In some municipalities, a new trend is taking place: removing traffic signals from intersections and replacing them with all-way stops. A Streetsblog article from 2018 featured recently by other media, point to a book published also in 2018 called "Walkable City Rules" and specifically Rule 76 which simply states:
"Replace Signals with All-way Stops" In many places, stop signs are the safest solution.
In Explanation: "For many years, cities inserted traffic signals at their intersections as a matter of pride, with the sentiment that more signals made a place more modern and cosmopolitan. Recently, that dynamic has begun to change, as concerns about road safety have caused many to question whether signals are the best solution for intersections experiencing moderate traffic.
Research now suggests that all-way stop signs, which ask motorists to approach each intersection as a negotiation, turn out to be much safer than signals. Unlike with signals, no law-abiding driver ever passes an all-way stop sign at more than a very low speed, and there is considerable eye contact among users."
The article concludes: "There is no reason to conduct an expensive study on this subject. For each intersection with traffic that is moderate and fairly balanced, conduct a one-week test of an all-way stop configuration. If problems don’t arise, make it permanent."
Reading further we find that the 'research' supporting this move comes from a study conducted in Philadelphia five decades ago in 1978. The study's abstract notes: "The effect on intersection crashes of converting one-way street intersections in Philadelphia from signal to multiway stop sign control was estimated... Aggregate results indicate that replacing signals by multiway stop signs on one-way streets is associated with a reduction in crashes of approximately 24%, combining all severities, light conditions, and impact types."
Beyond the issue that 1978 and 2020 traffic and street infrastructure differ significantly, the study has another major limitation. The signals-to-signs switch were only done to one-way street intersections, where an all-way stop would be a two-way stop. Despite those limitations, many cities are switching their signals out under the guise of promoting safety and walkability.
One of these cities is St. Joseph, Missouri. They explored the issue last year after sanctioning a traffic study (which looked at traffic flow, accident reports and wait times) by a private group that suggested replacing signals with signs at most downtown intersections. Review of internet sources and the St. Joseph webpage does not reveal the referenced study anywhere, but the city's traffic commission voted to replace over 90% of the signals (22 0f 24) with stop signed intersections.
St. Joseph's mayor explained before the council eventually agreed issued the following rigor-free analysis: “I’m no traffic engineer, so I’ll trust the experts. This is their recommendation and they’re going to put an ordinance before the council." With the usual grief from the public and the endorsement by downtown merchants thinking slower moving traffic might be more interested in stopping and shopping in a downtown currently mostly closed due to Covid-19, this ordinance eventually passed, and the change has been implemented over five two month phases (phase 3 has just began).
Kingston, NY council virtually agreed to do the same thing in their community in August, with a very incomplete traffic study. In Michigan, Bay City is set to do the same with a study that is even more incomplete and presumptuous.
“It’s, I think, a really good step in making the downtown a walkable, welcoming place that is easy for people to traverse and get rid of the congestion that is sometimes taking place with the lights," said Bay City Commissioner Kristen MacDonald Rivet.
It appears that these changes are driven by the hope that it will make the downtown more visitable and walkable, but it's not immediately clear whether it would be safer or more efficient for pedestrians at those intersections being switched. None of the referenced studies at either of the three cities seem to rely on traffic volume data, rather they look at crash data and make the conclusion that high numbers indicate unwarranted signals being used.
Through experience, I can claim unequivocally that four-way stops are a lot less bicycle-friendly than signaled intersections. It would also seem that pedestrian safety would be compromised at most moderately busy four-way intersections, though fatal accidents may be less.
Do you believe that there are any signalized intersections in Ludington that would be better off with all-way stop signs?
I agree, X. These studies are reverse sensibility in fast speed. There is way too much traffic along Ludington Ave. to remove stoplights. Maybe some cities are trying to justify this study to cut costs of maintaining lightbulbs.
Surprisingly, cost and energy-use appears to be a major reason for switching back to low-tech stop signs. The limited amount of data that cities show for explaining their rationale seem to be based on crash rates and 'safety' rather than mandates based on traffic volume and 'efficiency'. If seems that if crash rates are too high or too low at an intersection, they infer that the signals are inappropriate; I don't understand that.
I witnessed a semi truck blast through a 4 way red flashing signal [ not Ludington } the other day. I had stopped , the truck was coming the other direction, didn't even attempt to slow down. luckily no one was at the crossing as it would have been their turn to either cross the intersection or turn. X , your statement " law abiding " is the only way signals or stop signs work. People have to pay attention . I might be bias as I was T-Boned at a intersection years ago by a guy running a red light, Screwed up my body till I die.
Having traveled recently in several Detroit suburbs it has become apparent that there are many traffic circles now replacing signals and stop signs. I personally like them but only if the traffic is not to heavy. One main problem I have with them tho is I cannot stand the name "roundabout". I have always known them as "traffic circles" and will refer to them as such. With all the new road repair down by Detroit I guess those in charge thought it was a good time to promote and build them. I don't know how compatible they are with a lot of pedestrians using them but they have been around for years. As far as Ludington goes,I think traffic circles could be a good alternative. I know a terrific feel good project for Ludingtons elites. This could be included with the Ludington Ave beach fiasco. Let's have the City build a traffic circle at the harbor entrance between the lights. That would be in keeping with all the other hair brain schemes they have shoved down our throats.
On the Ludington Pitchfork on Facebook, the focus drifted over to roundabouts too, and whether they are appropriate in the Ludington area. I can see that because of the use of roundabouts elsewhere in lieu of four-way stops or stoplights. It does take a lot of money and real estate to put one of these in, so one would hope there would be a data-driven transparent process before one does gets put in anywhere in Mason County.
I could see the round about / traffic circle at the intersection of US 10 and Pere Marquette highway as a money maker. The county could set up grand stands on the north side to watch the demolition derby. I think not good very for high traffic areas and if not for high traffic whats the big hurry when theres not hardly any traffic?
It would be a qualified disaster at that corner, even though it's only a three-way intersection. The most practical place I can think of in Mason County for a roundabout is the Stiles/Fountain Road crossing. I would say Stiles/Hansen too, except for the encroachment issues with the homes to the immediate NW and NE of the intersection.
Just think about this, Round Abouts / traffic Circles have 2 lanes , the inner lane to make a u-turn or make the farthest turn to the left. the outer lane is for going straight or making a right hand turn. Now in Michigan we have snow, of coarse we have snow removal equipment . As the snow plow enters the intersection he would plow the snow from the inner lane then continue completely around moving into the second lane removing the snow also completing the 360 degree circle . Now , where does he go from there? All 4 roads are plugged with snow. The snow plow won't have a problem on what ever route he takes but he also leaves 3 roads plugged with snow .
Here's a video on plowing a traffic circle. It's narrated by a DDA official from another city. It appears that the truck uses it's side plow along with the front plow when going around the circle.
I could maybe see stop signs at intersections on side streets but just can't envision it working well in our case, US 10... it would seem like a accident waiting to happen
This is an interesting video covering many kinds of traffic intersection solutions from the simple to the complex.