Special Report: Walkable Streets

James and Young: Yet Another Broken-By-Design Crosswalk

Why bother spending the money to put this crosswalk in, only to make it minimally useful for pedestrians (while claiming that it is an improvement)?

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published October 30, 2014

On a recent walk downtown for an evening meeting, I noticed that the intersection at James Street South and Young Street is another example of the "minimum pedestrian service" crosswalks we have come to expect in Hamilton, albeit with a twist.

Crosswalk at James Street South and Young Street (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)
Crosswalk at James Street South and Young Street (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)

The crosswalk has buttons for pedestrians to push, but the traffic signals seemed to be on a timed cycle. The buttons did not do anything to hasten the switch to a Walk signal.

What's worse is that, even though the traffic signals were alternating between red and green, if no one pressed the pedestrian button there would be no Walk signal to cross James, even when the traffic signals facing James were red.

This means that a pedestrian who arrives just as the light is changing would have to wait an entire cycle for the button push to register a waiting pedestrian and trigger the Walk signal.

Crosswalk button closeup (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)
Crosswalk button closeup (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)

This is actually worse than a regular traffic light, which at least allows pedestrians to cross according to the traffic signals.

Confusing Crosswalk Behaviour

RTH editor Ryan McGreal visited the same intersection the next day around lunchtime. During the day, the traffic signals appear to stay green for automobiles on James until a pedestrian pushes the button.

However, the signals do not start to change right away: Ryan pushed the button 8 times and recorded delays ranging from 15 seconds to 40 seconds, with an average delay of 26 seconds.

When the Walk signal does activate, it stays activated for 17 seconds, followed by 3 seconds of a flashing Don't Walk signal for 20 seconds total crossing time.

RTH contacted the Public Works Department to ask for clarification on how the intersection works and received the following reply:

This signal operates in a 'Semi-Actuated' operation, meaning that the signal will change when activated by a vehicle call (loops) or a pedestrian call (buttons).

If a vehicle approaches the signal, the loops will call the controller to tell it there is a vehicle present. The controller will then interrupt the main road green time to allocate time for the vehicle to turn.

This is a minimum clearance time as the vehicle and pedestrian traffic is light, so for example, the vehicle may have 10 seconds to complete the turn.

The walk sign does not activate in these cases as it is a minimum clearance time that wouldn't allow time for the pedestrian to clear.

The push buttons are in place so if the pedestrian pushes the button it will add the additional time required for the pedestrian. For example, it will add an additional 10 seconds to the crossing time.

So the Walk signal does not automatically appear when the traffic signals on James turn red because it only stays red long enough for a car on Young to make a turn onto James - but not long enough for a pedestrian to scoot across.

This is in order for the traffic signals on James to stay red only as long as necessary.

Still Deforming Crosswalks

In other words, once again what should be a simple, pedestrian-activated crosswalk has been deformed to the point that we need a traffic engineer to explain it to us so that it can continue to prioritize people in cars over people walking.

Yet the City response actually claims this setup is a break from the status quo!

Past practice has been for the co-ordination of all traffic signals for the efficient movement of vehicles and improving level of service along corridors.

There are several roadways that operate in that manner; however, roadways like James have been removed from this type of operation (in the past, that 20 second delay was 70 seconds) to find a better balance between all road users.

Why bother spending the money to put this crosswalk in, only to make it minimally useful for pedestrians (while claiming that it is an improvement)?

Don't forget, this crosswalk is adjacent to a pharmacy on the both sides and the Medical Arts Centre on the east side, with a seniors' building a block away. There are obviously many elderly and infirm pedestrians trying to cross there.

Crosswalk on the north side (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)
Crosswalk on the north side (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)

Apparently, senior Traffic management is "getting tired of hearing" from residents about two-way conversions - like the outstanding list of conversions that were approved 13 years ago but never implemented.

I suppose it is only a matter of time before they also "get tired of hearing" about pedestrian crosswalks that are installed but then programmed to have minimum service levels for pedestrians.

In recent months, they have had to to back and fix the crosswalks at Hunter and MacNab and Herkimer and Caroline and are already fielding complaints about the dysfunctional crosswalk at John and Augusta.

