Man who was fined $500 for criticizing traffic light timing gets his idea adopted by Institute of Transportation Engineers

Originally published at:


The stop light timer at the intersection between my house is literally 10 seconds. Most drivers go 0 to 30-40 to go 1 block before it changes. It’s a race to stupid in Pennsylvania, where our roads are broken, speed limits are dumb, and stop light timing is quite often not enough or too much. For 5 miles in the middle of nowhere on the way to the mall, the speed limit drops from 55 to 50, then back to 55. Then when you get to the next town, it abruptly drops to 35 mph. Down town though the stop light timers for pedestrians is like 5 mins, so quite often if it changes abruptly you have truckers slam on jake brakes and the stacking up of traffic to where it’s clogged up so badly, it takes 10-15 mins to go maybe 12 blocks.


The Board also forbid him from continuing to discuss his research.

Glad he sued that group and won. What kind of overreach is this, and how many regulatory boards are full of people with the same problem? :thinking:


I’ve been following this for a while. So far, none of the articles I’ve seen even mentions the names of the people who made the decision to go after him, much less suggested any consequences for abusing their power.

I realize that’s pretty minor in terms of how government officials abuse their power in this country, but it’s part of a general pattern of lack of accountability. The thin blue line applies to all the bureaucrats, not just the cops.


It’s minor in that it was just a $500 fine directed at someone who likely had $500. But at the same time as it’s minor it’s also insanely egregious in terms of how obviously wrong it is, so I think your feeling like there should be consequences is justified.


Yeah. I mean, Im not even after blood, here. I just think that when someone abuses power granted to them by the government, they should never be in a position with any government authority again.


Another thing is, I live in Beaverton, and I can tell you, unequivocally, that there are a whole lot of people working for tech companies here, including both me and this guy, who, despite not being whatever kind of certified engineer they hire to do traffic engineering, could do a vastly better job of timing our traffic lights than whatever clowns they have doing it.

I’ve lived a bunch of places, and I’ve never seen a place where the light scheduling was as obviously, egregiously bad as it is here.


I just assumed anyone with TWO umlauts in their name knows what they’re talking about!


It’s interesting that his idea doesn’t take any kind of engineering degree to understand, it’s pretty common sense: i.e. You have to slow down to make a turn so yellow lights in turn lanes should be slightly longer than yellow lights in non-turn lanes.


This is often the response of people in charge who don’t listen to actual experts.

I applaud this guy and would buy him many beers for not only using science to give Authority the middle finger but suing them and winning and getting his idea adopted.

This is science. This is science giving Authority the middle finger and I love it so hard


You can be fined for criticising something?



Fined? Yes. Constitutionally fined? No.

As this is described, it would be a blatant violation of the First Amendment. That said, if the plaintiff committed fraud by representing that he had credentials he did not in a forum in which you affirm that your comments are submitted under the penalty of perjury, then we might have a justification for government interference in his speech. I assume the report would have mentioned that, but BoingBoing has fucked up such details in the past.

My guess is that some local douche tried to enforce some obscure regulation and didn’t think or care about the First Amendment.


This isn’t about safety, it’s about money collection.

Living in both Chicago and currently the Portland suburbs this is unfortunately my new normal.


I read the linked-to piece and, sure enough, his first response was to get a pen junction based on a First Amendment argument. He won that argument easily.


I’ve started a meta association called “Allowed to Tell Public Officials To Fuck Right Off” Association that allows people to be critical of public official in verbal or written context.

Hand signs are also allowed.

Touch this -> X … to join.


It’s one thing to feel frustrated, and that’s warranted here. But, it’s another thing to equate lack of fact reporting w/ some “general patter of lack of accountability” applied to “all the bureaucrats”. Why? Well, don’t you suppose the people that have written whatever articles you’ve been reading have omitted names? Further, don’t you suppose names appear in the public court records? Is this an issue of publication matters, or is it an issue of some sort of “lack of accountability” conspiracy? I’d guess the former.

It’s probably a state where engineer is a legally protected term, requiring P.Eng status, rather than just an engineering degree.

A quibble since (a) he wasn’t doing work for hire that required that he sign off on as a P.Eng, (b) his work involved basic calculus.


The “lack of accountability” doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the papers, it’s because the people who made the decision to fine him, and their superiors who then backed them up through the court battles, are still in the same positions of authority that they abused in this case, and thus in a position to abuse that authority again. Ergo, lack of accountability.

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That may be, but you made a blanket statement about “the thin blue line” applying to “all the bureaucrats”. Just wanted to point out that there are many, many, many “bureaucrats” that routinely do the “right thing” (whatever the hell that is in this fucked up world). Ergo, one story out of one small bureau shouldn’t define the rest.


Previously on Boing Boing:

Traffic lights worldwide set to change after a Swedish engineer saw red over getting a ticket