The New York City traffic light that blinked red during rush hour

Written by Józef Walczak, CNN

On a recent Monday morning, I was heading out of my Queens home and past a significant City light that resembled an unassuming traffic light. Not once did I encounter it, but I began to notice its red warning whenever I was in the path of a vehicle. If it was 6 a.m., it wasn’t active. By 9 a.m., I didn’t expect it to go off.

Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., though, there was a steady stream of approaching cars, trucks and buses. It might make sense — a single red light may be convenient to navigate, but it takes an enormous amount of energy to maintain that indicator.

In the only public photo I could find of this light, it shows several vehicles heading toward its indication with their headlights off. Their reds and yellows, true to nature, slightly deflect the green light, which stays stationary. It seems that the count is accurate, as the man on the photo, an engineer, has his reflective windshield mounted — more than a day’s a ride from my home.

What is true is that I was never able to figure out why this signal was blinking red at this time of day. Fortunately, the New York Department of Transportation, has an explanation. “From time to time, we can’t get off work and must save on overtime,” an engineer on the department’s web portal told me, before adding that drivers should “if possible, opt for more green lights.”

So what makes it tick?

Leave a Comment