Feb 032004
Authors: Jamie Way

From flashing the car lights to pressing the pedestrian button,

there are many myths surrounding how to get traffic lights to

change green faster.

“Flashing your brights sometimes helps,” said Zach Wilbern,

senior economics major. “I was always told they think it’s an


Eric Bracke, the city traffic engineer and three of his 30 staff

members know the truth behind the myth. They use mathematical

systems to try to figure out the best possible timing for the

traffic lights.

“We try to minimize the delay for the vehicles coming through

there,” Bracke said. “We run different timing plans based on the


Bracke said anyone who claims they had to stop at every light on

a street like College Avenue must be lying or driving in a very

unusual manner.

“It’s virtually impossible. They’d have to be trying,” he


Bracke said flashing car lights at the signals or rolling back

and forth trying to find a sensor will not decrease the amount of

time until the next green light.

“The pedestrian button is a detector, but…it won’t happen any

quicker,” Bracke said.

The lights are not triggered by weight, but a camera or

inductive loop, which is basically a magnet, according to Bracke.

However, a wave of green lights does in fact exist.

“It’s called a green band width,” Bracke said. “If you’re

traveling north/south in this community, you’re probably going to

be in the progression.”

Bracke said the green band is timed to match the speed limit of

that road.

Eric Buchannan, a Transfort bus driver, knows how it feels to

become impatient at a stoplight while he tries to keep his bus’

stops as punctual as possible.

“We’re on pretty tight time crunches and schedules,” Buchannan


Buchannan was driving route 4 to Laporte and Taft Hill Road on


“It feels like you’re getting caught in all of them,” Buchannan

said. “But if you look at it, it’s probably more like two or


Buchannan said some lights might cause a greater delay, for

example, he said the Mulberry and Meldrum streets light is 3.5

minutes long.

“It’s better than it used to be, but it still has a long way to

go,” Buchannan said of the light timing in Fort Collins.

He said that it is also possible to hit a green band.

“On College Avenue you can catch them pretty regularly,”

Buchannan said.

Wilbern said getting around quickly is a matter of good fortune,

but when that does not happen, Wilbern says he gets caught at all

the red lights.

“Sometimes it’s just bad luck I guess,” he said.

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