LADOT Installing Speed Monitors with Feedback to Signals

LADOT is installing speed feedback signage. Image via Fortel Traffic, Inc. website
LADOT is installing speed feedback signage. Image via Fortel Traffic, Inc. website

A big part of the L.A. City Department of Transportation’s Vision Zero effort is to rein in speeding. Speeding is among the primary causes of traffic deaths and fatalities. Speeding makes other problems worse.

LADOT and LAPD are clear on the diagnosis: speeding kills Angelenos. Their prescription is less clear. Chart via LADOT Vision Zero safety study
Speeding kills Angelenos. Chart via LADOT Vision Zero safety study

In addition to in-roadway interventions including painted curb extensions, LADOT is installing 150 speed feedback signs on Vision Zero High Injury Network’s 40 priority corridors. According to to LADOT engineer Tim Fremaux “about two dozen of these are installed and operational so far, in addition to the 175 or so we have around the city from previous installations.”

A few of these signs come with a new wrinkle. Last week, LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds tweeted about a “new signal trick” in the city’s arsenal against dangerous speeding.

In selected locations, speed feedback signs are now linked to downstream traffic signals. When a driver breaks the law going more than five mph over the speed limit, the sign triggers the upcoming signal to turn yellow, then red. LADOT’s Fremaux states that this feature is more effective when the specific locations are not made public, so Streetsblog L.A. is not revealing the location of the one that this writer visited last week.

The smart feedback sign product is called VCalm®VMS-SP, and is manufactured by Fortel Traffic Inc. The high tech speed signs are full of great data collection features (see video at Fortel website.) They inform DOTs when speeding is happening, what effects the sign is having, and can generate data for state-mandated 85th-percentile speed surveys. As far as LADOT and Fortel report, the city of L.A. is the first municipality to implement this new feature to trigger signal timing changes to curb speeding.

  • Yeah

    Somehow LADOT will twist this into evil.

  • EB

    Wow… Such high hopes for Seleta’s leadership at LADOT and still more of this… As if it wasn’t clear, LA drivers DO. NOT. CARE. ABOUT. BLINKING. LIGHTS. or red lights, yellow lights, right of way, posted speed limits, common decency, or other street users who aren’t in a vehicle and won’t affect their insurance if hit. PSAs & fancy new tech are nice and all, but until LADOT gets serious about safe infrastructure, our streets will still allow cars free reign to injure and kill.

  • BH90008

    This seems like it could be a worthwhile approach, but how would it interact with countdown signals for walkers? Seems like this would only be viable on streets without these timers, and still might leave walkers stranded in the intersection as the signal switches.

  • Bob P

    It would not be able to cycle to red if there is an active pedestrian phase (WALK, or flashing DON’T WALK).

  • Pauly S.

    The main issue with this approach is how it will be treated in the legal system. This has a high potential to be treated as a speed trap.

  • dexter

    That’s only an issue if tickets are being handed out… why does the legal system care if/when how lights turn red, provided the signal timing is meeting basic design standards (design of ped/vehicle signal heads, sufficient walk time, etc.)?

  • calwatch

    They need to be careful when fiddling with the signals like this, because if they switch the signal too quickly you could increase red light running and if cross traffic is given the green, massive T bone collisions and enormous liability. Or someone speeding in one lane could punish someone going the speed limit in another lane and force them to stop on a dime. This includes buses which cannot stop as quickly as cars. Let’s say a vehicle is going 65 in the fast lane while a bus is going 35 in the slow lane and the magic signal triggers – will the bus be running the red light, or slam on their brakes, just because of the speeder?

    The “red lights stop speeding” thing only works during lightly traveled periods where there is no cross traffic. Rather than giving cross traffic the green early you need to extend the phase when all directions are red. The traffic signal plans and signal timing are considered public record and discoverable and I hope LADOT engineers are thinking carefully about liability before full implementation, since the City cannot afford any more settlements or judgments.

  • AB3

    I believe length of the yellow phase of the light is determined based on the posted speed limit, so fellow drivers obeying the speed limit should not have to stop on a dime. The yellow duration would remain the same as it is currently; it would just be triggered by speeders.

  • AB3

    In my experience both as a driver and pedestrian, I’ve found LA drivers to be fairly responsive to in-pavement flashers … at least more so than with un-flashered crosswalks, which I guess is not saying much.

  • gb52

    I was thinking about this too. While uncommon, i think you could still cycle to red and have a active ped phase since it is a separate signal. Much like leading ped phases, where the you have a walk signal while general traffic still has a red phase.

  • Vooch

    As a NYr, I’ve found LA drivers positively genteel when it comes to respecting pedestrians.

  • Walt Arrrrr

    There’s got to be a better way to prove a point than having an LADOT employee break laws by speeding down North Broadway in Lincoln Heights next to a high school while holding their phone to videotape themselves driving. With all the money being spent to discourage distracted driving, it sure would be nice if our city employees heeded their own Vision Zero messaging.

    North Figueroa has three of these signals. Two in CD14 that date back to when Villaraigosa was Councilmember, and one in CD1 installed more recently. All three have the same thing in common: Drivers ignore the feedback signs and continue to drive as fast as they can, racing up to each signal as they turn red. If you’re one of the few drivers that recognize the signal activation process and drive below the speed limit, brace yourself for angry tailgaters. The question is: Why bother to install these expensive measures when the public is largely ignorant of their existence and mechanization?

  • calwatch

    On the other hand, as a driver, I’ve never really cared much about tailgaters. If they want to buy me a new car, go right ahead.

  • Joe Linton

    It seems like there are a number of approaches that more-or-less work on this: 1) trigger the yellow only when no beg button has been pushed or 2) keep the walk phase fairly short – then trigger only during the don’t walk phase. (Around K-town where I walk, at smaller crossings the countdown-walk phase is relatively short compared to the overall green – often half or less [not a great thing IMHO – I’d prefer a longer walk phase] – this would allow plenty of time for signal triggering as shown in the article)

  • mrsman

    This really isn’t new. There are several signals like this all over the city at select locations. Two that I am familiar with are Motor/Monte Mar (Cheviot Hills) and Crescent Heights/Whitworth (Carthay Circle). There are signs telling you “signals set for 30 MPH” and they really mean it.

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