Working as Designed, Broken by Practice

I am on my way to Taco Bell ™ for lunch and take the 79 exit from IH-35. Right off the bat I notice something wrong. There is a huge line on the frontage road at the light. This is not normal for this time of day. As I wait for the light, I notice something even more strange — The car at the light just took a left turn on red!. “Hrm, that must be one impatient person” I think. Thirty seconds pass and I see the same thing happen — more cars are crossing the red light in-between holes in the oncoming traffic. Well, I will just wait and see what is going on when I get to the light. After the fifteen cars in front of me take their turns dodging traffic just to escape waiting, I come to the red light. Obviously, this light is stuck on red for two directions of travel and green for the third. Everyone has realized this fact (except for the traffic with the green light) and took advantage of this fact. I am surprised that the traffic with the legal right-of-way did not get upset at the cars crossing in front of them. Well, I of course did the same at two of the stuck lights (on both sides of IH-35).

While I would not normally bother following up on this phenomenon, I decided to call the police department and notify them of this. When I told the dispatcher what was going on, she replied that a fire truck must have passed and the lights will return to normal in “a couple of minutes.”

Obviously, there is something wrong with this and the city planners have not used what they have designed. There was no sign of the Fire Truck to give motorists a clue as to what is happening. The fire truck has some sort of remote mechanism to turn the light into this mode but does not use that same mechanism to turn it back off! Drivers are cocky bastards and will take their chances in their “safe” cars to try to pass the light.