GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids controls some 700 traffic lights, both in the cities and the suburbs, including those along the Plainfield Avenue corridor.
“If we go as close to the posted speed limit or a little bit under, we should be able to hit almost all of the lights in the green phase,” said Josh Naramore, who leads Mobile GR, the city agency charged with getting you to where you need to go.
Naramore was behind the wheel as we took a ride along Plainfield Avenue to talk about what goes in to making your ride as efficient as possible.
Signals along Plainfield were recently retimed.
“It’s a 30-mph road. It is a high-volume roadway that a lot of people use to get in and out of the city,” said Naramore.
We’ve all complained about it. Those traffic lights that always seem to catch us during our commute.
But a recent University of South Florida study for the National Institute for Congestion Reduction shows Grand Rapids is slightly above average when it comes to traffic signal efficiency.
Researchers used crowd source data, like vehicle black box information, in their study of over 100 U.S. cities.
When it comes to traffic signal efficiency, timing is everything.
“We try to get all of the streets every five to seven years. Some corridors we do more regularly, like Michigan Street is done a lot more regularly because it’s a much more high-volume street,” said Naramore, explaining the city’s signal timing program.
Using speed, traffic volume and other data, traffic engineers create a computer model of traffic flow and signal timing. Of course, there are other factors that impact your commute like road construction.
“Signals can help mitigate that, but they can’t solve the problem,” said Naramore.
Adjustments aren’t made solely on vehicle traffic. That explains why Grand Rapids will likely stay at the slightly above average on future studies.
Cars aren’t the only objects on the road.
“So people who are walking, biking and even transit users. In order to get higher up on the list, you’d actually grant higher priority to car travel,” said Naramore.
All that said, Naramore says your feet on the gas pedal are the best way to hit the green lights as you try to get from point A to point B.
He used the drive along Plainfield Avenue to prove his point.
“You’ll notice they’re all turning green,” said Naramore. “And we’re going the posted speed limit of 30 mph.”