The pedestrian (and vehicle) activated traffic light recently installed on Herkimer at Dundurn also seems to function like the one on James at Young. If a pedestrian does not press the button before the light changes green for a car, there will be no Walk signal.

And, again, this is at a location with lots of pedestrians, just a block from Earl Kitchener School. In fact, there is even a crossing guard there in the mornings to press the buttons!

Do It Right the First Time

I have a suggestion for our traffic engineers: just do it right the first time!

Stop wasting residents' time and causing needless aggravation and danger. Stop wasting scarce Public Works resources doing the job in such a way that it generates preventable rework.

Here is how a pedestrian-activated crosswalk should work: pedestrian pushes the button, traffic signals transition to red, Walk signal appears for pedestrian.

Any time our traffic engineers find themselves doing something different, they need to step back and remind themselves about what pedestrians expect and what the evidence indicates about the role of misbehaving crosswalks in making pedestrians confused and frustrated.

The whole point of installing an expensive, high-end signalized crosswalk is to provide a high level of service to pedestrians. Why on earth would we spend the money and then cripple them with operational decisions that undermine their function?

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.

48 Comments

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By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted October 30, 2014 at 12:47:43

> The whole point of installing an expensive, high-end signalized crosswalk is to provide a high level of service to pedestrians. Why on earth would we spend the money and then cripple them with operational decisions that undermine their function?

Public Works seems to have a knack for finding the most expensive solution to the simplest problems. I'm still not sure how knockdown-sticks, signs, rubber bumpers, and paint managed to cost over a million dollars on Cannon.

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By Kevo (registered) | Posted November 02, 2014 at 00:32:10 in reply to Comment 105766

Public Works staff have a knack for being inept in most scenarios that don't involve adding lanes or smoothing out a curve for faster speeds. There are people in public works that try their darnedest to give cycling and walking a leg up in design, but there are maybe 1-4 of them out of a department of hundreds of people. A bike lane isn't sexy to most engineers, something that's big, costs big bucks, and lets people drive fast is.

That's my perception from working within government anyways.

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted October 30, 2014 at 14:14:35 in reply to Comment 105766

You are forgetting the traffic signals that they had to install for the cyclists travelling east bound.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2014 at 12:57:09 in reply to Comment 105766

I'm still not sure how knockdown-sticks, signs, rubber bumpers, and paint managed to cost over a million dollars on Cannon.

I was told by staff that the project was finished within its $867,200 estimated capital cost. That included paying a consultant to design the cycle track properly, since our own staff are either unwilling or unable to do this.

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By commonsense (anonymous) | Posted October 30, 2014 at 13:48:16

I've lived in this neighbourhood for over a decade, and have had no problems with this signal. A average delay of 26 seconds is reasonable.

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By calder12 (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2014 at 18:06:10 in reply to Comment 105769

I have been a pedestrian/public transit user my whole life. I don't do it once in a while, I don't walk to work on nice days because it's good for me and the environment. I do it every day, rain, snow or shine. 30 below or 40 above. And you know what? After my 40 minute walk home tonight I realized something. Not once that I can remember, not EVER have I felt inconvenienced by a bloody crosswalk as a pedestrian. Not. One. Single. Time.

Here's a news flash. Drivers aren't evil. Neither is the idea that our city isn't a gridlocked mess like Toronto.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 30, 2014 at 21:05:51 in reply to Comment 105773

considering Hamilton's abysmal pedestrian injury/fatality rate, count your lucky stars. Apologies on behalf of everyone working to improve Hamilton's status as the 2nd most dangerous city in Ontario for pedestrians for subjecting you to this article. We'll try to be more considerate in the future.

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By cauldron (anonymous) | Posted October 30, 2014 at 20:02:12 in reply to Comment 105773

Strawman much? No one said drivers are evil. You seem awful defensive about driving for someone who claims to walk in Hamilton.

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By calder12 (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2014 at 20:33:03 in reply to Comment 105775

Reread the article. It's a common theme here, there's no "claiming" about it. I walk, I bus, I don't drive. My fiancee does but I don't.

