Traffic Lights

Just a little forewarning: what you are about to read is extremely boring. You may just want to skim this article, especially if you aren’t familiar with Twin Cities roads.

8 for 29. 27%. Those are the numbers that indicate how often I hit a green light on my way to work Thursday morning. No matter what route I take to work—with the possible exceptions of going out of the way to get to 35W or 394—I will hit 25 to 35 stop lights after leaving our apartment. By taking the Excelsior/100/62/212 route, which I did this morning, I hit 29 stop lights. 8 were green. 21 were red.

As if hitting 73% red lights isn’t aggravating enough, it’s the places where I hit them that upset me. We travel mostly along the major roads, and when there’s a stop light, it’s usually intersecting with a residential street or lesser road. Statistically you would think the major roads would get the greater percentage of green lights, but that is hardly the case, especially along Excelsior Blvd. The worst is the light at Drew Ave. All-time, I’ve seen like 20 cars come out of that intersection, yet their green light lasts just as long as Excelsior’s, where traffic backs up for blocks.

Another aspect that upsets me, but is out of my control, is the lack of right-hand turns. At least on a red light, you can make a right-hand turn at your own discretion. But I figured that of the 29 lights on my route, only three were right-hand turns, and one of those indicated you’re not allowed to turn right on red. So that’s 27 of the 29 where I actually have to stop. And I’d estimate the average time I’m stopped is about a minute. So that’s 20 minutes where I’m just sitting at stop lights.

I think the reason stop lights upset me is because I’m not used to them. Did you know that in the county in South Dakota I grew up in, there are only one or two stop lights? I think there are a couple right in Clark, otherwise I can’t think of any others in all of Clark County. Another reason is because I hate being late, and stop lights slow me down.

Why am I telling you all such a ridiculously boring story? Because I think if I were in charge of the stop light intervals in the Minneapolis area, I could increase traffic flow significantly. I’m sure that some thought went into which lights need to turn which colors and when, but to me, they don’t make sense. So if anyone out there knows if there is such a job, I would like to have it.


  1. Alliant Engineering does traffic engineering and management for the City of Minneapolis. I did some work with them while I was at Multi-Tech as they developed ways to integrate real-time traffic counters to a Google map using cellular technology. This would allow DOT traffic monitors to adjust lights remotely to allow for special scenarios if necessary.

  2. You mentioned that there are maybe 2 stop lights in Clark County…actually, I don’t think there are any! I think there are stop signs in Clark, the county seat, but no stop lights. Just one more reason to live in the middle of nowhere! I wanted to mention also, that last Monday we had a terrible blizzard. Not much snow, but lots of high winds. Anyway, I had to deliver mail in this weather even though interstates were closed, no school, etc…and I honestly met 1 vehicle the entire day as I drove. One, single vehicle in over 150 miles. And that was a tractor…try that in the city! It sucked having to be out in that weather, but at least there was nobody to run into!

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