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When traffic lights go out, why doesn’t anyone know?

By Dacquiri - 2 March 2009 12

I was coming out of Calvary Hospital onto Haydon Dr. at 8.30pm on Sat. night and then turning right onto Belconnen Way. There were 16 000 people at a Brumbies match just up the road.  The lights to get onto Haydon Dr from Calvary were totally nonfunctional, as were the lights at the major Haydon/Belco Way intersection… and as were the next set, as I recall.  No police, and a lot of luck that the light traffic was being quite polite.

Given that thousands of people would shortly all be attempting to leave Bruce Stadium, I did the right thing and phoned Canberra Connect, stressing the urgency of the situation. They told me there had been a power outage northside but they weren’t aware that the traffic lights were affected.  A little while later they rang me back and said they were notifiying police comms. 

My question is: in these days of computers and sophisticated electronic circuitry, why isn’t there a system whereby someone’s computer goes ‘bleep’ when a set of traffic lights loses power?

What’s Your opinion?

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12 Responses to
When traffic lights go out, why doesn’t anyone know?
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Piratemonkey 6:55 pm 02 Mar 09

harvyk1 said :

Because it’s cheaper to have a 13 number which people are encouraged to call than to monitor the lights 24 x 7.

You don’t need someone monitoring them 24/7

If there is a system in place that keeps tabs on the traffic lights odds are there is a computer that constantly monitors lights and then outputs that information to a tech in someway. That computer could be easily configured to send an email to police should a serious outage occour at a busy intersection when there is no tech around.

Not everyone has the sense Dacquiri had to call canberra connect in such a situation. Hell i always thought there would be an automated system that would have police there as soon as possible if needed. I wouldn’t have rang, either would have most people id say.

It would take minutes to set up and a couple days to get a procedure in place for the police. That small cost could save a life from idiots who don’t watch what they are doing and don’t know what to do when traffic lights go out.

harvyk1 6:06 pm 02 Mar 09

Because it’s cheaper to have a 13 number which people are encouraged to call than to monitor the lights 24 x 7.

Grail 5:51 pm 02 Mar 09

We need more traffic light outages to make sure people remember the rules governing traffic light outages 🙂

But seriously, the traffic lights already have an alarm system built in – if they’re actually being used and they stop working correctly, someone will call up to report the fault. If they’ve stopped working but noone’s using them, noone will get woken up from their sleep at 2am to fix lights that noone’s using! It’s brilliant!

Kramer 2:06 pm 02 Mar 09

Good point Dacquiri. I also like some of the things they do in NSW that have yet to make it over the border, like:
Lights at pedestrian crossings that flash orange before they go green to indicate you may proceed if there are no more pedestrians crossing.
Lights where you have right turn arrows, that after turning red then turn off so you can proceed to turn right if there is no more traffic approaching.

The only issue I can see is that both of these require a bit of driver initiative and thought, which is not always present in Canberra drivers (or any other drivers for that matter).

Clown Killer 1:12 pm 02 Mar 09

On the bright side, it would have been another opportunity for Canberra drivers to demonstrate their manifest inability to apply an understanding of even the most basic road rules … that’s a solid white line on the raod people. It means stop – not slow down and have a look or just blindly follow the guy in front.

Dacquiri 1:07 pm 02 Mar 09

Well, if giving way to the right is such a wonderful system, maybe we could dispense with traffic lights altogether. I remember when the Coulter Dr/Belco Way intersection was governed by ‘Give Way’ signs, and it is definitely not a good system for anything other than quiet residential streets.
Just figured that this might be another case of Canberra being way behind the rest of the civilised world…for example, many other cities have traffic lights that display a ‘countdown’ for pedestrians of how many seconds they have to wait before the ‘Walk’ light comes on. Such an easy and obvious thing, but not here…

ramblingted 12:46 pm 02 Mar 09

Although, if there was anyone directing traffic later on, tell them to turn up early next home game…they’d have to be a better option at No 10…

ramblingted 12:44 pm 02 Mar 09

There is actually a much simpler explanation…there is a secret cabal of AFL-loving senior AFP personnel who are dedicated to causing as much mayhem as possible to rival football codes in the ACT…there can be no other explanation for the constant traffic stuffups which have been part of the Bruce/Canberra Stadium experience since the very first Brumbies match…

proofpositive 12:41 pm 02 Mar 09

ZOMG we need a gas fired power station at every set of lights so this never happens !?!!?@

zig 12:30 pm 02 Mar 09

There are many things that computers can do for us, it’s just a question of how much money do you want to spend on everything? Computers/electronic systems have to be maintained, costing even more money in the long run. Where would that money come from? Car/motorbike registration which is already expensive enough.

There are road rules that govern intersections where there are non-functioning traffic lights which is a cheaper option.

justbands 12:21 pm 02 Mar 09

They do monitor traffic lights…I used to work on the system that does it even. Each set of lights is polled at very regular intervals to make sure they are still talking. What they do with that information is another question altogether though.

screaming banshee 12:16 pm 02 Mar 09

And when the computer goes bleep, then what happens.

I suppose you could suggest the police get dispatched to control the intersection…..and I suppose they might even arrive within 5-6 hours or so as well.

In most cases this is not necessary, when the power goes out the intersection reverts back to standard give way rules. An inconvenience maybe but if everyone is giving way to their right traffic usually flows pretty well. Even with massess of traffic coming from one direction.

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