I'm just tired of the things I constantly see, the self proclaimed experts. The fact that an accident happens on Main and it's because it's a race track, the very same week there were two other single car accidents without any mention at all. Why? Because they weren't on the "race track". People that live on the mountain disagreeing with me about Main Street when I actually live ON Main. Photos of King Street at 10:40am going "ooooh look at the wasted space" but no discussion of the exact same street at 8am or 5pm. Pictures of bike racks full on a 14 degree October day as if it somehow proves a point.

It's very one sided and if you dare disagree you get called "strawman" or veiled allusions that some how you're lying.

If you want people to take you seriously, act like you actually give a shit about balance and quit being experts on things you don't really do. Getting out of your car and onto your $3,000 bicycle when the weather is nice isn't buying you any real credit.

If you really have nothing better to do than rant that you had to wait a WHOLE CYCLE to cross the street, you need to rethink your priorities. Not one person I know that actually walks anywhere bitches about crosswalks. But then if I actually personally knew anyone that would whine about something so utterly trivial I probably wouldn't hang around with them anyway.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 12:37:30 in reply to Comment 105776

I'm just tired of the things I constantly see, the self proclaimed experts.

What, do we need a degree in 'crossing the street' to know how a pedestrian crossing should function?

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By Kevo (registered) | Posted November 02, 2014 at 01:05:41 in reply to Comment 105816

If he doesn't have a B.A. in street crossing maybe that means that we can ignore him??

On topic - Hamilton as a whole is incredibly dismal for anything other than a car. Just because it doesn't bother you on your walk to work doesn't make it great planning. Hamilton will continue to be the basket case of the GTHA as even Mississauga begins to move towards removing lanes from major roads over the next decade as they move to truly urbanize their City Centre. Meanwhile Hamilton is stuck in the failed 1960s planning ideology that eviscerated the city centre half a century ago.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted October 30, 2014 at 22:24:43 in reply to Comment 105776

Amen. I lived downtown for years, my wife much longer than me, and we never felt put out by having to wait for a light to change to cross the street. We were one block over, at John and Charlton, and all along John there are pedestrian buttons which don't speed the lights. Would it have been nice sometimes? Sure. Other times, I could care less. I tended to go down Catherine if I was in a rush since there aren't any lights between Charlton until you hit the train tracks, then again there are no lights till Main. It's such a lie on this site that everything MUST be pedestrian-centric in this city at all times.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 30, 2014 at 21:33:20 in reply to Comment 105776

Great to know I can count on you adding your signature to a new petition asking the city to skip entire green light cycles when 3 or fewer cars are at a red light waiting to cross.

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By Warren (registered) | Posted October 30, 2014 at 21:23:51

I've also lived in this neighbourhood for years and routinely used it as both a daily pedestrian and occasional driver. This intersection is really not a major concern for us, and the city is correct: the amount of foot traffic is light. Both the intersections at Bold and Charlton have more foot traffic due to their proximity to public transit stops, the hospital, etc.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 12:42:08 in reply to Comment 105779

Whether the foot traffic is light or not seems irrelevant to me. If the city is going to install a crosswalk, they should make it work properly - if foot traffic is light, it means that barely anyone will be inconvenienced by it, but those who do walk will experience a properly functioning cross walk.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 13:48:12 in reply to Comment 105817

Not sure someone with this level of common sense is allowed to live in Hamilton....

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 15:16:57 in reply to Comment 105824

Nothing but complaining, sarcasm and negativity from you. Why don't you take your taxes to Burlington?

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By LOLwut (anonymous) | Posted October 30, 2014 at 21:24:18

I've also been living in this area for 5 years and have never had a problem with this intersection as a pedestrian. Frankly, the traffic on James South is slow enough already. This is by no means a "deformed crosswalk", it serves the neighbourhood well.

