Y'know what drives me utterly mad? Sitting at unnecessary red lights.
Oh, I understand that Water Street has to yield to Wisconsin and vice versa. And that such major streets, tied in to so many other major streets, are going to be impossible to synch up perfectly. That's not what I'm talking about.
I'm talking about intersections like Oakland and Edgewood, at the bottom of the hill as you head north into Shorewood. Oakland is a major commercial street. Edgewood's a minor residential side street; it has no other lights. Yet after sitting through the entire red light at the previous intersection (also a minor residential street), I had to sit through the entire red cycle at Edgewood, too.
It doesn't make a lick of sense! Those cross streets have nothing that they have to synch up with. If you sit through one, you should cruise through the other. You should never pull away from a fresh green only to watch a light two blocks ahead of you turn red.
It'd be a minor complaint if I didn't encounter this sort of problem all over the place. But it happens constantly, all over the city, and it's utterly maddening. It wastes gas, it wastes time, it creates extra pollution and traffic. Any gains in traffic slowing, I'd bet they're offset by people speeding away out of frustration and/or a desparate desire not to get caught at yet another red light.
I really don't know what other motivations there could be behind such a system. Some of these intersections are probably triggered by under-pavement sensors that start the change when a car pulls up at the red light. If this is knocking them out of synch, couldn't they be set to skip the green for the side streets if no cars are present? That happens at two side streets on Oakland north of North Avenue, and it works just fine.