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Today in L.A. History: Los Angeles Drives Traffic Innovation. Yes, Really.

February 19, 2013

Los Angeles becomes the first major city in the world to synchronize all of its traffic signals to the same automated traffic control system

Introduced during the 1984 L.A. Olympics, the citywide signal synchronization program picked up steam in 2005 when then mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa campaigned on a promise to finish the project. He can check its completion off his list as of 12 p.m. this afternoon.

The system, which synched up all 4,398 of the city’s traffic signals, is not only believed to reduce travelers’ commute time by 12 percent, but will also significantly reduce the city’s air pollution—by about 1 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually—say officials. City leaders expect to see improvement in downtown traffic patterns and congestion, which they hope will ease the traffic flow for those traveling to Staples Center, Dodger Stadium, and other major L.A. venues.

Perhaps most importantly, this system should allow emergency response vehicles to reach major accidents more quickly. According to the Mayor’s office, the goal of the system was to make transportation easier, not just for those sitting in traffic but for those on foot or using public transit. Whether or not the traffic signal synch-up paves the way for other cities to implement similar solutions is yet to be seen.