The city of Baltimore today announced plans to have all traffic lights in the city turn red and stay that way for the duration of rush hour. Apparently stung by recent reports that ranked Baltimore among the worst cities for commuters and rush hour traffic, the Mayor and City Council have decided to end gridlock in the city by having all of the traffic lights in the city set to red between 4:30 and 7:00 on weeknights. We strongly support this decision.
As explained by the city’s traffic department, the terrible gridlock in the city is not the fault of mistimed traffic lights; rather, it is caused by all the cars that appear all at once during certain times of the day. As one city spokesman succinctly put it, “If all those drivers stayed off of city roads during rush hour, we would not have any gridlock.”
Emergency Order 41.14, as the plan is known, will go a long way toward achieving that mission. Having all traffic lights turn red will discourage driving during rush hour, which in turn will free up the roads and eliminate gridlock.
And the city anticipates Emergency Order 41.14 (hereinafter “the 4-1”) will be a boon for Baltimore in many additional ways. It will be much better for pedestrians, as they will be able to walk freely across downtown streets and might actually stop into some of the businesses along the way. Crime will be reduced because no one wants to get away from a crime on foot.
Stopping all downtown traffic during rush hour will also provide a much-needed rationale for the Red Line. In its present form, it is well known that the Red Line provides no conceivable benefit to Baltimore, except for the ability to spend federal money. If the light rail and subway are the only transportation options during rush hour, some people might actually support the Red Line and find it useful.
Air pollution is another area of benefit to the city. By requiring all vehicles on the road to keep their engines running, pollution levels in Baltimore will rise, allowing the city to tap even more federal clean air funds. In addition, the increased pollution will help promote acceptance of “green” initiatives, like electric cars, thus boosting the incumbent governor’s run for president.
Down the road, the plan calls for sale of “Get Out of the City Fast” passes. These will be offered in limited quantities to the highest bidders and are expected to raise hundreds if not thousands of dollars per pass in revenue for the city. These passes will give the vehicle access to selected green-light lanes headed out of the city during rush hour.
As of today, the city plans to roll out the plan only for the evening rush, but if it has the anticipated success a similar program for the mornings may follow.
We agree with the city that the 4-1 is a win-win proposal. City streets are virtually un-drivable during rush hour anyway, so most drivers will not be significantly impacted, and the benefits expected are enormous.
Editorial Advisory Board members Gale Rasin, Elizabeth Kameen, Katrina Dennis and Ferrier Stillman did not participate in the ‘4-1’ opinion.
|Editorial Advisory Board
James B. Astrachan, Chair
Wesley D. Blakeslee
Phillip J. Closius
Arthur F. Fergenson
C. William Michaels
H. Mark Stichel
Ferrier R. Stillman