I wasn’t able to blog this when I first saw it in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Dec. 19, but it annoyed me so much I hung onto the paper and saved it for a time when I could.
The typical traffic light is roughly the size of a large table fan.
The hardware necessary to switch a signal from green to amber to red in a fail-safe way can probably fit into the space of an old desktop computer.
So why does Philadelphia need to install control boxes as big as refrigerators to operate its traffic lights?
Thank you, Department of Homeland Security. Requirements for specific kinds of surveillance equipment made the boxes into monstrous things that blight the urban landscape and even, in some cases, partially block the doorways of historic buildings – buildings, as the owner notes, you can’t touch on the outside without permission. The ugly things interfere with pedestrian traffic.
This just depresses the hell out of me. Philadelphia’s central core is such a beautiful and walkable city, not to mention historic. Now, we have this:
Some signal boxes slam hard up against the walls of 18th-century houses. Others block the gracious windows of antiques stores and restaurants. A box shadows the side of St. Peter’s Church, one of the city’s most significant colonial buildings. And even when the big boxes find spots at curbside, their presence is impossible to ignore.
In our zeal to protect America from attack, it seems we’ve implemented a policy that scars one of America’s most intact colonial neighborhoods.
One bright note:
Only the National Park Service has fought back: It threatened to sue if the city installed the boxes near Independence Mall, Buckley told me.
The final indignity associated with these hideous digital signal boxes?
But with one quadrant nearly complete, the digitization project faces a not-so-small hitch: The city can’t afford the software to run the system.
Yes – ugly, intrusive, AND essentially useless.
See here for a picture of one the ugly behemoths in place.
I blame Homeland Security for requiring this Big Brother crap in the first place. But come on, engineers, is this the best freakin’ design you could come up with for one of America’s most historic cities? Do you think they’d let crap like this on the street in a place like Heidelberg? I seriously doubt it. It’s an insult and represents a failure of imagination, which is something engineers are supposed to be all about.