Traffic Signals

Report a Problem

To report a problem with a traffic or pedestrian signal, call 311. Please have the exact location of the problem ready.

DOT's contractors are required to arrive at the scene of the most serious problems (e.g., all lights out, or a knocked-down pole) within two hours of notification. If a bulb is out, contractors are required to respond within 48 hours.

Accessible pedestrian signals

DOT installs special signals at crosswalks to assist blind or low vision pedestrians. The signals make sounds and vibrate when pedestrians push a button installed at the crosswalk. Learn more and see a list of all accessible pedestrian signals in New York City

Exclusive pedestrian signals

At some intersections, DOT programs traffic signals with an interval that stops traffic in all directions, giving pedestrians an exclusive time to cross the street. Learn more and see a list of all exclusive pedestrian signals in New York City

Leading pedestrian interval signals

Traffic signals at some intersections give pedestrians a head start to cross the street before car traffic. Learn more and see a list of all leading pedestrian interval signals in New York City

Frequently asked questions about traffic signals

What does a traffic signal do?

A traffic signal controls the right-of-way for vehicles arriving at an intersection, which can reduce traffic delay and accident-producing conflicts. It also makes an intersection safe by determining whether vehicles or pedestrians should proceed.

Does a traffic signal control speed?

No. In some areas where speeding is a problem, residents believe that a traffic signal is needed to address the speeding problem. In fact, traffic signals sometimes result in greater speeds as drivers accelerate to try to get through the signal before it turns red. Other traffic control measures, such as speed humps, speed limit signs, and traffic enforcement, are more effective in controlling speed.

How many traffic signals are there in New York City?

As of June 30, 2011, there were 12,460 intersections with traffic signals citywide, including 2,820 in Manhattan, 1,605 in the Bronx, 4,371 in Brooklyn, 3,119 in Queens and 545 in Staten Island.

How long does it take lights to change?

Signal timing cycle lengths usually fall between 45 and 120 seconds. The timing for each signal is determined based on traffic volume and traffic patterns in each particular area.

A traffic signal's cycle is too long or too short, will DOT change it?

Sometimes the presence of a traffic signal will result in changes in the previous traffic patterns, as some drivers seek alternative routes to avoid the signal. This may mean that the current signal timing is no longer appropriate. If you believe that the timing of a particular signal is incorrect, contact the Commissioner with your request. DOT will conduct a study of traffic patterns to determine if any adjustments are needed. A study will take approximately 12 weeks.

How can I request a new traffic signal?

You can request the installation of a traffic signal by writing to the Commissioner. You can also request an accessible pedestrian signal, which plays audible messages to assist visually impaired users.

How does DOT decide whether a traffic signal should be installed at an intersection?

DOT uses a detailed process called an intersection control study to determine if traffic signals or multi-way stop signs are appropriate for a location. The study includes (but is not limited to) these steps:

  • DOT inspectors check all agency records (e.g. sign orders, pavement marking orders, school maps) for the location.
  • A DOT inspector conducts a field investigation to create a Condition Diagram of the location. This diagram shows street and sidewalk widths, location geometry, street directions, location and conditions of DOT signs and markings, land use, street furniture, distance to the nearest traffic control device, and other information.
  • The inspector completes a Field Observation Report which has a checklist of conditions at the location. This includes drivers' compliance with existing controls, geometric or sight distance issues, and violations of the speed limit.
  • DOT inspectors conduct manual counts of the number of vehicles and pedestrians, usually during morning and evening rush hours. Counts include the number of turning vehicles, and may also include counts during and after school hours or during off-peak hours.
  • DOT may install Automatic Traffic Recorders (ATRs) to collect hourly vehicle volumes over a period of several weekdays or weekends.
  • At designated school crossings, DOT determines the number of safe crossing opportunities for schoolchildren by recording the frequency and adequacy of gaps between vehicles.
  • Sometimes DOT conducts spot speed studies to determine the 85th percentile speed of vehicles (the speed at which 85% of vehicles are traveling at or below) as they approach the location.
  • DOT reviews the New York Police Department Accident Index System, which contains up-to-date summaries of accidents at the location. DOT also evaluates individual accident reports (MV-104) for the location.

DOT then compares all of the data collected to the warrants outlined in the Federal guidelines to determine if it is appropriate to install a traffic signal or a multi-way stop. If the data does not meet the warrants, DOT will not install a traffic signal or multi-way stop sign. In these instances, DOT frequently finds other ways to improve traffic conditions.

What are the Federal Guidelines for traffic signals?

The federal standards for traffic control devices can be found in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which is published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The MUTCD establishes criteria known as "warrants" which are used to determine if a new traffic signal is appropriate.

The latest edition of the MUTCD, published in 2009, sets forth nine warrants, which are summarized below. Learn more about the MUTCD on the FHWA web site

  1. Eight-Hour Vehicular Volume — For each of any 8 hours of an average day, there is a heavy volume of intersecting traffic, or the traffic volume on a major street is so heavy that traffic on a minor intersecting street suffers excessive delay or conflict in entering or crossing the major street.
  2. Four-Hour Vehicular Volume For each of any 4 hours of an average day, there is a heavy volume of intersecting traffic.
  3. Peak Hour — For a minimum of 1 hour of an average day, the minor-street traffic suffers undue delay when entering or crossing the major street.
  4. Pedestrian Volume — The traffic volume on a major street is so heavy that pedestrians experience excessive delay in crossing the major street.
  5. School Crossing — The number of adequate gaps in the traffic stream during the period when schoolchildren are using designated school crosswalks on the major street must be less than the number of minutes in the same period.
  6. Coordinated Signal System — A signal is necessary as part of a coordinated signal system to maintain proper platooning of vehicles.
  7. Crash Experience — The severity and frequency of preventable crashes that have occurred within a 12-month period reduce the thresholds in the vehicle volume warrants.
  8. Roadway Network — A signal might be justified to encourage concentration and organization of traffic flow on a roadway network when two or more major routes intersect.
  9. Intersection Near a Grade Crossing — There is proximity to the intersection of a grade crossing on an intersection approach controlled by a STOP or YIELD sign and heavy vehicle volumes.

What is the Red Light Camera Program?

The Red Light Camera Program uses technology that enables DOT to automatically take high-resolution photographs of vehicles that go through red lights, including close-ups of the license plates. Summonses are issued to the owners of the vehicles, as with parking violations. The photos are included with the summonses. The City had the first full-time red light photographic enforcement program in the United States, and was the first jurisdiction to send photos to respondents as part of the summons.

Are red light cameras effective in preventing drivers from running red lights?

Studies have shown a 40 percent decrease in the total number of incidents of motorists going through red lights at the locations where cameras have been installed. That means fewer accidents, making New York City much safer for pedestrians and other motorists.

Since the Red Light Camera program began in December 1993, more than 4 million summonses have been issued through 2007. Because the summonses include photographs of the vehicle going through the intersection, very few motorists have contested the summonses. About 88% have been found guilty.

In April 1998, legislation was enacted that authorized DOT to install cameras at 50 locations throughout New York City. In June 2006, legislation was enacted authorizing an additional 50 cameras. Another 50 cameras, for a total of 150, were authorized in legislation enacted in April 2009. Learn about paying and contesting red light camera violations from the Department of Finance