Often, things don’t happen quickly in the field of transportation demand management. Projects can take years to go from conception to design to implementation. So, I was a little self-satisfied when I saw the new blinking yellow traffic signal and Stop for Pedestrians in Crosswalk signs on New Brunswick’s Paterson Street near Robert Wood Johnson (RWH) Medical Center.
My colleague drives the route everyday and noticed that the crosswalk traffic light was always green, indicating drivers had the right of way. Yet, pedestrians would cross the street boldly in front of oncoming cars.
“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” she exclaimed.
Late last year, I investigated. My field observations confirmed her concerns. The light remained green because pedestrians didn’t push the button for the pedestrian crossing signal. They didn’t use the button because it took 30 seconds for the light to change.
Sometimes the motorist would stop; sometimes not. Sometimes a pedestrian would look left-right-left, sometimes the pedestrian would step into the street without a glance. Lacking clear directions, pedestrians and motorists had established an uneasy truce.
My report contained a number of recommendations to improve the conditions. It was presented to various stakeholders. I thought it might end up on the shelf like other reports. But, I was wrong.
Recently, my colleague urged me to return to Paterson Street. I was happily surprised to see that the red and green phases of the traffic light have been replaced with a flashing yellow light. Two pedestrian crossing signs have been placed in the roadway. These economical, simple, quick fixes have reduced confusion and created a safer environment in which pedestrians and motorists can co-exist.
I congratulate the stakeholders who made this happen.