Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Another Take On Crosswalks, What Works and What Doesn't: Tremont St. (South End)

By Judy Arnobit

Section Of Tremont Street Observed
The Environment:
Tremont Street in the South End houses many boutiques, restaurants, businesses, and apartments. It is a street meant for entertainment, business, and residence therefore there is a lot of pedestrian and vehicular traffic throughout the day. From a design standpoint catering to the needs of both pedestrians and vehicles must be balanced. On Tuesday, April 24, 2012 and Wednesday April 25, 2012 a field observation of pedestrian crossings was conducted. The results are as follows.

This type of environment invites pedestrians to frequently cross Tremont Street. Tremont Street in the South End is a two way street with two unmarked lanes in each direction. This seems like very unsafe crossing conditions, but in order to cater to the pedestrians and environment, crosswalks are placed at every intersection along Tremont Street. At every major intersection the traffic signals are timed so that pedestrians can cross concurrently with traffic. The majority of traffic signals are placed at these specific because of the two way traffic adding additional safety for pedestrians to cross. The video below displays the a typical pedestrian crossing at Dartmouth St./West Dedham Street and Tremont Street.

This video shows the cycle of a typical signalized intersection on Tremont Street. Vehicles going along Tremont Street receive a protected eastbound left turn while letting vehicles go eastbound through. The next movement is eastbound through and westbound through with permitted left turns from each direction. But, for the next phase northbound left and southbound left have a permitted movement. Pedestrians in this video are not respecting the signal timing at this intersection. Pedestrians illegally cross Tremont when vehicles still have a green light. Also, pedestrians cross too late and are not patient enough to wait for their turn delaying the eastbound movement.

Although some pedestrians are reckless when crossing, other pedestrians do respect the signal and wait their turn seen in the video below. But, the northbound and southbound movements have permitted left turns causing the pedestrian to wait in the middle of the crosswalk in fear of drivers who recklessly turn left. Pedestrians shouldn't have to be idling in the middle of the crosswalk while left turning vehicles cut them off. In order to compensate for this northbound and southbound left movements they should have a protected phase or the pedestrians should receive a leading pedestrian interval avoiding this conflict all together. Overall, these signalized intersections work so-so. Pedestrians in Boston do not typically respect traffic signals, but when they do conflicting permitted movements impede their crossing. Typically pedestrians are visible at these crossings and vehicles do yield to them which works, but slight changes to the signal timing can improve this intersection. 

In comparison to signalized intersections, other intersections simply utilize ladder marked crosswalks. These are placed along one way cross streets along Tremont Street since pedestrians do not have to stress about traffic coming from both the North and South directions.

Pembroke Street and Tremont Street
Several intersections do not utilize a pedestrian crosswalk sign as seen in the above photo of Pembroke Street and Tremont Street, but through observation and personal experience drivers typically yield to pedestrians.  Other intersections have pedestrian crossing signs in the public way as well as in the street. The picture below shows a typical pedestrian crossing sign quite visible to street users. 

Pedestrian Crosswalk Sign
The photo below displays an in-street crosswalk sign utilized at several crossings. This simple barrier allows pedestrians to cross safely acting as a "small" median for a pedestrian to check if oncoming opposing traffic are actually yielding to them. The sign intended use is to notify drivers that a pedestrian crossing is coming up which reads yield to pedestrians $200 fine. To see if drivers respect pedestrian signs and crosswalks an observation of a typical pedestrian crossing can be seen in the video below. 

In-Street Sign

Typically drivers yield to pedestrians crossing at crosswalks with or without pedestrian signs. This video comparing crosswalks with in street signs and with pedestrian signs in the public way. The video first shows the pedestrian crossing at a crosswalk with only pedestrian signs in the public way and at a crosswalk with an in-street pedestrian sign. As seen in the video, the cars going the speed limit immediately stop for the pedestrian right before the crosswalk. In comparison to a pedestrian crossing at a crosswalk with an in street sign, you can see that the pedestrian crosses at a normal pace and is yielded to as well. The main points to keep in mind are that in this four lane crossing the pedestrian is yielded to by a vehicle in the first lane and the vehicle in the second lane yields immediately right before the pedestrian enters it's lane. This can be seen in both scenarios. Concluding that an area where ladder crosswalk markings and pedestrian signs on the street or in the public way are sufficient enough for drivers to yield to pedestrians. 

The negative aspect of crosswalks on Tremont Street would be that many crosswalk markings parallel to Tremont Street have become less visible due to weathering and use. You can view an example of this in the photo below. Although these markings have become less visible drivers still respect pedestrians crossing. 

"Marked" Crosswalk

Overall Review:
Tremont Street caters to pedestrians having crosswalks at every block as well as a few in between blocks. This lets pedestrians cross frequently along Tremont. Signs in the public way and within the street notify vehicles early on of crosswalks coming up since ladder crosswalk markings are not very visible from far away.

My only concern is that a large street where pedestrians have to cross four lanes with two way traffic can be trying for slower pedestrians. Adding median refuge will help cater to these slower pedestrians and allow pedestrians to cross without having to worry about traffic coming from both directions. Other than that Tremont Street crosswalk features work well with it's intended use and actual use. 

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