Back on the Beat with Jim Bucher

Buch’s stuck in traffic

 By Jim Bucher

Well, where do I begin, but at the beginning?

So, the publisher of this fine publication, Paul Noah, and I connected recently about the possibility of me writing a weekly column for the Dayton City Paper (guess you can figure out the outcome, ’cause here I am.)

Now Paul’s a great guy, but I questioned his character when he wanted to hire a guy like me.

So, I said, “Paul, what would you like me to write about? My vast knowledge of nuclear energy? International trade relations or, as a former astrophysicist, expound on the make-up of the universe with its protons, neutrons and baryonic matter? Fascinating stuff, don’t you think?”

“Well,” Paul said, “I’m sure our readers would love that sort of thing, but how about writing along the lines of what you’ve been doing on television locally for over 25 years at the local NBC, ABC, NBC affiliate?” (They couldn’t make up their minds, and at press time is currently an NBC station.)

Everyday stuff that people can relate to.

So, after giving it some thought for about a minute or so, how about my first column on something that affects our lives each and every day?

And I’m not sure if it’s my age (over 40, but younger than 60), but as a kid I noticed when my dad got older little things would bug him like gas prices, neighbors turning around in his driveway and traffic lights.

I must be at the age he was because all that bugs me, too, and especially traffic signals.

My thought is the people responsible for coming up with programming for lights don’t drive!

I know, I know. They are there for a reason, but if I’m out late on Far Hills past, let’s say, 2 a.m., why on Earth am I waiting a minute and a half at a red light when in the other direction not a car could be found with a search warrant.

I mean come on, we can send a rover to Mars, tens of millions of miles away, which transmits HD quality photos and operate it with a joystick, but for some reason we can’t figure out a “demand system” for lights.

You know, under the pavement there is a metal “tripper” that tells the traffic signal control “box” that an automobile is present. (Either that or a very big heavyset person.)

I know for a fact that the downtown Dayton traffic lights are on the “grid” system, which means no matter what time of day or night, it’s about a minute or so wait in either direction.

Now that’s all well and good, but when a Schuster Center or Victoria performance lets out well you see where I’m going. Can’t these lights be controlled by a device that detects lots of traffic?

I mean, the city has ways to see how fast you’re going or if you ran a light for revenue enhancement … I mean safety. What about the same technology in this case?

Can you imagine the amount of gasoline we waste sitting at non-traffic traffic lights?

Wait, is that a term?

There are two kinds of drivers out there. The first is oblivious to what’s going on outside the car; actually these people are doing everything in their autos but driving.

Then there’s the “chess game driver” where you know if you speed up at one light, you’ll make the next three, but if there’s one clueless operator ahead of you, well it’s checkmate and game over.

These are folks that plan methodically a plan of attack. While approaching a red light at an intersection they take the open lane so as to get a jump on the light, then weave in and out of traffic to avoid the next obstacle, which is the red light just ahead.

I, of course, have been known to do this safely, of course (for all my Dayton Police officer friends.)

Personally, I’m fond of the new pedestrian “walk signs” that alert a walker how much time they have to cross the street with a numerical countdown before the light changes. This, of course, should never be used by a driver to speed up a little to make said light. (As he says with tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

Now, what I’m saying is this: certainly we can’t rid of traffic lights, but we need to rethink this, one of life’s little irritants.

I know there are detractors who say, “Buch, it’s only a minute out of your life.”

Yes, true, but 20 or 30 lights a day, wasting away at a light, is 20 or 30 extra minutes in my day.

Minutes I could be shaving in the car. And have you ever tried shaving your legs in a moving vehicle? (insert laugh here)

For Pete’s sake, the first person to come up with a national “demand system” would be a multi-zillionaire, and time saved to do important things like posting on Facebook.

Oh, and the oil we’d save, plus all that exhaust from idling. Who knows, it could cut back on emissions and climate change so we can save the elk in Idaho.

I encourage you to write your congressman. Not really, but here’s your assignment for the week.

Tell me your favorite (again said sarcastically) traffic light at which you sit and sit and sit where you could possibly grow a beard, watch a full-length feature film or completely change your hair color. Send me street names, intersection and how long you wait.

Email me at here at Maybe, just maybe, we can get things changed or hope the light does anyway. In the meantime, here’s to green lights all the way until next week.



P.S. Who is this Pete guy anyway?

For more than 25 years, “Buch”  has been a local television icon. Known and loved by thousands in the Miami Valley, his followers describe him as trust-worthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and a role model. When it comes to promoting your business, Buch has the ability to grab your customer’s attention. Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at

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For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at

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