The signal at J Street and 13th Street in downtown Sacramento (shown at right) does not work well for pedestrians. The signal cycle is long, even compared to other signals on J Street, so the wait for pedestrians is quite long. I have seen the signal cycle skip both pedestrian crossings and vehicle crossings a number of times, which means that the wait is doubly long. Most walkers respond to this long wait by simply crossing the street against the pedestrian signal, and I don’t blame them at all.
A second issue is that the signal is set so that the east crosswalk walk mode occurs at the same time as the left turn from 13th Street southbound to J Street eastbound, meaning there is always a conflict between pedestrians and drivers at this point, and this conflict has been created by the signal setup. Many drivers cut directly behind or in front of people walking, as they know if they wait until the crosswalk is clear, as the law requires, they won’t make the signal.
This signal should be reconfigured so that it gives priority to pedestrians, without making them wait an unreasonable period of time, and does not create unnecessary conflict between turning drivers and people walking. The east crosswalk at a minimum needs a longer leading pedestrian interval (LPI).
Even better would be to make this a pedestrian scramble intersection, with an all-direction crossing phase during which all vehicle turning movement are prohibited. The intersection can be marked with diagonal crosswalks, and additional diagonal pedestrian signal head added, however, simply changing the signal timing is sufficient as an initial step. This is a busy crosswalk intersection, with the convention center on one corner, the Sheraton Grand on another, and the parking garage for the Sheraton and others on the third corner. It is alway busy, and the people crossing here are commonly tourists, who are likely used to more advanced ‘world class’ cities where pedestrians are not second class citizens after car drivers.
Note: There are a number of busy pedestrian crossing intersection in the Sacramento central city that deserve an upgrade, but this is the one that most irritates me, whether walking or bicycling.
Following the post yesterday, Morse-Cottage pedestrian scramble, here is my first suggestion for a pedestrian scramble in Sacramento. J Street and 13th Street would be a great location for one. It has high pedestrian traffic, it has pedestrian attractors on three corners (convention center, Sheraton Grand Hotel, and a parking garage), and many people cross more than one direction. I am not sure that it is the highest volume intersection, but it is quite possible the highest visitor location where people are less likely to be paying attention or to understand our signal system
Most importantly, the pedestrian signalization here is seriously screwed up, and it needs to be changed. On the west leg, the pedestrian phase is short. On the east leg,there is a ‘leading vehicle interval’ that allows southbound left turning vehicles to start before the pedestrian walk comes on, so almost every cycle creates pedestrian-vehicle conflicts. All the crossings require button pushes, none are on automatic recall that is standard at intersections in urban areas with heavy pedestrian flow. And the whole intersection cycle is much too long, giving preference to drivers on J Street over walkers, right here in the heart of a place where so many people walk. The cycle also sometimes skips the west leg completely, making pedestrians wait through two cycles of J Street traffic, which is a long, long time.
In addition to the exclusive phase, diagonal crosswalks should be marked to make it clear how the intersection works.
Let’s make this the first of many pedestrian scrambles in the central city.
At the intersection of Morse Ave and Cottage Way in the Arden-Arcade community of Sacramento county, there is a pedestrian scramble. What this men’s is that the pedestrian signal is on, for walk, in all the directions at once. They are also called Barnes Dance, for Henry Barnes, the traffic engineer who popularized them, and exclusive pedestrian phases.
Sometimes these intersections have marked diagonal crosswalks, as a reminder that diagonal crossings are permitted, and sometimes they do not, but a pedestrian may cross diagonally whether the marked crosswalk is there or not.
I am most familiar with these from Reno (I lived in Carson City for some years), which has several along Virginia Street in downtown. I’ve seen them other places, but don’t recall exactly where right now. At every location where I’ve seen them, right turns are prohibited on red, by signing, so when pedestrians are crossing, no cars are moving at all, and there is no issue with drivers failing to yield to pedestrians using the crosswalk.
I think that every intersection that has heavy pedestrian traffic, particularly where many of the pedestrians are crossing one street and then the other, should have pedestrian scrambles. Yes, they slow traffic a bit, but they increase pedestrian safety and comfort, a great trade-off in my opinion. Many scrambled that existed in the past were removed by traffic engineers who wanted to prioritize vehicle flow over all other considerations, including safety, but it is time to bring them back, at least in select locations. See Governing Magazine, Cities Revive an Old Idea to Become More Pedestrian-Friendly, or search the Internet for pedestrian scramble for both recent and old installations.
The county had this to say about the intersection:
- The all-ways crossing, also known as a pedestrian scramble, at Cottage and Morse was in place/operation prior to the 2016 Cottage Way modification project. After doing some researched, we discovered it has been in place since the signal was installed in 1969.
- The pedestrian scramble operates 24 hours a day.
- The configuration of this intersection is unusual for the County. The scramble works for this location given the layout and right of way constraints that result in some of the corners only having one pedestrian push button to serve two directions.
- We currently do not have any plans to add diagonal crossings at this location.
- This is currently the only location in the County that has a pedestrian scramble.