first_imgNear the start of her 27-mile morning commute from Woodland Hills to Pasadena, Mindy Zipperstein sees the electronic sign on the eastbound Ventura Freeway just past White Oak Avenue – it tells her how long it will take to get to the 134 Freeway, how many minutes to downtown. Depending upon traffic conditions, the signs might say “10 minutes to 134, 25 minutes to downtown” “or 25 minutes to 134, 45 minutes to downtown.” Just how accurate they are is still open to debate, but one thing that’s certain, says Zipperstein, is that motorists take one look and hit the brakes no matter what the sign says. “It’s eight words that (drivers) are reading,” Zipperstein said. “I don’t know why it would slow up traffic, but it does tend to do that.” The answer is underneath the wheels of your car. Roadway sensors clock the speed and volume of cars traveling on the freeway, officials said. That information is sent electronically to Caltrans’ information management center, which crunches the numbers and converts them to a drive-time estimate. The estimates are updated every three minutes. “They’re able to extract the data and figure out those travel times,” Caltrans spokesman David White said. “There are some very smart people out there.” According to a voluntary survey on Caltrans’ Web site, drivers said the estimates were accurate, Harris said. The jury is still out, though, on whether the signs are a help or a hindrance. About half of the 275 respondents said they liked the signs, and half didn’t, Harris said. Drivers like Zipperstein say it doesn’t matter whether you know you’ll be sitting in your car for 20 minutes or 30 minutes or 40 minutes – you’re stuck in the traffic, no matter what. “They tend to cause similar backups that you experience when there’s an accident on the side of the road,” said Tal Cohen of Sherman Oaks. “I imagine it’s for the same reason – people stop and look at the signs and aren’t paying attention to the road. The signs hurt more than they help. “It’s not as bad as it was at the start, though. It’s gotten better over the past couple of weeks.” Josh Kleinbaum, (818) 713-3669 josh.kleinbaum@dailynews.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Three months ago, Caltrans started using electronic message signs along Los Angeles’ most congested freeways to provide estimates of travel time to various destinations. The signs have long advised motorists about major traffic tie-ups or Amber Alerts for missing children or on holidays to drive safely. Caltrans officials tout the program as a success, and many motorists agree – although some say the signs actually cause traffic delays and offer no advantages to a commute. The state Department of Transportation plans to add a dozen more signs – at the cost of about $200,000 each – within the next few weeks. Already, signs are posted on the 5, 10, 60, 91, 101, 105, 110, 210 and 405 freeways, mostly on routes headed toward downtown. The next phase will include more freeways on the outskirts, including a sign on the eastbound 210 Freeway at Foothill Boulevard. “Any time you introduce something new to the system, people are going to slow down,” Caltrans spokeswoman Deborah Harris said. “That evens out. After about two weeks, the delays evened out.” So how do the signs work? How does the sign know it takes 20 minutes to travel across the San Fernando Valley during rush hour on a Thursday? last_img