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By Phoenix Tarampi

This winter, Toronto Traffic Control changed the signalling system at Church and Gould streets to alleviate the pedestrian traffic. Since it doesn’t look like Gould Street is going to be closed in the foreseeable future, read this so you can figure out how traffic lights work, avoid the need to jaywalk and still make it to class on time.

Crosswalk buttons: cure to long waits or public placebo?

While crosswalk buttons work, they don’t understand urgency. You could press that button a thousand times, but the computer is only going to recognize the first push.

“Really, when it’s activated it will put a call into a controlling computer,” said Urban Traffic Control Systems traffic engineer Linda Lee. “And it will be a locked-in call to signify that someone’s waiting to cross.”

So, why does it still feel like hours before the green light changes to yellow? “There’s a certain cycle the light needs to go through and if you press the button at the beginning of the cycle, you have to wait until it goes through it before the light will change for you,” Oleksij said.

Semi-Actuated vs. Fixed Signals

Church and Gould used to operate on a semi-actuated signal, where a button needs to be pressed for the light to change. However, this was inefficient for the masses trying to get to the east side of campus (in fact, that’s why the bridge to the RCC was built).

Now, the lights have been changed to fixed time signals. These are on a constant timer and change automatically, giving more opportunities for pedestrians to cross Church.

“Generally if signals are called all the time then there is no need for them to be actuated, so we just go in and change the signals,” said Roman Oleksij, the traffic-control supervisor for the district containing the Church and Gould intersection.

Bottom line: you don’t need the patience of Ghandi to get your chance to cross the street.

Slim down your jaywalking

We’re taught to obey traffic signals when we’re young. Then we realize the meat comes faster if we dash across the street to the hotdog stand.

But you can go back to your legal ways. It might sound soft, but there’s a reason we still hesitate when the cops are around.

When the light turns yellow, you still have five seconds until it turns red, and even then there’s one bonus second before the other light turns green.

Just be weary of any cars trying to pull the same trick. That could get messy.

Obviously, jaywalking still has its many essential moments, but it gets risky when it’s not on Gould Street. So be careful out there, because nobody wants an undergraduate in death.

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