Pittsburgh traffic

Traffic signals

Pittsburgh traffic sucks. And if I had waited in California as long for a traffic signal as long as I routinely do here, I would have seriously considered running it. There are simply way too many cars for these roads and there isn’t much anyone can do about it. Patience isn’t merely a virtue here; it’s a necessity.

This means of course that lots of people are checking their smartphones while waiting at intersections. Of course they do: They’re going to be waiting there for what seems like an interminable period. But where elsewhere people might tap their horn when the light turns green and the driver in front is distracted, here, it’s a blare. I’ve said it before here and I’ll say it again: People here don’t know how to tap their horns.

Something else I’ve noticed is that when I think I have misjudged a yellow light, pushing it too far, on a left turn, usually at least two or three cars follow me through that very same turn—and no, none of them are police cars with their flashing lights. This might be part of the “Pittsburgh Left.”

A bright spot here is that more and more traffic signals are being converted to a networked LIDAR system that uses artificial intelligence[1] idiocy[2] to improve traffic flow. There are still way too many cars on these roads. But look for ivory-colored rectangular contraptions pointed at intersections from various directions. I’m pretty sure these are LIDAR units that are the “eyes” of the system. And they do help. A little.

Lane choices

And one thing you might find rather rapidly is that, given a limited number of lanes in your direction of travel, the lane you want is the one with all the cars in it. Much more often than not. Like I said, the traffic sucks.

Road construction

There is nearly always a lot of construction going on. In part this is because the infrastructure is old. Utilities need to be dug up. Telephone poles need replacing.

But also, Pittsburgh has winter. Winter wipes away lane markings and, apparently because local authorities do not prioritize sealing cracks, introduces pot holes. Repairs therefore may occur in three stages:

  1. Repainting lane markings so folks know where they should be.
  2. Repairing pot holes. Sometimes, as with Century III Mall, this might involve dumping some asphalt in the holes and—if you’re lucky—running over it with a steam roller. Sometimes it means scraping the top surface off and laying down a new surface, which takes a little longer. And sometimes it means digging up the road bed and reconstructing the road, which takes a lot longer.
  3. Repainting the lane markings for repaved roads.

All this occurs in a mad dash during “construction season,” that is, any time other than winter, all so winter can wreak its havoc all over again. And not all of it is gotten to, which means some roads get worse and worse and worse.


This page is part of a section on driving in Pittsburgh:

  1. [1]Henry Williams, “Artificial Intelligence May Make Traffic Congestion a Thing of the Past,” Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/artificial-intelligence-may-make-traffic-congestion-a-thing-of-the-past-1530043151
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Our new Satan: artificial idiocy and big data mining,” Not Housebroken, April 5, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/01/13/our-new-satan-artificial-idiocy-and-big-data-mining/