating layout on public transportation buses. Every time I ride one I find myself coming up with five or six different ways to arrange the seats so that there are more. (and yes, my designes are all handicapped accessible).

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Postby Belial » Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:51 pm UTC

_codeMonkey wrote:
I'll admit to getting frustrated when no matter how many times you hit the "walk" button, the light won't even start to change until a car pulls up, going the same direction as you.
I walk everywhere, so long lights just prompt jaywalking.
(And even EXTREME JAYWALKING. It's like a city-wide sport.)

There is nothing I hate more than when someone pushes the buttons and then walk anyway before the light changes. I say this as someone who walks more than he drives.

After getting that off my chest, i frequently think about how complicated it must be to time traffic lights correctly


A significant percentage (I don't want to say a majority) of crossing buttons, especially in large cities, are essentially "electronic placebos". They don't speed up or alter the change pattern at all, they just make the person standing at the crosswalk feel better and like they have some control over the happenings of the light.
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Postby Hawknc » Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:55 pm UTC

I've noticed a mixture of that around my area. Generally on the highway, it doesn't make any difference to the light sequence whether I press the button or not, it only makes the green man appear when it's time. On smaller roads, and obviously where the lights exist purely as a pedestrian crossing, it can accelerate or alter the sequence somewhat.

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Postby sidelined_indefinitely » Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:55 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
_codeMonkey wrote:
I'll admit to getting frustrated when no matter how many times you hit the "walk" button, the light won't even start to change until a car pulls up, going the same direction as you.
I walk everywhere, so long lights just prompt jaywalking.
(And even EXTREME JAYWALKING. It's like a city-wide sport.)

There is nothing I hate more than when someone pushes the buttons and then walk anyway before the light changes. I say this as someone who walks more than he drives.

After getting that off my chest, i frequently think about how complicated it must be to time traffic lights correctly


A significant percentage (I don't want to say a majority) of crossing buttons, especially in large cities, are essentially "electronic placebos". They don't speed up or alter the change pattern at all, they just make the person standing at the crosswalk feel better and like they have some control over the happenings of the light.


Ever tell people that if you push the button 256 times it makes the light change faster? it's hilarious how many people start counting...

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Postby bookishbunny » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:05 pm UTC

Yay! I loved this one. I would have totally flung the guy into traffic!

I regularly bitch about the doltishness of Greenville civic engineers (is that what they're called?). When you roll forward from one intersection after a long wait just as the next intersection light is turning red, and you go through a chain of 4 or five of these, not all of them even a full block apart, it's time to gather the peasants and break out the torches.
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Postby Palmer Eldritch » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:10 pm UTC

This comic has the greatest timing. Just yesterday, half of Vienna's traffic lights were unsynchronized for a few hours because of a software problem. Of course, chaos ensued. On the bright side though, everyone who spends their entire morning stuck between tramways on an intersection is bound to learn a valuable lesson on the complexity of traffic design.
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Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:13 pm UTC

Some of our engineers also did the "This is good enough" method, resulting in our being $2.3 million overbudget for a 6-storey building when they kept coming back and saying "Oh, yeah, uh..... you also have to put steel and concrete here, and here, and here..." About ten times.

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Postby kirkjerk » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:19 pm UTC

I'm sick of deaf and blind traffic lights that, even in the dead at night, will cause me to wait, idling at an intersection empty save for my own car. besides some grid logic to communicate with each other, couldn't we put in some AI that would let the thing figure out that there's only traffic on one side?
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Postby julisana » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:27 pm UTC

The only time that I ever really question the the engineers designing traffic lights are in areas where I suspect the area designed by engineer A meets up with the area designed by engineer B.

Right off of the highway near my work there's a 3-way intersection, and the cycle it's on is obviously on a different (faster) timer than the one at the intersection about 7 car lengths down the street.

The lights at the 3-way will cycle about 2.5 times during the time it takes the other to cycle, causing a massive jam, simply because the idiots driving the cars insist that pulling out into the intersection in anticipation of the cars moving is a good idea, when clearly the light is still red in the direction they want to go.

When the 3-way light changes, this leaves them stuck out in the middle of the intersection with nowhere to go until the damn light down the street changes finally, usually by the time the light in their original direction has already gone from red to green to red again.

