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Friday, September 28, 2001

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Just two minutes: Countdown clocks are here

By Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar

NEW DELHI, SEPT. 27. After a successful trial run at four major intersections, the ``Digital Electronic Reverse Timer'' -- better known as countdown clock -- is all set to change the face of traffic light junctions across the Capital.

Already the traffic police have finalised contracts for 40 junctions with CAT Advertising Private Limited and Warrior Foundation -- who have been granted 20 crossings each. Contracts for 40 more junctions are being finalised and would be in operation by this year-end. The countdown clocks, introduced at four places on an experimental basis two months ago, will thus cover 80 junctions now.

A brainchild of the Joint Commissioner (Traffic), Mr. Maxwell Pereira, the scheme is aimed at ``reducing strain on motorists'' and also ``cutting down on fuel consumption''. Pollution levels would also come down as people tend to switch off their engines when the waiting period is long.

Quoting results of an opinion poll, Mr. Pereira claims the initiative has been widely welcomed. With the countdown clock showing the exact time left for the signal to turn green, people will now know the exact amount of time they will have to wait. ``This will allow them to relax and take away unnecessary stress.''

A study had shown that the 120-second traffic cycle is the maximum a human mind can tolerate without any fuss at a traffic intersection. Optimising the use of this duration, the countdown clock helps motorists overcome tension. ``The timer, which also blinks during the last five seconds, also gives them the feel that the wait is not very long. Two minutes do not appear to be an hour when one waits at a crossing with these timers.''

Though Mr. Pereira had seen these timers in Japan in the early years of the last decade when he was DCP Traffic, the scheme could not be introduced here as it involved digital technology. That is no longer a problem now.

As many as four companies have approached the department so far for installing these timers, which are already in operation at some intersections in Ahmedabad in Bangalore. The contracts for the timers -- which have a 12 inchx12 inch display panel and a 2 inchx12 inch endorsement space below it -- have been given out on a build-operate-transfer basis, with the machinery becoming property of the traffic police after five years.

The system -- compatible only with ``fixed time'' signals -- is expected to be extended to many of the 580 signalised junctions across Delhi in future. But for technical reasons, it would not be able to find a place in most of New Delhi, which is covered by ``Area Traffic Control System''.

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