Our View: Want a smart city, too? Synchronize the traffic signals first

November 19, 2017

There’s a lot of buzz around the so-called “smart city” that Bill Gates is planning on 25,000 acres he just bought around Buckeye.

The reality is a little more mundane: The land purchase was through, essentially, a subsidiary of a private Gates trust and there’s no indication the smart city is a flagship pet project of the Microsoft founder.

Still, the idea of a smart city in the Arizona desert is interesting even if it does leave a distasteful thought that other cities must by definition be a little stupid and living in the past.

Which brings us home to Lake Havasu City, where the buzz is still very real about a $2 million prize won in a nationwide economic development contest earlier this year includes some smart city components.

So what is a smart city? Definitions vary. It always includes a lot of broadband internet. Popular Mechanics described the Arizona smart city as containing high speed data and technology supporting its infrastructure. That sounds pretty smart and pretty futuristic partially because it’s hard to comprehend.

We like it, though, and would like our own city to have some of that. How?

First, understand the problem with smart city planning are all the abstractions.

Broadband, data, connectivity are all part of a master plan to, well, do what exactly?

We have a humble proposal for Lake Havasu City to translate intangibles into practical life: Synchronize the traffic signals, please.

It’s been a talking point for years and the city and state Department of Transportation have what appear to be loosely coordinated efforts to make traffic flow more smoothly along State Route 95 and Lake Havasu Avenue corridors.

Yet it doesn’t. Visitors and travelers going, say, from Parker to Kingman often gripe that it takes forever to get through all the traffic lights on the highway.

Quite often, though the lights are supposed to be coordinated, it’s possible to sit at a highway red light when there is no cross traffic from a cross street.

Smart isn’t the word that comes to mind in such instances.

Improving traffic flow would seem a basic tangible goal of any city that doesn’t want to be smart-shamed by a vacant slab of desert in the greater Buckeye area.

— Today’s News-Herald