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Mayor Jenny Durkan, who is presiding over a growing city facing transportation challenges, ended the first quarter of 2018 with a cliffhanger for the streetcar. This, after getting pressure from Bellevue to improve matters for pedestrians after Seattle did not nothing but worse than nothing, leaves a bad impression on Seattle’s leadership.

Fortunately, in the time after becoming mayor, Durkan had planned up some “early wins” that can be rolled out in short order that would greatly improve matters, and today the city is launching a much needed improvement in pedestrian walk signals.

As you know from experience, most pedestrian walk signals do nothing (except to tell the signal not to stop you from crossing even though you have enough time to cross, but that doesn’t really count). Of course there are a few oddballs where it does make a difference, but these are usually in places where the green signal is normally so short anyway (1-5 seconds) that a push-button is needed to allow enough time for pedestrians.

Nothing is more frustrating than running to an intersection and missing the light turning green by half a second and you don’t get your walk signal. Also frustrating is a group of people waiting to cross, just to find that none of them pushed the beg button, and now everyone is waiting another cycle.

This is why on April 1st, 2018, Seattle will be rolling out automatic button pushers on all intersections, relieving the frustrations of thousands of pedestrians in a single day. Sure, it’s not anything on the scale of fixing Mount Baker station, but it’s certainly an improvement. Plus the numerous construction projects that close the sidewalk often require pedestrians to zig-zag across major arterials, and this is a helpful mitigation. Never again will you experience the frustration of missing a pedestrian walk signal in Seattle.

7 Replies to “Seattle to improve pedestrian crossings”

  1. Unfortunately, this was an April fool’s joke. Though it would be interesting to see how long it would last if someone made these devices with Arduino or something.

    1. I was wondering if “automatic button pushers” means a device that goes in front of the button and pushes it every second, rather than reconfiguring the software to assume a pedestrian is there. That sounds so Victorian. I saw a flat in San Francisco that has a stairway just inside the front door, and at the top of the stairway a crank so you can open the door to let somebody in without going down the stairs. I guess it’s a mechanical butler.

      1. Yep, a mechanical butler is what I was thinking of. Low tech, but it gets the job done without screwing with the software.

      2. Yes, I had the pleasure of living in one of those back in the late ’60’s. We had the third floor and there was a crank to open the door. It’s a long way down to open it by hand.

      3. Actually, IIRC it was more like a lever that just opened it. I think if the person ringing didn’t close it, or just walked away, we did have to go down and close the door.

        It was important to keep the bell working. It’s quite hard to hear a knock from the third floor, especially since the long narrow design means that someone is near the upper landing only occasionally.

  2. I usually try to push the button *after* crossing the street, as a courtesy to whomever may be crossing after me. I encourage others to do the same.

  3. I must confess to rogue installing a “button pusher” once in Miami Beach. Duct tape to activate the walk signal at every light cycle. It was one of those light cycles where the walk signal doesn’t actually extend the green light, so there was no effect on traffic. It lasted a few days until the next tropical downpour. Doesn’t work so well with the new concave beg buttons, though.

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