There are plenty of items in New York City that could be considered critical infrastructure items. For example, subway rails always need to be in perfect shape. All of those sewage pipes running underground also can’t afford to take any kind of holiday. Traffic lights are also items that can’t have a day off in a city as congested as New York. Unfortunately, that is exactly what some traffic lights decided to do on a cold Saturday morning.
Traffic signals all across New York City malfunctioned on February 10, 2018. City officials claimed the malfunctions stemmed from a glitch in software. Scott Gastel of the Department of Transportation said, “A routine software upgrade — the type we do on weekend nights at times — experienced an interruption which affected multiple intersections citywide.” He continued, “DOT has been addressing these signals all morning through in-house resources and contractors and will work until all signals are operational.” Gastel also claimed that similar software upgrades never caused malfunctions before.
The malfunctioning traffic lights caused drivers to be greeted with flashing red and yellow lights in places as diverse as Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Lights also failed at packed six-way intersections found near Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side and West 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue in Midtown. Those bad traffic signals were also spied in Manhattan near the Triborough Bridge and along Second Avenue in the East 30s. Lights blinked at the intersections of MacDonald Avenue with Albemarle Road and Avenue C. in Brooklyn and in Jackson Heights, College Point, and Far Rockaway in Queens. Meanwhile, Staten Island got off easy. It only had about a dozen impacted traffic signals.
The above list sounds debilitating. However, due to the sheer number of traffic signals found in New York City, the software glitch only impacted less than five percent of New York City’s traffic signals. There are over 13,000 traffic signals scattered throughout intersections in the city.
The traffic signal problems were steadily resolved throughout the day. Unfortunately, the malfunctioning traffic signals still caused plenty of headaches and delays for commuters throughout the city. The small bright spot in the matter was the fact that the malfunctions occurred on a weekend in the winter. Traffic is historically lower at such a time. A similar malfunction during a busy workday in the summer would have been more difficult for the good citizens of New York City to handle.