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By cauldron (anonymous) | Posted October 30, 2014 at 21:50:37

Tell me again where anyone says drivers are evil, right no one says that, you're just ranting. Crosswalks that don't work are dumb. Walk signs that don't light up unless you push the button are dumb. Imagine if we made drivers lean out and push a button to make the light turn green, that would be dumb. That's what we're making walkers do. Crosswalks with buttons that don't do anything are dumb. You're just teaching people not to respect traffic signals. Crosswalks that take too long to change are dumb. You end up jaywalking and then the light changes and cars have to stop even though no one's there anymore. That's dumb. You ask why not just wait? How about why not just make it work properly? Whether the light changes after 40 seconds or 10 seconds, it still changes and cars still have to stop. You're making walkers wait for nothing. That's dumb. So I don't think drivers are evil, I think the way we build our streets is dumb. And I think it's weird that you walk everywhere but get so angry at people who just want to make it safer and easier to walk.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 12:44:02 in reply to Comment 105782

How about why not just make it work properly?

I think this is the key --- it takes absolutely no more effort or money to build it right than it does to build it wrong in this case, and the only difference in actual operation would be that it works for pedestrians versus not. Why shouldn't we be upset that the city is spending money and staff time building things that don't work for absolutely no reason?

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By calder12 (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2014 at 07:06:57

oh for crying out loud. Yes, "evil" was an exaggeration it's this:

"In other words, once again what should be a simple, pedestrian-activated crosswalk has been deformed to the point that we need a traffic engineer to explain it to us so that it can continue to prioritize people in cars over people walking."

attitude I'm talking about. This idea that people in cars somehow should have less rights than anyone else. And read that again PEOPLE in cars. People in vehicles that are going places too, in vehicles that actually spew toxins into the air while they sit idling, you know unlike someone standing at a street corner waiting for the light.

As to strawman arguments, where does that article discuss safety? It's a rant about having to wait 26 seconds not safety, safety only came into it in the comments and at the end of the day, whether ideal or not the crosswalk made it safer. Exactly what it was supposed to do.

Wait... what? If people have to wait they'll jaywalk and you justify that? Seriously? Does that mean if I have to wait in a car it's okay to run the red? Not even sure why I addressed a concept that foolish.

I get angry at the attitude here and in the city in general. That crosswalk IS safer now. Three people that live there have said it was never an issue at all and yet you're all ranting about how awful it is. You want awful? Walk downtown and see all the homeless and hungry people. The obviously mentally ill that are wandering around. Then come back here, to this respected and powerful forum, this place with so much potential because Ryan is so well respected in our community (and deservedly so) and listen to people whine about waiting at a crosswalk.

Such a huge waste of such a powerful resource. THAT is why I'm annoyed (angry is too strong a word).

Does that make sense now?

Comment edited by calder12 on 2014-10-31 07:07:24

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By cauldron (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 13:37:53 in reply to Comment 105787

" Yes, "evil" was an exaggeration "

And exaggerating someone's point to attack your exaggeration is exactly what I meant by "Strawman Much", you're pissed off at a stereotype, not what the author of this article really wrote. Calm down, step away from the keyboard and get some perspective, right now you kind of sound crazy.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 12:45:53 in reply to Comment 105787

From the article:

...continue to prioritize people in cars over people walking.

Your reading of it:

[The] idea that people in cars somehow should have less rights than anyone else.

Bit of a logical jump there.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 08:50:11 in reply to Comment 105787

This idea that people in cars somehow should have less rights than anyone else.

LOL. yes this is a huge problem in Hamilton. We really need to start providing better access for cars instead of these glorious wide sidewalks, cycle tracks and speedy, reliable transit ways in Hamilton.

http://www.daveheidebrecht.com/wp-conten...

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By calder12 (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2014 at 08:54:44 in reply to Comment 105789

Are you going to state anything in this at all that is relevant to the discussion?

  1. The article wasn't about safety.
  2. It had even less to do with bike lanes.
  3. Posting an image of zero traffic without context and quite obviously not at rush hour and not even of the area being discussed.

Yeah, you win the internet, congrats!

