Most drivers see traffic lights directing your way through the city of Lubbock. Actually each intersection is constantly communicating for your safety. "We've got over 180 intersections and we're monitoring all of them," says Traffic Engineer Jere Hart. Hart and his team of engineers are entering the final phase of a seven-year traffic improvement plan, made possible by a voter-approved bond package in 1999.
Sensors in the pavement and video cameras create traffic images and data. Hart says, "This is Indiana and 50th street. This is live. You can see what's happening on the ground. The blue cars indicate when cars are actually at the intersection."
You may have noticed it's easier to drive through Lubbock without stopping at each light. Signals are now timed to help keep traffic flowing quicker. Hart says, "When traffic moves at an uniform rate, it's safer."
That doesn't mean you won't ever have to wait at a red light. Hart says, "The number one reason is you got an early release. If there are no cars on adjacent streets or a limited number in other lanes, we don't make you wait. We put that time back into green on the thru street." Another reason you don't get a green is emergency preemption. An emergency vehicle has taken control of the intersection. Going too fast or too slow will also prevent you from getting a green light. Hart says, "They aren't designed to encourage people to speed, but they also aren't designed to encourage people to go slow. If you go the posted speed limit, you usually make it thru." Increased traffic may also delay timing of the signals.
Another safety improvement, includes more dual left turns. In this case, you will not see the green ball light, only green arrows to turn left. But several intersections are being introduced to what's called lead-lag signals with both a green ball and a green arrow. Here's how it works. The cycle begins when 34th street gets a green light. The turn arrow comes on first. That's why it's called the leading turn. This signal head is specifically designed so it can only be seen by people in the turn lane. It prevents confusion with the straight through lanes. Notice how this turn arrow didn't appear until the straight thru movements had gone. That's why it's called the lagging turn. This type of intersection helps give drivers who need to make a left-turn better visibility. Hart says, "A green ball has not changed its meaning. In a left turn, a green ball does not mean it's safe to go. It means it's allowed to go if you see it's safe to go."