I can't say this has never happened to me before, but I learned my lesson after that one time before I discovered how frelled up those lights right there are.
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Postby Sliver » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:29 pm UTC

Artemis Leon wrote:
The LuigiManiac wrote:Lights at railroad crossings. And you can't make questionably legal maneuvers around those.


Sure you can. As long as you're driving the Mach 5/K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider/a helicopter.


But if you are driving the General Lee then you can drive right through it, just wait for the open boxcar!

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Postby bookishbunny » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:30 pm UTC

^^
(@ julisana) The brilliant solution to that here in Greenville are little signs posted saying "Do Not Block Intersection". People pay as much attention to them as they do they do the "No Turn on Red" ones.
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Postby Rysto » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:32 pm UTC

So do you Americans not use those fancy magnetic car-sensing things embedded in the roads? They seem to be quite common here in Canada.

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Postby AntiScurvyLg » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:36 pm UTC

Tucson is a nightmare when it comes to traffic lights...

Well, notsomuch traffic lights, but the way drivers interact with traffic lights.

Here we have a horrible red-light-running problem, and I'm not sure which came first: The red light running, or the design of the red-green timing.

So I'll start where I came in: When I first moved to Tucson about 5 years ago, there was a significant pause between when East-West turned Red and North-South turned green, a lag time of about one second - this isn't too horribly bad but everybody knew about it, so most drivers simply realized they had an extra second to make it through the intersection.

No, the cops don't care or issue citations for this.

In response, the civil engineers of the city increased the lag time between light changes - so that nobody would be clipped by red light runners crossing their path. In turn, the red light runners saw this as a larger grace period.

Now, on some of our busier intersections, there's a grace time of around 6 seconds. It may not seem like a lot when written out, but try waiting that long after a light turns green to start moving - you'll see what I mean.

I hate this city.

/rant.

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Postby bookishbunny » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:36 pm UTC

Rysto wrote:So do you Americans not use those fancy magnetic car-sensing things embedded in the roads? They seem to be quite common here in Canada.


Some intersections have sensors. It only does so much when traffic is heavy/semi-heavy and there are always cars at all points of an intersection.
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Postby frezik » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:38 pm UTC

I think part of the problem is that traffic signals aren't just designed by engineers. Elected officials have a say in it, too. One bad accident at an intersection and they put in unnecessary traffic control, just so they look like they're doing something.

There's a strip of road near where I live that runs past the big shopping mall on this side of town, but is otherwise surrounded by residential areas with no traffic lights. You can drive down that strip at the speed limit and hit every single red light (around 5 in total until you hit a major intersection). I'm convinced that the best strategy for that strip is to stomp on the gas, blow past the speed limit, miss the yellow on one light and cruise past the rest.

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Postby AntiScurvyLg » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:40 pm UTC

Sliver wrote:
Artemis Leon wrote:
The LuigiManiac wrote:Lights at railroad crossings. And you can't make questionably legal maneuvers around those.


Sure you can. As long as you're driving the Mach 5/K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider/a helicopter.


But if you are driving the General Lee then you can drive right through it, just wait for the open boxcar!


Its not a question of whether or not its the General Lee - just if its an orange charger with a union jack on top. I tried it once a while ago with a black charger... sorta ended in tragedy. Body work and a paint job later, I never have to wait for a train again.

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Postby julisana » Fri Jun 15, 2007 2:54 pm UTC

bookishbunny wrote:^^
(@ julisana) The brilliant solution to that here in Greenville are little signs posted saying "Do Not Block Intersection". People pay as much attention to them as they do they do the "No Turn on Red" ones.


They have those here too, but they're generally only on small back streets where a lot of industrial driveways are.

Useless I tell you!!!!
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Postby cmacis » Fri Jun 15, 2007 3:03 pm UTC

If this was about bad traffic then I'd go on about the crazy Leeds 1 way system.

Since this is traffic lights I'll go on about Bradford inner ring road. It flowed well until they packed it with traffic lights. Now it is quicker to just go through the centre of town than go around the ring road. Yes, the centre of town is packed with traffic and also has problem traffic lights, but less than the ring road.
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Postby beinsane » Fri Jun 15, 2007 3:08 pm UTC

And then there are the cases where they actually admit to trying to slow you down.
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Postby bookishbunny » Fri Jun 15, 2007 3:13 pm UTC

I've been wanting to sue my town for excessive gas consumption. There's practically no public transportation, and the start-stop driving taxes the engine and the fuel supply.
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Postby cmacis » Fri Jun 15, 2007 4:06 pm UTC

bookishbunny wrote:I've been wanting to sue my town for excessive gas consumption. There's practically no public transportation, and the start-stop driving taxes the engine and the fuel supply.


