Syncing Tulsa Traffic Lights Provides Economic Benefits, Study Shows

Tuesday, June 9th 2015, 6:33 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The city of Tulsa is looking at how much it could cost or save taxpayers to synchronize traffic signals so cars keep moving.

The only part of town where the lights are all synced up is downtown; some main arterials, like 71st Street, Memorial, and Riverside are synced up, but the city wants to do more.

When you're driving and hit every light on green, it's not just good luck, it's because a traffic engineer timed out the lights.

When the lights sync up, traffic moves faster because cars don't have to stop as often. The flipside is places where the lights are not synced up - like Sheridan just south of 31st - where there is more congestion and frustration.

“Yep, pain in the butt. Especially on these three or four lights, they definitely need to sync them to where you're not trapped underneath the lights like right here, now,” one driver said.

The uncoordinated lights force drivers to waste time and gas.

“Everybody turning on the highway here, people get stuck, especially at 5:00,” one Tulsa driver said.

The city wants to expand the system that synchronizes the signals and has new numbers on how much it pays.

The city spent $421,000 to synchronize signals at 81 intersections.

A study showed that on those 25 miles of streets:

  • Travel time was cut by 20 percent
  • Delays were down 43 percent
  • Stops at lights were down 41 percent
  • It cut fuel use by 10 percent and helped out air quality

It's an estimated $50 million savings, according to Tulsa City Councilor, Anna America.

Costs And Economic Benefits Of Traffic Signal Synchronization

“You literally get millions of dollars in benefits for a relatively small investment because you got people who are driving more efficiently, using less gas,” she said. “It's not just something that you wanna do to the people feel better, it's, in this part of town it's the biggest public safety issue.”

The city plans to expand the network next on Sheridan, 31st to 71st, and on 41st Street, from Yale to Memorial - both places where traffic is often backed up at the light.