NYC vs. DC: Pedestrian Showdown


Do pedestrians have more time to cross the street in DC than in NYC? It depends. Both cities have rapidly implemented “countdown” pedestrian signals to give pedestrians a better estimate of how much time they have to cross. This is particularly useful for those who may walk a bit slower than the “average” pedestrian, such as the elderly and disabled.

Countdown Pedestrian Signals in DC display the full cycle length

Countdown Pedestrian Signals in DC display the full cycle length. Source: Eric Fischer, Creative Commons / Flickr

At first glance, it may seem like pedestrians have longer to cross in DC, but here’s the secret: in the District, pedestrians are given the countdown of the full cycle length, whereas NYC pedestrians are only given the countdown for time just before the “don’t walk” phase (the blinking red light or the “clearance phase”).

Countdown Pedestrian Signals in NYC follow the MUTCD and only display "clearance times."

Countdown Pedestrian Signals in NYC follow the MUTCD and only display “clearance times.” Source: Eric Fischer, Creative Commons/Flickr

Why does this difference exist? According to the signal bible, the Manual on Uniform Control Devices (MUTCD) published by the Federal Highway Administration, pedestrian signals should look like the ones in NYC. But wouldn’t you want to know how much time you have total? Not just the “clearance time”?

Are government officials in DC a bunch of rule breakers? Actually, DC was a trial city for implementation of full countdown clocks, but the results of this “test” have yet to be released.

In general, the length of signals for pedestrians depends on volumes of people and traffic on the street. DC usually uses 100-second signal cycles (for all intersection movements) during peak hours, and 80-second signal cycles on nights and weekends. NYC varies much more, with cycle lengths between 45 and 120 seconds.

Sources: Sam Zimbabwe and George Branyan, DDOT; NYCDOT website

Upcoming events at the NYU Rudin Center


Please join the NYU Rudin Center on the evening of November 4th for our next edition of Short Talks, Big Ideas, showcasing innovative work and ideas at the frontier of transportation innovation. Free registration is now open: http://wagner.nyu.edu/events/rudin-11-04-2013

We’ll cover streets, bikes, transit, dollar vans, data, wi-fi, photography, and more. #BigIdeas13
Also, we’re co-hosting the November 19th event “Closing the Enforcement Gap to Save Lives on NYC Streets” with Transportation Alternatives. Register here:

https://secure3.convio.net/ta/site/SSurvey;jsessionid=99462DC93AA291251B5950A7105F2B2D.app365b?ACTION_REQUIRED=URI_ACTION_USER_REQUESTS&SURVEY_ID=6420&pw_id=2441&autologin=true

 

Hope to see you in November!

WalkNYC comes to Crown Heights


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WalkNYC Wayfinding Map at Frank;lin Ave and Park Place

NYCDOT has begun installing pedestrian wayfinding maps throughout the city. These maps feature clear graphics about multimodal information, including nearby destinations. Yesterday, the WalkNYC program came to Crown Heights in partnership with the Heart of Brooklyn and the Brooklyn’s Children Museum. WalkNYC maps can also be seen in Chinatown, Long Island City, Herald Square, the Garment District, and at CitiBike stations.

wayfinding2

Wagner Transportation Association at Park(ing) Day 2013


Today is International Park(ing) Day! Around the world, people are temporarily reclaiming public space from cars. The NYU Wagner Transportation Association (WTA) has a site on 6th Ave and West 3rd Street from 9am – 3pm today.

ParkingDay1 ParkingDay2

Click here to see information about where the sites are around the world.

Pedestrians vs. Left Turn Signals



Despite the new signs, pedestrians cross illegally between Broadway medians at 96th Street.

Last week I traveled to my homeland on the Upper West Side. As a recent transplant to Brooklyn, I had forgotten the nightmare that is the intersection of 96th Street and Broadway.

In 2010, a new median station entrance opened for the 1/2/3 IRT Line 96th Street station. The entrances had previously been located on the sidewalks. While the new station is beautiful and makes sense for circulation of subway users, it has created a hazard on the street by forcing pedestrians to the median.

Existing Conditions

Diagram 1: Existing Pedestrian Movements at 96th Street and Broadway

To rationalize traffic movements, NYCDOT installed left turn lanes on Broadway, creating new signal phasing. This change has created a lot of confusion and caused dangerous situations and conflicts between cars and pedestrians.