As do the speed bumps they like to put everywhere here, as well as other damage to your car they do, even if you do slow right down.

I never want to live on a street with speed humps. Driving over those daily (okay, once I start driving) as well as the idea of an ambulance going over them. Not a nice thought.
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Postby Tomcat » Fri Jun 15, 2007 4:52 pm UTC

"Tuesday"

I laughed. Loud. :D

But then again, a lot of the times the original design for junctions either deteriorates over time (especially succesive junctions) and the timing goes out of sync, so you go through one green only to stop at the next light which *should* have been green.

It is worse in Bombay where 1) road manners are not exactly sterling 2) the traffic patterns change quickly and 3) the signals are not traffic-load sensitive. Driving can be maddening unless like me you really love to drive....

Now, looking at this as an engineer....

...yeah ok, I've been guilty of this too; and I'm sure my designs have made life hell for others equally :)

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You're right, that isn't your job, that is the job of the architect! :lol:

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Postby ... » Fri Jun 15, 2007 5:08 pm UTC

I know what the pedestrian crossing buttons in my city do; the 'don't walk' light never changes until you press the button. When you press the button, it signals the light to actually turn to 'walk' in the next cycle. So you are always waiting the maximum time and then some.

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Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 15, 2007 5:17 pm UTC

SilverWolfe wrote:
The Comic wrote:When will the light change? Tuesday.


Suddenly I understand the compulsion to make "questionable" traffic movements to avoid red lights.


The thing is, in that comic, the move is probably legal. You're crossing a divided highway, and so the kind of turn pictured there isn't, strictly speaking, a "U-turn". I've seen plenty of intersections where that's actually the only way you can end up turning left, because the width of both streets makes it impractical/unsafe to do it the normal way.

In Michigan, where they think no other state does this, they call that the Michigan Left. But I've been in at least half a dozen other states where they have the same misconception and call it a [State] Left.
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Postby Opera Singer » Fri Jun 15, 2007 5:34 pm UTC

The LuigiManiac wrote: And you can't make questionably legal maneuvers around those.


Could let the train push you to the next intersection over, not sure if thats legal or even safe though...

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Postby EradicateIV » Fri Jun 15, 2007 6:11 pm UTC

Roadwork near my house makes me go crazy at red lights.
Especially on heavy traffic times when they let 3 cars go and then turn colors again.

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Postby iw » Fri Jun 15, 2007 6:20 pm UTC

I don't think I've ever complained about light length. I have complained about traffic flow, though. For example, in Chicago there's this off ramp that leads towards the suburbs (I-290 I think off 90-94) and the off ramp is this very narrow, huge curve. The off ramp routinely fills up with traffic - sometimes it takes about 30 minutes to get off the off ramp and onto a free-flowing highway. Argh!

Then there are cases where I know someone fucked up. In Valapraiso (Indiana), they restructured a major intersection (US 30 & Rt 2). US 30 runs east-west, and Rt. 2 "ends" at this intersection (technically, it follows US 30). So there's a lot of traffic coming into town south->north, but not a lot north-> south. So when they redesigned it:

Code: Select all

    |   |   |     |
    | V | ->|   ^ |
----               --------

----                 ----
    |   |   |<- |^->|
    | V | V |   |   |

That's just stupid. Sure enough, about a month or so later, they finally made the intersection sane.

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Postby Eleven » Fri Jun 15, 2007 6:27 pm UTC

In Gainesville, the traffic is pretty much nonstop during peak hours (read: when the sun is out). The questionable maneuvers one could do to turn left hardly ever happen.
Why?
The traffic. Never. Stops. You can't make right turns here unless it's a minor street. The cars keep coming until they have the red light. And then there are those signs that say "No turn on red" in some intersections. Like you could if you wanted to. :roll:

Anyone ever sit at a light so long that you get bored and wind up turning into the parking lot of a store right next to you? I found a great music store that way. :D

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Postby fiendishglee » Fri Jun 15, 2007 6:48 pm UTC

frezik wrote:I think part of the problem is that traffic signals aren't just designed by engineers. Elected officials have a say in it, too. One bad accident at an intersection and they put in unnecessary traffic control, just so they look like they're doing something.


