17 Replies to “Podcast #56: East Coast Style”

  1. With regards to the last section, the speed of car traffic, in and of itself, has a much impact to the pleasantness of the street, as does the width of the street.

    I’ve been on many urban streets in many parts of the world – while narrower streets usually make better walking environments, even when comparing streets of the same width, slow is nearly always better. In large part, this has to do with noise – slow speeds = quiet street, faster speeds = loud street.

    1. Since Martin basically quoted me, I’ll respond here.

      I agree completely that asking a random person isn’t the best way to judge something. However, quantitative data rarely tells the whole story, just like qualitative data rarely tells the whole story. You need both. What’s especially problematic is that DOTs typically don’t measure pedestrian delays and noncompliance. There’s very few DOTs out there looking at an intersection and saying, “well, we had X pedestrians before, Y pedestrians after. The average/median wait time for a pedestrian before was Z, and was made better, but the outliers were made worse.” I doubt Bellevue is doing that (but if they are, please correct me!), and SDOT certainly isn’t doing it. SDOT is barely measuring pedestrian stuff at all.

      Which brings me back to the whole press release thing. It’s great that Metro has seen a benefit from TSP, but claiming that adaptive signals reduce wait time for pedestrians is meaningless. Before adaptive signals, a pedestrian might wait a max of 90s, but also have 90s of crossing time. If they arrive at the wrong time, they wait the full 90s. But a good portion of the time (and especially if the lights along the corridor are timed for walking!), they might get there and already have the walk signal – a wait time of 0s. Over time, the pedestrian learns the cycle lengths, and adjusts their route accordingly to minimize waiting.

      Then adaptive signals are installed, and modify the signal phasing to create a max wait of 60s. However, the button must always be pushed, and it always requires a 60s wait. The pedestrian will never arrive at that intersection and have a 0s wait (unless they get lucky and there’s another pedestrian already crossing). That detracts from the pedestrian experience. Signal timing is now effective random for the pedestrian, and they are penalized at every single intersection. Often, they will arrive at an intersection and find that cars have a green light, but the walk signal is red.. And rather than push the button and wait a complete phase, they cross against the signal.

      Local DOTs aren’t measuring that. Therefore, when a DOT says that things have improved (qualitatively) for pedestrians but they don’t have the full delay data to back that up, they should be questioned. And if that data doesn’t exist, quantitative data must be relied open (or some quick data measurements from a pedestrian perspective are taken).

      This is not the same as talking to a rider who doesn’t want to transfer. This is the same as talking to a rider who routinely misses their transfer because bus A is often 5 mins late, and bus B is scheduled to depart only 2 minutes after bus A is scheduled to arrive.. and bus B has a 30 min headway. There is a problem there, and if you’re not measuring that.. it won’t show up in the data. After all, only a 5 min delay for a bus is great, so what’s the problem?

      1. Is that why the signs often say “Don’t Walk” now when the adjacent car lane is green? If so they forgot to tell the pedestrians about it. When i encounter those half the time I wait but half the time I walk anyway because the light is green and you never can tell whether the walk signal will come on or whether it’s broken; I’ve seen it cycle all the way around without ever giving a Walk, and when you’re waiting a whole minute while the cars are moving fine it becomes excessive. I especially hate the audio signals that say “Wait! Wait! Wait!” While I know they’re important for blind people I can’t help the feeling that they also exist to help a ticket stand up in court (“There was an audio warning”),. It irks me to no end that they expect us to stand there through a whole cycle when the adjacent car lane says go. And again that’s indistinguishable from a broken signal that’s never going to say Walk; you have to let it go all the way through the cycle (and possibly let the adjacent lane go again) before you know whether it ever will way Walk or not.

  2. Oops, I didn’t mean to make my previous comment a response to asdf2; sorry about that!

    But one more thing: Lizz also talks about Mercer and SDOT in her article, and links to their blog post about how they’ve apparently made things better for pedestrians by lengthening crossing times, as if all is now great for pedestrians. It’s not, and had she spoken to *any* of the folks who initially raised the issue about adaptive signals on Mercer, she would’ve found out that:

    1) There are still signals that skip pedestrians even though they’ve pushed the walk button.
    2) The lengthened walk times have not helped wait times, and have possibly made them worse.
    3) Signal times are still often too short.

    Pedestrians still arrive at the intersection, see that cars are going, push the button, wonder why they can’t go, and then cross against the signal. Sometimes they get stuck in the middle.

