We forgive drivers - for now. The city has begun replacing all the traffic signals and pedestrian lamps in the city with light-emitting diode (LED) ones that save taxpayers money and energy and give off less carbon dioxide to help achieve our stratospheric Kyoto goals. The eight-year plan to convert all 1,920 signalled intersections in Toronto is expected to cost $17.7 million, and with a budget of up to $2.5 million a year, that's enough to make about 270 conversions each year.
Now check out the savings: each 300 mm incandescent lamp uses 135 watts and has to be replaced yearly. The new LED lamps last eight years and use 10 to 14 watts of energy. This means that within eight years the city will go directly into a 270-lamp replacement schedule compared to a yearly overhaul of the entire grid.
The bottom line? Annual savings of $2 million in labour and energy costs, with an 84 per cent reduction in energy use and a 5,225-tonne yearly reduction in carbon dioxide emissions once the project is complete.
The downside?According to James Chandler, supervisor of traffic plant installation and maintenance, there just isn't the money to move more quickly. " If we had the budget, we could do it [faster],' he says.
Since January 2003, each of the city's new intersections - between 35 and 40 a year - have been equipped with these environmentally friendly lamps, while this spring 10 intersections served as crash test dummies.
One thing to note is that only the red and green lamps are being converted. The amber light is proving tough to get right and has not been certified for use yet.
The only noticeable difference in the new lamps is a much brighter light. Walkers may have noticed the new pedestrian lamps,which use 6 watts of energy compared to the 90-watt incandescents and are being installed at intersections at the same rate as traffic lights.
Drivers shouldn't stare too hard at the new, brighter signals, which may have a will-o-the-wisp effect. And remember to look in your rear-view mirror for cyclists.