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By RobF (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 09:56:33 in reply to Comment 105790

Do you walk when you get out of your car? We live in a city that is completely given over to the "rights" of people in cars to move around unfettered. 95-99% of the time the only reason a car-driver is impeded is because of the "rights" of other car-drivers. Even on our supposedly walkable streets this is the case ... This isn't about drivers or cars being evil ... We are a one-car household and my spouse drives to work during the week. Our child has to walk to school, and we enjoy not using the car when it is feasible to walk or cycle. I find it strange that people will see it as a problem to make a person in a heated vehicle wait 30 seconds at pedestrian-activated cross-walk. Do drivers complain about having to stop at an intersection to let other car-drivers cross?

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 09:24:02

I have specific issues with this post. Before I get into them, let me reiterate for those who might get confused, that I agree that Hamilton needs to do more to prioritize pedestrian activity, particularly in the downtown where more people are walking. However, where I differ is figuring out the circumstances where one can get outraged.

First, comparing the fully signalized intersection of James and Young to midblock (half) pedestrian signals at Hunter and MacNab / Herkimer and Caroline / John at Augusta is a flawed comparison. Half signals are put in place to provide pedestrian service specifically. A fully signalized intersection by definition operates differently because it has to service vehicular movements from the side street (Young) as well.

A half signal, since it's goal is to provide pedestrian service and a safe crossing environment, should therefore be operating in such a way as to prioritize the pedestrian movement, and be responsive to push buttons. Does this mean that if a pedestrian approaches just as the signal has returned to a green phase for vehicles that pushing the button should immediately reset the signal? No. A reasonable delay is fine. The definition of "reasonable" varies on the context, but should be based on the knowledge that pedestrians will only wait so long facing a "Don't Walk". I supported the outrage that the community and RTH felt when the crossing at Hunter and MacNab remained timed with the traffic signal progression on Hunter and ignored button calls.

In the case of James at Young, let's consider what happens when a vehicle on Young approaches the intersection on the red phase. Once the vehicle is detected, what happens? Does the signal change immediately? No. There is a delay in that situation while the timed cycle of the traffic signal is interrupted to move to the next phase, just as there is a delay for pedestrians who push the button for the crosswalk. Why is there a delay? For example, so that the "Walk" phase on James can switch to "Flashing Don't Walk" to allow pedestrians to finish crossing, then to "Don't Walk" when the traffic signal changes to red. It cannot immediately change.

Forgive the traffic engineering lecture, but I went through all of that for a reason. This signal is not "deformed". It's purpose is different from the signal at Hunter and MacNab, so it has been programmed and operates differently. James St S is at certain times of day a congested road, not only for vehicles but for the myriad HSR routes that use this road to head south up the mountain. Young is a very low volume side street. That has to be taken into consideration.

So I disagree that this is a situation where outrage is warranted. I think there are reasonable changes that could be requested. For example, the fact that a Walk signal does not automatically come up on the green phase for vehicles could absolutely be addressed. But the fact that the push button does not immediately change the signal in this situation, and the fact that there is an average 26 second delay before the signal changes, are not reasonable grounds for outrage. Vehicles on side streets have to wait for the same period of time for signals to change. Pedestrians should expect to wait sometimes as well.

What is the definition of an unreasonable delay? What amount of prioritization would be acceptable? These are important and interesting questions.

I welcome any and all comments.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 09:46:24 in reply to Comment 105792

My main concern is precisely that the walk signal does not always appear with the green light. This seems to be the standard programming in all these dual vehicle/pedestrian activated lights. This should definitely be fixed here and at all other locations with this problem. Again, why was they light designed this way, together with pedestrian activation?

My secondary concern, as echoed by some of the commenters, is that if pedestrian activated lights do not behave in a predictable way (with a standard, short, delay) pedestrians will learn to simply ignore them because they can't rely on them to predictably produce a pedestrian signal.

I'm glad that traffic staff has lowered the delay from 70s (which is completely unacceptable), but predictable operation should be a goal for pedestrians as well as drivers. I understand that a traffic engineer could look at that light, notice the induction loops on Young and the pedestrian activated buttons and deduce the operation of the system. But all the pedestrian sees is the buttons that say "push to cross" or a "don't walk" together with a green light if they push the button too late.

