Pay Attention! Enhancing Visibility to Improve Safety on Houston's "Red Line"


Chris Pourteau

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, infrastructure - traffic signals, planning - safety/accidents, mode - rail, mode - tram/light rail


Visibility, Traffic violations, Traffic signs, signals and markings, Traffic signs and signals, Traffic safety, Traffic control devices, Right turn on red, Red light running, Lighting, Light rail transit grade crossings, Light emitting diodes, LEDs, Illumination, Houston (Texas), Highway signs, signals and markings, Embedded roadway lighting, Conspicuity, Backplates (Traffic signals), Attention


Houston Metro's "Red Line" is a 7.5 mile stretch of light-rail transit that runs through the city. Because several crashes have occurred on the Red Line involving passenger and light-rail vehicles, researchers are evaluating several technologies to supplement standard traffic control devices at the light-rail transit crossings. The goal is to reduce driver behavior that may lead to crashes, such as creeping into the grade crossing, running red lights or making a prohibited right turn on red. The effectiveness of an illuminated stop bar, which is a line of red light-emitting diode (LED) lights placed in the pavement in front of the traditional white painted stop bar, is being evaluated to minimize the encroachment issue. The red pavement lights turn on when the traffic signal indication is solid red. Researchers are also evaluating the use of a red LED outline on the backplate around the traffic signal head to see whether drivers paid more attention to the signal with the outlined backplate. Although another year of testing is planned, the research team has found that the illuminated stop bars have reduced right-turn-on-red violations. The illuminated backplates have also reduced both red light-running and right-turn-on-red violations, suggesting that the devices under evaluation may be effective at improving safety.