    This should not be happening:

    The data says everything is fine, because the data isn’t measuring how many pedestrians cross against the signal, or how long they end up having to wait. The actual human experience tells a much different story, and tells us that we’re not measuring the right data.

  3. 1) I’m really happy about this flat fare. It’s only fair what with the suburbanization of poverty and all. Plus you really can’t tell unless you know where all the cities are or where all the routes go if you’d be paying a two-county or one-county fare stepping onto a Sound Transit bus.

    2) I gotta say there’s more CEO Peter Rogoff could improve on. Starting with having a Sound Transit Pro Shop. But much more seriously, I think CEO Rogoff if he wants to keep his job needs to get those escalators & elevators fixed. It’s embarrassing we’re building a world-championship system and not having elevators & escalators work. It’s also hurtful the lack of courage of the CEO and corridor managers to go on talk radio to push back or accept public praise.

    Snide remarks CEO Rogoff aren’t what lost my support. Delivering safe, reliable transit and getting Olympia on-side with Sound Transit will. I also understand we have some regional star local candidates who are waiting for Rogoff to go…

    1. +1 on having a store. I love the NY Transit Museum and would similarly love to have some ST (or Metro) merch.

      -1,000,000 re: going on talk radio. Just hell no, dude. Dori Monson, Todd Herman, and Jason Rantz preach exclusively to the “taxation is theft” and “libruls/brown people/millenials/bikes are ruining seattle” crowd, and have nothing to offer to anyone with a couple of working brain cells to rub together. I’m getting an ulcer just thinking about it.

      1. Thanks Pat. Rogoff is currently one of the loudest voices against the pro shop idea.

        As to going on talk radio, I think we need to NOT cede 20-45% of the electorate. You can get your ulcer, I can get my heart racing like I’m RICHARD SHERMAN about to take on Todd E Herman going after a Heisman…


      2. The answer to the beg button problem is for the walk signal to remain on until the prescribed number of seconds to cross the street. Then you don’t need the randomness of some intersections have “smarter” lights — e.g. those that will give you a walk after the cycle starts if there’s enough time left — and the standard “dumb” ones that won’t.

        And in fact THERE IS NO MODIFICATION TO THE BOX needed. Just change the time that the walk light stay on!

  4. “Delivering safe, reliable transit and getting Olympia on-side with Sound Transit will.”

    Oops, should read, “Will get it back.” Because I don’t think it’s either safe nor reliable to have escalators & elevators constantly broken. This should be a priority discussed at Board meetings more than art.

    1. The problem isn’t really the existence of broken escalators and elevators. The problem is lack of redundancy. No station platform should be accessible by only one elevator. That ought to be policy going forward, and retrofits should be planned for existing stations lacking elevator redundancy.

      At least with escalators, they can become stairs, if ST will allow it. Regardless, ST has to plan for having enough escalators or stairs to clear peak crowds for the maximum throughput the trains can bring.

  5. I liked Bruce’s comments about street width. I’m a fan of one-way street grids, and I think Bruce’s comments about Portland are spot-on – the reason people don’t like the downtown Seattle streets aren’t because they are one-way, but because they are big.

    Similarly, comparing Bellevue’s downtown streets to Broadway is ridiculous. Bellevue is a CBD with office and condo towers, not a lively mixed use neighborhood. The correct comp is downtown Seattle – 2nd, 4th, 5th, etc. – in which case Bellevue’s major streets have a very comparable pedestrian experience.

    1. Portland is also a CBD with office and condo towers.

      I don’t mind downtown Seattle’s streets. They seem right for a downtown.

      1. The big difference is that Portland’s streets are pretty narrow. There are three lanes at the most on any of them. That’s why they’re one-way; they aren’t wide enough for two-lanes each direction.

        Also, one-way streets don’t have conflicting turns; they’re much safer and flow better.

        However, they do encourage racing “to stay on the cycle”.

      2. Portland streets are mostly synchronized for 16mph, with Natio Parkway and Highway 99E (the Grand / ML King couplet) at 30 mph.

        My understanding is they switched to the one way street grid to allow for this synchronization, which would be impossible with two way streets.

        Also, Portland blocks are 20 to the mile, so 264 feet center of road to center of road, then subtract road and sidewalk. It’s the narrow side of the Manhattan city block as a square.

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