Again, I was crossing around 8pm under very low traffic volume conditions. It should be possible to change the timing at least for different times of day (e.g. immediate response when traffic is low), even if the goal of moving traffic require a longer delay at later times.

Regarding "outrage", unfortunately I've learnt from over 10 years of working with the DNA on traffic issues that meekly reporting an issue will lead to being ignored. This happened repeatedly, even when the City had asked the DNA for input on street design (e.g. the Walk and Bike for Life workshop).

That's not an ideal situation, but unfortunately that's the way things work.

Remember that the DNA has been trying to get a more balanced, safer and more convenient (for everyone) street network in Durand for over 40 years and has been largely ignored until recently. Read the "Durand Chronicle" for a detailed history of the efforts and responses.

As I've said before, the situation is changing for the better, but the fact that the last two pedestrian activated lights (on Herkimer and Hunter) were deliberately mis-programmed despite instructions they should operate as pedestrian activated lights does not build confidence. And these lights were built using special funds found by Councillor Farr and through the PB process.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2014-10-31 09:58:24

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2014 at 09:37:20 in reply to Comment 105792

It cannot immediately change.

No one expects it to change immediately. Of course there's a 5-6 second turnaround time for the traffic signal to switch from green to yellow to red. This is also true of the "half-signal" button-activated crosswalks in which the traffic lights need to cycle from green to red - of course the light won't instantly change to red when a pedestrian pushes the button.

The "delay" is the additional time over and above the reasonable amount of time it takes to switch from green to red. In the case of James/Young, I tested the button 8 times and measured a delay ranging between 15 and 40 seconds, with a mean delay of 26 seconds.

It doesn't take 15, 26 or 40 seconds for a traffic signal to change from green to red. It takes 5 or 6 seconds. Any delay beyond this communicates to pedestrians that the button is a decoy or at least not very functional.

If a crosswalk advertises itself as button-activated, it should activate when a pedestrian pushes the button. When it doesn't, pedestrians tend learn that the button doesn't work and, in consequence, tend to start ignoring the traffic controls altogether.

I observed this when I visited the site: in many cases, people would push the button, stand around for a while, then dart across the street against the signals when they failed to change in a timely fashion.

Incidentally, I also observed a fairly steady flow of pedestrian traffic crossing James at Young. I tried to take photos of the intersection without people crossing but there were always people crossing, which is why the photos above have people in them.

An added frustration with this signal is that if the light change is triggered by a car on Young rather than a pedestrian, the traffic signals change but the Walk signal does not display. The City explained that this is because a signal changed triggered by a car lasts only long enough for a car to turn through the intersection, and not for a person to cross.

Again, this creates a confusing, discordant and discouraging experience for a pedestrian who does arrive when the signals are changing, since cars on Young get a green light but the pedestrian is still faced with a Don't Walk signal.

This might make perfect sense from a narrow traffic engineering perspective, but the subjective experience for real pedestrians is negative and off-putting.

Engineering that does not take human behaviour into account will inevitably create this kind of friction.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 10:14:53 in reply to Comment 105795

I will defer to one of the worlds most livable and successful cities, Vancouver.

They clearly state in their Transportation 2040 plan that they AREN'T trying to balance transportation modes. They are prioritizing walking/cycling/transit.

In Hamilton we would feel like we've become Copenhagen if we simply saw balance come to our streets. We've fallen so far behind successful cities, we can't even fathom how amazing this city would be if we PRIORITIZED healthy modes of transport.

http://conf.tac-atc.ca/english/annualcon...

http://www.planetizen.com/node/60918

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 10:27:37 in reply to Comment 105804

In the first half of 2013, staff will report back to Council on: • improving walking and cycling over the False Creek Bridges; • creating pedestrian-priority streets, parklets, and plazas; • removing the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts; • improving safety for people on foot and bicycle; • prioritizing walking and cycling through intersection changes; • drafting new all ages and abilities design standards; • planning for a subway under Broadway to UBC; and • identifying new funding mechanisms to support rapid transit

Great policy statements. But I would guess that there are signalized intersections in Vancouver where pedestrians push a button but still have to wait for the signal to change according to its programming (or perhaps no button is required and Walk comes up automatically, but a delay would still apply).