To mitigate these challenges, NYCDOT has placed signs such as “Wait for Walk Signal” and “No Ped. Crossing Use Crosswalk” (pictured above) to encourage better pedestrian behavior. However, in New York, pedestrians walk wherever and whenever they please. So, if they don’t see cars moving, they go, often putting their lives at risk. This not only occurs at 96th and Broadway, but many other busy intersections throughout the city with left turn signal phases.

At this intersection, after the east-west traffic stops and before the left-turn signal phase begins, people begin to cross north-south on the western and eastern crosswalks in the intersection, despite the red light and eventual on-coming traffic.  In addition to the potential crashes this creates, pedestrians act outraged, as do the drivers. This prevents cars from moving through the signal with sufficient time, and creates congestion for the following phase as well. Congestion and danger is furthered by people illegally crossing between medians (see Diagram 1).

Diagram 2: Potential Solution: The Pedestrian Scramble ("Barnes Dance")

It is true that better enforcement and ticketing by the NYPD might change pedestrian behavior, but I believe the DOT should explore more creative solutions for this intersection. One possible solution (Diagram 2) could be a variation on the “Pedestrian Scramble” or “Barnes Dance,” which would stop all traffic and allow pedestrians to cross in one movement. This would decrease the amount of separate pedestrian movements and perhaps cause less confusion, while allowing pedestrians to take direct routes. This approach could reduce conflicts between pedestrians and cars, improving safety, health, and convenience for all intersection users.

How will NY move in 2040?


Our colleagues at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council are hosting a series of events to involve the public in a 2040 plan, which are open to the public. From their website:

This Plan will be the 25-year blueprint for transportation strategies and investments in the NYMTC region, which includes the five boroughs of New York City; the lower Hudson Valley counties of  Putnam, Rockland and Westchester; and Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long island.  It will cover all modes of surface transportation from a regional perspective including highways, streets, public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, goods movement and special needs transportation. In addition, it will also address key transportation activities such as operations and management of the transportation system, safety, security and air quality conformity analysis.

You can learn more about the events on the website here, and let us know if you plan to attend – we’d love to hear about your experience.

Event Recap: Walking and the Life of the City Symposium


The Walking and the Life of the City symposium was held last Thursday at the Rudin Center. The event put walking back at the center of urban life by presenting research from six transportation scholars on why people walk, its role in urban life, and how walking is likely to change in the future.

The event was led off by journalist Tom Vanderbilt, who gave a keynote about the challenges of walking in America, while showing that even in the suburbs, the need for more walking and better pedestrian infrastructure exists. He set the stage for the research presentations, which presented some of the latest findings on walking in transportation research:

- Kevin Manaugh from McGill University in Montreal described the relationship between walking and socioeconomic status, showing a complex relationship between income and walking, where those at the high end of the spectrum walk when they want to fulfill a personal attitude or desire, but those at the low end walk far more because they have to.

- Dick Ettema, Associate Professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, explored the relationship between walking and personal feelings of well-being, showing the close relationship between walking and quality of life.

- David King, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University, presented an argument for refocusing transportation policy and finance on walking, relative to our current focus on other modes such as cars and transit.

- Andrew Mondschein, research fellow at the NYU Rudin Center, described how information and communication technologies (ICTs) may facilitate walking in previously unexplored neighborhoods, while still presenting a potential threat to the quality of our personal cognitive maps that we traditional have relied on to travel.

- Sarah Kaufman, also an NYU Rudin Center research associate, extended the discussion on ICT and walking with a presentation on augmented reality (AR). She showed that AR has already arrived with smartphones, and she discussed the positive and negative potential consequences of augmenting a life on the street with so much new information.

- Robert Schneider, a post-doctoral researcher at UC Berkeley and UC Davis, wrapped the symposium by describing future walking research needs. He described the need for going beyond traditional travel surveys and counting all walking trips, including the ones that often get missed.

Overall, the presentations and the audience’s response showed that walking is a central part of urban life, and that transportation research and policy is just now beginning to catch up to that fact.

Thank you to all the presenters and attendees! The six research presentations, as well as an event summary, will be compiled into an edited book, which will be available later this summer. Please check back for more information, and in the meantime, check out our event photos here, and the Storify summary here.

The event was excellently summarized by The Atlantic Cities here.

Posted by Andrew Mondschein