Is it possible that I know more than a traffic engineer from the New Jersey Department of Transportation? To put the question in context, I should say that I never took a single engineering or science or architecture course in college. I majored in English. And I have never served on a planning or zoning board in any town.
But, with respect to a certain intersection in my hometown that will be the subject of a two-week study by the DOT, I do have some first-hand knowledge. As a motorist I have driven through it twice a day for 30 years or so commuting to work. As an avid pedestrian, who lives less than two blocks away, I have walked through the intersection a dozen times a week, if not more.
Also, as a reporter for a community newspaper, I studied the intersection closely when a major change was made to its signals for motorists and pedestrians in 2016. I studied it again after a pedestrian was killed in 2017, for an in-depth article on pedestrian safety that appeared in the Princeton Echo.
As I noted then, the intersection where Washington Road and Vandeventer Avenue meet Nassau Street in the heart of downtown Princeton, is a challenging one, with four phases of signals to govern the vehicular traffic, two of which also permit pedestrians to cross. But pedestrians know they can cross only if they push the button – aka the “beg button” – on the traffic signal poll. Often the pedestrians do not push the button, assuming that the walk/don’t walk signal will change automatically, as it does at most other intersections in town.
We argued then that the signal changes were an improvement, but that pedestrians couldn’t be relied on to push the button to activate the signals. We do not know if that shortcoming contributed to the pedestrian death, but it certainly has led many instances of confusion, with frustrated pedestrians stepping out into the roadway against their own better judgment to finally get on their way.
During the trial period from Monday, June 10, through Friday, June 21, the new “exclusive pedestrian phase,” or “all-way scramble,” as it is called, will still rely on pedestrians to push the beg button to work. Then they will have to wait through up to four separate signal phases enabling the motorists to go their various ways. After that pedestrians will get about 39 seconds to cross in any direction, even diagonally if they wish.
That will be a sweet time for pedestrians after a long wait. But it will be a bitter moment for motorists, who will soon realize that, if they miss their green light, they may well have to wait 39 seconds longer than before to finally get moving. > Read More …