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 10:52:04 in reply to Comment 105809

Well, I grew up in Vancouver, and the main difference is that motorists (on both sides of the street) immediately stopped for a pedestrian as soon as they took one foot off the curb at an unsignalized (i.e. just paint and pedestrian X signs) crosswalk. And in most cases motorists will stop if a pedestrian just looks like they want cross, even mid block. This means pedestrian activated lights are only required in the most extreme circumstances and, in my experience, they do change very quickly and predictably.

So perhaps you can understand my frustration in coming to Hamilton where there are almost no crosswalks, and even those extremely expensive pedestrian activated traffic lights are often set up to provide minimum or confusing service to pedestrians (until staff are pushed by residents to program them properly as has happened at at least four intersections in Durand and Kirkendell the last few years).

And, the sad thing is that the HTA actually says more or less the same thing as in BC: pedestrians have to wait for a large enough gap that motorists can stop safely, and motorists must yield to crossing pedestrians at any intersection, whether or not it has traffic signals (stop sign or traffic light). The only difference is that currently on a two way street motorists only need to stop when the crossing pedestrian is on their side (although the government has just introduced legislation to require all traffic to stop).

Have you actually tried to exercise your right to cross at an unsignalized intersection in Hamilton? Almost all Hamilton drivers seem to assume that they do not need to yield or slow down for a crossing pedestrian: it is the pedestrian who is expected to run out of the way of the driver.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2014-10-31 10:53:45

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 10:09:43 in reply to Comment 105795

I completely agree, the Walk signal should come up by default whenever Young is on the green phase. Experience tells us that when the vehicle gets a green light but the pedestrian does not, it is always confusing for the pedestrian, and 9 times out of 10 the pedestrian simply crosses anyways. I have no problem with this as the main issue for this intersection and it being Nicholas' primary argument.

Regarding the delay in changing the signals, as I mentioned before, consider the pedestrians walking along James crossing Young. They have a signal indication as well. So it is not simply a case of the traffic signal changing from yellow to red, there is also the need to change the pedestrian signal to Don't Walk. So add another 5 seconds (minimum, every site is calculated differently based on geometry) to the required delay. We're up to 10-12 seconds already. That is nearly half the time of your average observed delay. Take into account other factors, traffic volumes on both roads, HSR service needs, etc and I'm not the least bit surprised that the average delay is 26 seconds.

When you were observing the intersection, how many pedestrians walked along James and crossed Young?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2014 at 10:50:44 in reply to Comment 105803

When you were observing the intersection, how many pedestrians walked along James and crossed Young?

Most were crossing east-west, not north-south. Remember that Young is a T-junction, so pedestrians on the west side of James don't need to cross it at all.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted November 03, 2014 at 19:25:31 in reply to Comment 105812

You didn't answer the question.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 10:19:54 in reply to Comment 105803

Those are reasonable suggestions, and the kind of response I would hope for (although, ideally, the light should change after a predictably short delay for pedestrians). But why was it programmed like this in the first place (with no Walk on a green phase if the button is not pushed soon enough)? This is what causes confusion and distrust.

I (not Ryan) only observed for about three minutes around 8pm: there were very few cars and few pedestrians. Two other pedestrians crossed. Ryan observed at lunchtime, which would have been much busier for both cars and pedestrians.

But, again, the light will only change when it is needed by a pedestrian: this is the compromise of a pedestrian activated light. If pedestrian activity is low at a certain time the light doesn't change and drivers are not inconvenienced. If a pedestrian is there the light should change quickly. And there is usually a 30s refresh before the next activation so the light is not constantly red.

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By theninjasquad (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2014 at 09:49:23

I'm more frustrated about the bike sensors that they installed at the lights on John @ Young and John @ Augusta. They don't seem to work, I don't actually know why they are there. So many times I've gotten to the light there on Augusta, stopped on the bike sensor, and waited what felt like minutes for the light to finally changed. They've installed a few others like this recently as well such as in the east end around the stadium and they function similarly. I don't think they actually work.

