He monitors the activity of every streetlight throughout the greater Eugene’s city limits—daily. When something goes wrong, he is the guy to call. What he does makes this city run smoothly.
His job is to keep the time of all the traffic throughout the city, fix it when it gets breaks down, and reset it when it’s time for a new system. The job belongs to Mike Ferchland, the only traffic signal technician in the city.
For this reason, Ferchland must know of the ins-and-outs of the city’s traffic signal system throughout the city. From his computer, he watches as green dots signify the properly working traffic signals throughout the city, according to Ferchland.
“We have real time communication with 80 percent of the traffic signals in Eugene,” Ferchland said. “I can click on any one of these dots and see exactly what is happening at that intersection in real time.”
According to Ferchland, the five varieties of dot colors mean different statuses for the traffic signal that it represents. Green means everything is working fine. Blue means that there is a small, minor tweak that caused the system to flag the intersection in order to be monitored.
“It’s not a critical failure,” Ferchland said. “It’s a non-critical alarm that can be caused by no one driving on it for a while, as an example.”
As the traffic signal technician, no action is required of this non-critical alarm, according to Ferchland. However, when the color is red the signal is unable to communicate with the technician back at the office. A red dot means that the controller, the piece of technology that tells the traffic signal what to do and when, shut down or maybe there was a power outage.
“I get a certain amount of information from (the computer), and then I have to go out into the field,” Ferchland said.
As the only technician in Eugene, Ferchland must go to every critical call personally with his team of three electricians. This solid team of four manages 145 traffic signals and over 9,000 streetlights.
But, Ferchland’s job is more than just fixing the problems that occur in the traffic signaling system in Eugene. He says he earned the rare opportunity to do the traffic signal timing, a job normally taken on by the traffic engineer.
“I enjoy traffic signal timing, and in this way my job is unique to the city of Eugene,” Ferchland said. “When we reorganized, because of my experience, I started taking over the traffic timing responsibilities.”
Most of the timing that Ferchland has been in charge of is the basic traffic system current Eugene residents have come to get used to. The downtown traffic signals are on a progressive, fixed-time system, which is different than the rest of the city. However, Ferchland said that this is a normal system for cities with decent sized downtowns.
“We use coordination so the signals progress as you drive through,” Ferchland said. “So you have to divide up the time accordingly.”
When this system was first implemented this fixed time was 60 seconds of green light for each traffic signal in the progression. However, when the EMX bus system was put in, 60 seconds wasn’t enough time for the buses to get through the intersections.
“So we had to extend it to a 72 second cycle to accommodate the EMX buses,” Ferchland said.
The technician’s job is weather flexible and there is something to do either when the weather is nice or if it is rainy. Because of this, the technician always has a job to do and the timing sequences can be changed and improve if need-be.
Ferchland has the most unique traffic signal technician position in Oregon. An added originality to an already unique city.