Friday, September 22, 2006

Unintended Timer Usage

I live in south San Jose and work on the far side of the airport, so I end up going through downtown quite a bit since, for speed of travel, it is often an attractive alternative to highway 87.

I have noticed over the last year that the city has installed new Walk/Dont Walk signs at the intersections. These new signs have a count down timer so that pedestrians know how much time they have before the light is going to change. Presumably the idea is that, if there isn't enough time to get across the street, pedestrians will stop and not try to cross the street.

As far as I can tell, the average pedestrian in downtown believes that 2-3 seconds is more than enough time to stroll across five lanes of traffic and won't hesitate to step out into the street. So much for progress. (And don't give me that "pedestrians have the right of way" crap. Unless you are holding a white cane, you have to obey the traffic signal.)

The timers are useful for drivers however. As soon as the timer hits zero, the light turns yellow. And, since the numbers are nice and big, you can see them from a block away easily. Well, *I* can see them from a block away.

So what we have downtown is a nice indicator for drivers on how hard they should push it to try to get through a given intersection. You know exactly how long until that yellow light is going show. If you are half a block away with three cars in front of you and the time is down to 3 seconds, you know you might as well ease off the gas and relax; you're not going anywhere. On the other hand, if you see double digits and the way is clear, you know you are going to get through.

So the city improved the flow of traffic downtown, just not in the way they intended I'd bet.

No comments:

Post a Comment