When we first moved out here to rural Milton, there was one stoplight between our house and the bottom of the off-ramp from the Gardiner Expressway to Yonge Street.
Now, there are six.
And the only one of them that makes a lick of sense is the one that was already here, because the intersection had (and has) a lot of traffic, the intersection had already been built, and there wasn’t enough room to do anything else.
The other five?
What is wrong with urban planners these days? At least, the ones working for Halton Region?
Do stoplight manufacturers have photos of these people in compromising situations?
I mean, stoplights are the least efficient, most dangerous form of traffic control ever invented, as anyone who has ever been Tee-boned or rear-ended at one will testify (and there are increasing numbers of those in the GTA, as we all know).
The most egregiously stupid stoplight of a very stupid lot is the one at the intersection of our sideroad and (the former) Highway 25. You’ve got a rural highway, with reasonably but not insanely heavy traffic, and a sideroad which, while designated a “regional” road and hence is intended to carry more traffic than municipally-maintained roads, is still not all that busy.
At least it wouldn’t be all that busy if the cops would keep the gravel trucks off it, as they are supposed to do.
But traffic on that rural highway has to come to a complete stop for a couple of minutes, just to let one lousy car cross that highway?
Even if you just turn right on Highway 25, as I typically do several times daily, you may trigger the sensors which initiate a light change.
For no reason whatsoever.
And while that traffic is stopped, it is exposed to the risk of those self-same gravel trucks or other vehicles barreling into them. I mean, who the heck expects a traffic light in the middle of nowhere?
Needless to say, there is an alternative, one you’ve heard from me before.
Now, my intersection might not have room for one, but again, there is just no reason for any traffic control device in that spot at all.
But the other four additional stoplights?
They are all the result of the recently widened Highway, which was expanded to handle the expected additional traffic from the industrial developments just north of town; or from the expansion of the interchange with Highway 401 (which is also badly designed, but that’s a story for another time).
Absolutely no reason why roundabouts wouldn’t have been perfect in all those cases.
Roundabouts are so perfect for a number of reasons:
1. They are safe - can’t tee-bone anyone at a roundabout; about the worst that can happen is a side-swipe, which by comparison is very minor.
2. They help traffic move efficiently - you may have to slow down, but you (almost) never have to stop entirely. True, with a stoplight you may be lucky enough to catch the green, but if you do, someone else has caught the red.
3. They are environmentally friendly - stopping and idling your vehicle is by far the worst thing you can do for pollution. And of course, you don’t need electricity to run the stoplights.
4. They surely can't even be that expensive to build, given that in these cases, they were re-building the highway anyway. And properly designed, they don't take up any more room than a conventional intersection, not when you consider the right-turn-only and left-turn-only lanes you typically have in a modern stoplight-controlled intersection.
The craziest thing about the utter lack of roundabouts in Halton Region is that their (our!) highway designers don’t have to go all the way to England to understand the brilliance of the concept. They can (ahem) read my columns, or just drive west about 20 minutes, where the Waterloo Region has been installing roundabouts at a great rate in recent years.
One of their traffic planners told me recently that the results are as positive as they were predictable - crashes are down by large double-digit percentages, and the types of crashes they do have are much less severe.
True, roundabouts do take some getting used to. I did an interview with a Kitchener TV station a few months ago on the subject of these new roundabouts; they had video footage of some drivers driving straight across the roundabout.
Man, they must have thought what was some kinda speed bump.
But seriously; with proper signage and a bit of an education campaign, how hard is it to figure out a Yield sign?
And after that acclimatization period, you can join most of the civilized world in utilizing the most brilliant traffic control device ever invented.
Just not in Halton Region.