The other side of this coin is that in rural areas there is often a "fatality quota" before anything will be done. I grew up in rural Eastern Washington and drove a long highway home every night. It had one major intersection controlled by a 4-way stop. Five people had to die there before they'd even put in a flashing red. And it wasn't that the fifth death finally prompted action: that was the requirement before the money could be allocated.

(And don't even get me started on the skiers coming down the highway after the lifts stopped running who drove in the middle of a two-lane winding mountain road because they assumed they were the only traffic.)

Grammar OCD made me edit.

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Postby Artemis Leon » Fri Jun 15, 2007 6:58 pm UTC

iw wrote:I don't think I've ever complained about light length. I have complained about traffic flow, though. For example, in Chicago there's this off ramp that leads towards the suburbs (I-290 I think off 90-94) and the off ramp is this very narrow, huge curve. The off ramp routinely fills up with traffic - sometimes it takes about 30 minutes to get off the off ramp and onto a free-flowing highway. Argh!

Then there are cases where I know someone fucked up. In Valapraiso (Indiana), they restructured a major intersection (US 30 & Rt 2). US 30 runs east-west, and Rt. 2 "ends" at this intersection (technically, it follows US 30). So there's a lot of traffic coming into town south->north, but not a lot north-> south. So when they redesigned it:

Code: Select all

    |   |   |     |
    | V | ->|   ^ |
----               --------

----                 ----
    |   |   |<- |^->|
    | V | V |   |   |

That's just stupid. Sure enough, about a month or so later, they finally made the intersection sane.



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Postby Sprocket » Fri Jun 15, 2007 6:59 pm UTC

There are a few real cross walk buttons around Watertown MA. I tend to cross before they go off, and then the cars have to wait for someone who isn't comming, but they are very real.

For this one I will say - Randall isn't bitter at the thankless task of the engineer. Oh no. Not bitter at all.
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Postby Ubertakter » Fri Jun 15, 2007 7:42 pm UTC

rglenn wrote:...

While I sympathize / empathize with some product engineers out there, there are still the jerks who desiged my TV-DVD combo / the connector on my new Sony Ericsson phone / my LED christmas lights that flicker at 30 Hz / my iPod alarm clock with a bright blue LED backlight that CAN'T BE DIMMED. These people were clearly smoking something to be avoided by expectant mothers, operators of heavy machinery, and generally anyone not pursuing a career in politics.

We must find these people. We must stop them. We must make them pay for their own transgressions. Preferably with cash, but beer will suffice.


I don't think you understand what really happens when products like that are built. I can pretty much guarantee that the engineer did not want to design it that way. It's their managers. See, the engineer comes to his boss and says, "If we do it this way, this will make the product ten times better." The manager says, "But that cost 0.01% more, so that cuts into our profits and we aren't going to do it that way." Or better yet, the engineer takes it to his boss and his boss says, "I thought it was good enough so I went ahead and put it in production." Or even better, "I have a 'well-rounded' liberal arts education so that makes me smarter than you. We will do it my way."
This happens more than you would think.
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Wow, I bet you've heard some interesting discussions. Most stuff I've seen "designed" by architects clearly illustrated that they thought they were engineers, but were not. It's kind of sad really.
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Postby bbctol » Fri Jun 15, 2007 7:42 pm UTC

There's a street my dad has to occasionally drive through that has really long lights. Fortunately, he discovered the solution: Wait till 6:22, then go through all 8 lights at 60 miles an hour. They should all turn to green just as you reach them.

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Postby Eleven » Fri Jun 15, 2007 7:48 pm UTC

bbctol wrote:There's a street my dad has to occasionally drive through that has really long lights. Fortunately, he discovered the solution: Wait till 6:22, then go through all 8 lights at 60 miles an hour. They should all turn to green just as you reach them.


Okay, now that is cool. Is the speed limit anywhere near 60?

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Postby bbctol » Fri Jun 15, 2007 7:52 pm UTC

Nah, but it's not like anyone patrols that road.


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