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Optimal staging of traffic lights, and in particular optimal light cycle programs, is a crucial task in present day cities with potential benefits in terms of energy consumption, traffic flow management, pedestrian safety, and environmental issues. Nevertheless, very few publications in the current literature tackle this problem by means of automatic intelligent systems, and, when they do, they focus on limited areas with elementary traffic light schedules. In this paper, we propose an optimization approach in which a particle swarm optimizer (PSO) is able to find successful traffic light cycle programs. The solutions obtained are simulated with simulator of urban mobility, a well-known microscopic traffic simulator. For this study, we have tested two large and heterogeneous metropolitan areas with hundreds of traffic lights located in the cities of Bahía Blanca in Argentina (American style) and Málaga in Spain (European style). Our algorithm is shown to obtain efficient traffic light cycle programs for both kinds of cities. In comparison with expertly predefined cycle programs (close to real ones), our PSO achieved quantitative improvements for the two main objectives: 1) the number of vehicles that reach their destination and 2) the overall journey time.