Out of Control Policy Blog

New technology and traffic congestion

New technology is not always the answer to our traffic woes, as at this humorous case from Japan shows!

These are excerpts from a column by Amy Chavez, a columnist for the Japan Times.

Big news for our island: They've put in a traffic light! Now, I've
always been under the impression that there must be oncoming traffic
to justify a traffic light. But hey, this is Japan, maybe they drive
differently here.

In fact, on our island most people don't drive at all. With a
population of just 700 and only one road that goes around the
perimeter of the island, just a few dozen people drive and those
people are the ones with businesses who have goods to transport to the
ferry port and back.

Another reason people don't have cars here is that most of the houses
on the island aren't accessible by car. The houses are linked by a
network of footpaths that not even the smallest car could get through.

Besides, who wants a car anyway? There's no place to drive to, except
the other side of the island, which is only a 15-minute walk.

+++

But I was also relieved to see that it was just a construction traffic
light with a temporary, two-month long installment.

The purpose of the light is to prevent two cars, traveling in opposite
directions, from trying to pass this construction area at the same time.

Yet the likelihood of two people on the island driving at the same
time is practically nil, especially when most people arrive at their
destination within 30 seconds. Before they put this light in, that is.
Now it is possible to be stopped at a red light for longer than your
entire journey would take.

Which is why no one stops at the traffic light. As a matter of fact,
I'm pretty sure this traffic light has created more turmoil than safety.

****

A few people wait patiently because they've got small children in the
car and feel they need to teach them to always obey traffic signals.
But still, no one understands why there is a traffic light.

Here are some possible answers:

1. Road favoritism.....Despite the fact that much of the 5-km road on our island is only wide
enough for one car anyway, and is adorned with two-way mirrors at
bends, the construction crew is showing favoritism to this part of the
road.

*****

2. It's a good neighbor campaign. Figuring that if we passed each
other on the road, we'd have to wave hello to each other, the traffic
light could have been put in to foster good relations.

*****

3. The local policeman has to reach his quota on traffic violations
and is trying to ticket those who run red lights.

*****

4. It's an eye test to check for colorblindness. Highly possible. And
if it's true, they've proved one thing: Almost everyone on the island
is colorblind.

See a photo of someone running the red light at the Japan Times Online.

The Japan Times can be accessed here.

The full article can be found at here.

Samuel Staley is Research Fellow


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