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
“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
“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
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
“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,”
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.