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By senior (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 14:38:04 in reply to Comment 105798

I've personally seen the westbound bike marking on Young at John work on two separate occasions. My friend and I were quite impressed.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 10:15:56 in reply to Comment 105798

I've never encountered one of these that work. Probably just a symbol painted on the road with nothing underneath. Lol

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 10:29:11 in reply to Comment 105805

I swear I'm not being snarky. But define "work". What would happen if you didn't stop on the bike sensor? Would the light change at all?

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 12:56:48 in reply to Comment 105810

"Work" would mean that if you stop at a light, it would change after 30 seconds.

What usually happens is that you wait for 2 minutes, then you realize you could have biked through illegally like 8 times in the last 2 minutes without being in any danger, and you start creeping out to see if you can cross and then a car pulls up behind you and triggers the light because the sensors always work for cars. Do you get off the sensor and press the pedestrian crossing button? Will that even trigger the light to change?

If the sensor doesn't work every time, and it doesn't work as quickly as if you were in a car, then it doesn't work. That's the bottom line.

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By cauldron (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 13:39:42 in reply to Comment 105821

" Do you get off the sensor and press the pedestrian crossing button? Will that even trigger the light to change?" Not that I can tell if we're talking about the ones at John and Augusta or John and Young.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 10:40:35 in reply to Comment 105810

city staff say these things are supposed to recognize a cyclist is there and speed up the light sequence. Based on my experience as driver, cyclist and pedestrian, these signals are on a timed sequence and always stay red for the same amount of time.

Again I'll defer to Vancouver. Cyclists stop on these sensors and it "triggers a signal change"

http://vancouver.ca/streets-transportati...

that's how they are supposed to work.

And back to crosswalks, even Toronto has been doing this properly for my entire life. You push the button at a PXO and it immediately activates.
We either want to become a safe walking city, or we don't IMO. Places like TO and Vancouver get it, and have for decades.

I've never once had to wait 5 seconds, let alone 25 seconds at a PXO in Toronto.

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By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 14:39:02 in reply to Comment 105811

It's a fun contradiction, when you think about it.

I mean, obviously the reason that the light cycle is unfavourable to the side-street is because the vast majority of traffic is going on the major street and travelers on the side-street are rare interruptions. Obviously, you shouldn't stop dozens of people for one rare person. But if the interruption is rare, then it shouldn't be a big concern that occasionally you give them priority.

But instead we're told *both*. It happens often-enough that it would unacceptably compromise traffic on the main thoroughfare if we interrupted the normal light-cycle to let the cross-street traffic through... but it's also so rare that they only don't need a regular cycle, and the request-based cycle is good-enough.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 15:18:03 in reply to Comment 105831

so good. Reminds me of our meeting on York at Locke with the head-honcho from traffic a few years back to request an extra 15 seconds of crossing time due to the massive width of York and huge number of seniors and parents with toddlers in the hood. The traffic guy said in order to do that he would have to change ALL 60,000 traffic lights in the entire city!!

Needless to say we realized we weren't getting anywhere too quickly. We managed to squeeze something like 7 seconds out of him (which apparently doesn't require adjusting traffic lights at Paramount and Mud St like 15 seconds would have)

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By senior (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2014 at 14:34:47

Because I didn't push the button, and wasn't aware it wouldn't turn walking man if I didn't until now, I waited for two minutes before I was able to cross.
This is why people j walk and put themselves in harm's way. City Staff should be ashamed of themselves for such childish behaviour. They clearly do it on purpose.

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By junior (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2014 at 02:25:51 in reply to Comment 105826

Wow, you waited 2 whole minutes??? How did you make it through 120 seconds of waiting???

Jaywalking is because people don't know how to wait any more. They want it immediately and it's all about themselves.

City staff are not "clearly doing it on purpose". If they are, prove it. Otherwise, shut up.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted November 02, 2014 at 09:54:06 in reply to Comment 105857

Would you tell someone to "shut up" to their face, or do you reserve that kind of rudeness for when you're hiding behind an anonymous screen name? It's not okay. Please stop.

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