City Traffic Engineer Paul Singer, whose solutions to congestion and traffic problems won him both praise from the state and occasional criticism from the public, is retiring after 23 years on the job.
Singer, who is from Czechoslovakia, will leave his post on Dec. 14 and move to a warmer climate--Palm Springs. He will occasionally work, however, as a private traffic consultant in Anaheim.
"It will be very good for the city to have fresh thinking," Singer said. "The city will be here for a very long time, and it is entitled to a new approach to old problems."
When angry residents appeared at City Council meetings demanding an end to traffic in their neighborhoods, the council usually turned them over to Singer. His answers were not always popular, but his traffic decisions repeatedly won him state awards for safety.
For years, he listened to citizens' requests for more crosswalks, speed humps and police officers. He often responded with answers that upset the conventional wisdom about traffic safety.
Removing crosswalks, he said, actually helps prevent pedestrians from getting hit by cars, because it alleviates a false sense of security the painted lines offer. Speed humps don't slow speeders, he said, but cause cars to become airborne. Plus, they encourage kids to use them as bicycle and skating ramps.
City Councilman Irv Pickler, who has worked with the traffic engineer for eight years on the council, lauded Singer's ability to stick by his opinions despite the political climate.
"Paul was never afraid to speak his mind and differ with us," Pickler said.
One of Singer's more obvious solutions to the city's traffic ills is the huge Traffic Management Center. The complex computer system relies on cameras atop street posts and sensors underground to feed information back to the center, where engineers coordinate traffic signals to alleviate congestion.
The $6-million system, the first of its kind in Orange County, is mostly based in the city's tourist area around Disneyland and Anaheim Stadium.
Singer has worked with Disney officials to help determine what transportation improvements would be necessary if the company were to build a second theme park here. He has consistently supported the idea of a people-mover system throughout the Disneyland and Convention Center area.
But Singer said the more important accomplishments of his two decades with the city are less obvious, such as the widening of heavily used intersections as well as adding extra turn lanes to them.
Similarly, he was responsible for expanding larger streets to make way for the influx of traffic, when few would consider such traffic improvements necessary.
"Convincing people of what the problem would be was very difficult. When you had four lanes on Harbor Boulevard from here to the beach, it was difficult to convince anybody," he said.