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Traffic light timing at Mission, King working fine, Caltrans says
Dear Street Smarts, Q: I was so glad to hear that people had complained about the intersection of King and Mission streets (Street Smarts, 4/16). I live on the upper Westside of Santa Cruz, and at 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on, the southbound traffic on Mission block that intersection continuously. It is so frustrating, I think there should be a police officer sitting at that intersection and write tickets, he/she would be busy all day long. Something needs to be done about it. I can sit through three or four lights and it's not right to tell people to travel a different way. Tell the people that are clogging the intersection they are in the wrong. Pam Samuelson, Santa Cruz A: Since Monday's letter from Terry Chandler was publish, Street Smarts has learned that Caltrans had a farily in-depth email conversation with the reader about the traffic lights at King and Mission. According to Tona Drewes, Caltrans traffic signal engineer, the timing of the lights have remained “essentially the same” since Nov. 15, 2005. “In November 2011, I upgraded the controller because the last one had a bug in the software that made us recall the pedestrian phase that crossed Mission,” she told Chandler. “Just prior to that I adjusted the green times for bicycles. This would have no effect on the current coordination plans.” Drewes a day at the intersection watching the traffic signals and motorists. “Most of the King Street traffic cleared at Chestnut,” she observed. “This will not happen every time because the traffic volumes on the side streets at Chestnut vary as does the need to serve traffic on Union. Just to make it complicated, whatever is done in one direction of Mission will adversely affect the other direction of Mission – not to mention the fact that three more intersections are part of the system. Remember, the idea is to move as many cars as possible through a corridor and this may not make everyone happy.” Drewes' email also explained the way the nearby signalized intersections interact with and compare to that of Mission and King. “The intersection of King and Union is constantly sending traffic towards Chestnut – the larger intersection,” she wrote. “There will be a time that Chestnut turns red to allow a green for the side street traffic and the traffic from downtown. Hence, more cars and more approaches than King Street. So, someone will be sitting at a red light at Chestnut for a short period of time until all of the other approaches are served. We have been required to time the minimum green for these intersections for bicycles, which makes for even longer side street greens. Essentially, it is share the pain.” Try coming down High Street sooner to get into the Mission Street cue, Drewes suggested to Chandler. Street Smarts suggests, when you're caught in a traffic back-up, install your patience software – without resorting to talking or texting on your cell phone for intermission entertainment – or find another route to take you around the congestion, save gas and refrain from polluting the air any further in the impacted area.