In one of the more unusual transport proposals we've seen for London, the GLA Conservatives have proposed switching off traffic lights at night in a bid to save £40m by 2020.
The idea has been mooted in the 'Green Light' report written by Conservative transport spokesman Richard Tracey. Local authorities and TfL are urged to switch off some of London’s 6,000 traffic lights between midnight and 6am.
The idea behind Tracey's switch-off is that each light costs around £6,600 to maintain, and the figures on how money will be saved stack up something like this:
Using the volume of traffic during a 6 hour period, between 12-6am, the estimated average reduction of delays by turning off the traffic signals would be 53 minutes a day per junction. The average saving if applied to the 2,532 relevant junctions (which is the number of signals excluding pelican and toucan crossings) would equate to 2,251 hours saved a day. The average off-peak value of time per vehicle according to the DfT is £13.41 an hour, this means these hours saved would equate to £30k a day across London in saved time, and would equal £11m in savings a year.
So there you go. Obviously, there's a need to review the capital's traffic lights on a reasonably regular basis and remove any which are no longer useful. Vehicles idling pointlessly at traffic lights isn't great for London's pollution levels. But can you ever switch them off for six hours, even if you provide 'explanatory signage'? Green Party AM Darren Johnson commented on the report:
“We need to make our roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians to use, rather than turning them into dangerous freeways at night. London is a 24 hour city and the safety of people moving around on foot, or by bike, does not end when it gets dark.”
The report says that the right of way would be enforced on junctions, so if two cars entered at the same time, the one on the right has priority (the same as on a roundabout). Which sounds perfectly reasonable, though visibility tends to be better at roundabouts and traffic only comes from one direction. Pedestrians would have priority over vehicles.
It's not unheard or (or totally nuts) for local authorities to look to night time cost savings — some outside London already switch off street lighting between midnight and 5am. So a proposal extending that to traffic lights isn't that much of a surprise. The bigger surprise would be if the Conservatives' switch-off ever got the green light.
Photo by Richard Watkins in the Londonist Flickr pool.