Saturday, July 28, 2012

1922: Freedom to Stop and Go at Will Under Assault: Traffic Dictator To Rule All Movement by Pushbutton


Dr. Harriss Plans to Have a Push Button Stop Every Auto From 14th St. to Harlem.


Colored Bulbs at Street Intersections to Indicate When Cross Currents Shall Move.
Dr. John F. Harriss, Special Deputy Police Commissioner, began experimenting yesterday with powerful signal lights which will be installed from week to week until traffic in most of Manhattan will be simultaneously stopped and started by red, green and yellow lights all operated by a single switch in Times Square.
The lights tested yesterday will be mounted next week on the Grand Central Terminal and at Fourteenth Street and Fourth Avenue to control traffic on Fourth Avenue. Signal lamps of the same type will then be installed in Times Square and later strung along Broadway from Thirty-fourth Street to 110th Street. Similar lights controlling east and west traffic will next be placed on the Sixth Avenue elevated structure, controlling crosstown traffic from Ninth to Third Avenue and between Twenty-third and Fifty-ninth Street.
All these will be operated from a single traffic headquarters in Times Square, or by some mutual control exercised by the Times Square station and that at Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street. The installation of this system will proceed rapidly during the next two or three months, according to Commissioner Harriss.
One Central Control.
When it is fully equipped it will mean that a traffic dictator seated in the centre of the city will press a button causing scores of red lights to flash and halting tens of thousands of vehicles at once on the most crowded streets of Manhattan, while allowing tens of thousands of other vehicles and hundreds of thousands of pedestrians to proceed.
"When the centralized system is in operation much time will be saved both for the pedestrian and the motorist," said Dr. Harriss. "It will mean that automobile drivers will no longer be started at one corner and stopped at the next one in any of the streets of the city. The signal remains on in Fifth Avenue now from one-half a minute to three-quarters of a minute. If all traffic signals are synchronized throughout the city, automobiles will be allowed to proceed uninterruptedly for a regular number of blocks after each signal.
"It may prove in practice that the pause of a half minute or longer, which is in use on Fifth Avenue and in Times Square, is too long for streets where the traffic is lighter. If so, the periods will be made shorter. It will be possible, however, to continue them under some centralized control, in all probability. All traffic questions have to be worked out on the streets, of course, and plans will be modified and improved from time to time, as experience suggests."
Test Signal In Haze.
The new signal lamp is a powerful electric light like a searchlight, which was placed on the Columbia Yacht Club at Eighty-sixth Street and the East River. Commissioner Harriss and other traffic experts took their positions at Seventy-third Street and Riverside Drive and at other points along the waterfront.
"We have been waiting for a day like this," said the Commissioner, "to see how this type of light stands the test of thick, hazy weather. We could see it very distinctly at a distance of more than 6,000 feet, and it proved that it will serve our purposes excellently. It is also an economical type of lamp. This one will be placed on top of the Grand Central Terminal, looking down Fourth Avenue.
"A similar one will be placed at Fourteenth Street and Fourth Avenue. Both of them have to be raised to a considerable height to be visible this distance of nearly a mile and a half because of the Murray Hill rise, when would cut off view of a lamp placed at an ordinary level. When these two lamps are in use they will save several minutes for motorists along this street. They will also prevent accidents, which have been numerous here because of the traffic congestion without sufficient control.
"After Times Square has been equipped, additional lights of this kind will be installed on Broadway from Thirty-fourth to Seventy-second Street and later to 110th Street. Traffic will also be controlled by these lamps within two or three months along the Concourse in the Bronx, where there is need of such control."