David Dryer, P.E.
CRITERIA FOR TRAFFIC SIGNALS
Difficult deliberations often precede the decision to install a new traffic signal. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) lists eight different ways that a traffic signal can be "justified." These eight different ways will be called "criteria" in this report. In the MUTCD, the criteria are called warrants. Regardless of the terminology, the eight criteria provide a nationally used, systematic method to evaluate the need for traffic signals. Meeting just one of these eight criteria can be justification for installing signals. However, many other factors need to be considered. Addressing travel needs by alternative means without installing signals may be desirable at some locations even when one or more of the eight signal criteria are met.
The City Traffic Engineering Division will use the eightcriteria published as warrants in the MUTCD. Traffic will be counted, typically by automatic machine methods that segregate traffic for each approach. Locations that appear close to meeting one or more criteria will receive more intense study, including manual counts that segregate traffic by type (motor vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian) and movement (left turn, right turn, straight through); vehicle delay study; field review of existing intersection conditions; etc.
PRIORITY LIST AND COMMENTARY
A rank order priority list will be prepared for review by the Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission. Staff will prepare commentary on those intersections of most interest to the Commission. The commentary will cover special consideration items listed earlier and other issues.
Warrant #1-A: Minimum Vehicular Volume
The "side street" traffic volume is the principal reason for signals under this warrant. Typical minimum volume thresholds needed for at least 8 hours:
Main Street: 600 vehicles each hour
Side Street: 200 vehicles each hour
Warrant #1-B: Interruption of Continuous Traffic
The high volume on the major street and lack of traffic bunching does not allow enough gaps for side street traffic. Typical minimum volume thresholds needed for at least 8 hours:
Main Street: 900 vehicles each hour
Side Street: 100 vehicles each hour
Warrant #1-C: Combination of Warrants
For exceptional cases, warrants 1-A and 1-B are each over 80% of the minimum threshold volumes.
Warrant #2: Four-hour Volumes
Traffic volumes for four hours fall above the threshold lines on the warrant chart. Traffic concentrated within a four-hour period justifies signal control.
Warrant #3-A: Peak-hour Delay
The side street traffic needs to wait too long on average during a one-hour period. Typical minimum thresholds:
Five vehicle-hours of delay for a two-lane side street approach, and
Side street volume exceeds 150 vehicles during the same hour, and
Total intersection traffic exceeds 800 vehicles during the same hour.
Warrant #3-B: Peak-hour Volume
Traffic volumes for one hour fall above the threshold lines on the warrant chart. Traffic concentrated within a one-hour period justifies signal control.
Warrant #4: Minimum Pedestrian Volume
The high volume and lack of traffic bunching on the major street does not allow enough gaps for pedestrians to cross. Typical minimum volume thresholds needed are as follows:
100 pedestrians crossing each hour for any four hours.
The frequency of gaps in major street traffic average less than one per minute.
The study location must be suitable for maintaining existing platoons of vehicles created by nearby signals.
Warrant #5: School Crossing
The high volume and lack of traffic bunching on the major street does not allow enough gaps for students to cross. Adequate gaps occur less frequently than once a minute or once each signal cycle when adjacent signals create gaps.
Warrant #6: Coordinated Signal System
Traffic signal control is needed to keep traffic bunched (i.e., to keep platoons from getting too spread out). Traffic bunching or platooning is helpful in reducing speeding and allowing gaps at non-signalized intersections.
Warrant #7: Crash Experience
Traffic signal control is determined to be the safer control type. Other measures to maintain safety have not proven effective. This is one of the most controversial warrants to justify signal control. Typical minimum thresholds:
Five or more accidents in the past 12 months of a type that could theoretically have been prevented if signal control had been in operation.
Warrants 1-A, 1-B or 4 are at least 80% met.
Progressive traffic flow would not be significantly affected.
Warrant #8: Roadway Network Warrant
Signals are needed to keep traffic on the major streets. Typical minimum thresholds:
Vehicle volume of 1000 vehicles during the peak hour.
Projected volumes will meet warrants 1, 2, or 3 within five years.
To request a copy of the section on Traffic Signal Warrants in the 2000 edition of the MANUAL ON UNIFORM TRAFFIC CONTROL DEVICES, call Brian Smith at 261-9625.