There is a subject that never seems to
come up: why we have more and more traffic scofflaws. The reason is
straight forward: it is the unintended consequence of uncontrolled
We have a growing number of stop
signs in San Francisco. Therefore, it takes longer and longer to
drive anywhere in the city. The number of stop signs has been growing
at a steady pace for fifty years, regardless of population or
Proliferating stop signs is a gnawing problem that is currently ignored. Stop signs are designed to slow traffic. As the length of time to travel within the city grows, the patience of drivers declines. The willingness to obey traffic regulations probably declines also.
Here is the data: In 1957, when stop-sign installation was turned over to the city (it was formerly managed by the California State Automobile Association), there were 1,786 stop signs in San Francisco. That number has doubled nearly three times in fifty years to 13,200 stop signs at the beginning of 2007. This is an increase in stop signs of 4 percent per year. The number of intersections, however, is the same as it was in 1957. In the meantime, the population of San Francisco has only increased slightly from 740,000 to 770,000. The number of automobiles has grown from 170,000 to 390,000, a growth rate of under two percent per year. Increase in cars is half the increase in stop signs. The average urban automobile is shorter than it was in 1957. Much shorter. The number of stop signs has far out paced the number of cars.
As the number of stop signs increases, traffic slows and drivers become more and more impatient. Is there a way to address this issue?
Ultimately, I hope there will be a supervisor's study of the necessary number of stop signs in San Francisco. With an upper limit established, the law should require that a new sign can go up only if an old sign comes down."
(Data: I got the data on Stop Signs by counting it myself at the Stop Sign office in 1997.)