Streetfilms has a feature on Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPI) for crosswalk signals that I’d recommend watching. In short, before a signal for vehicle traffic turns green, LPIs give pedestrians a head start to establish their presence in the crosswalk. While Streetfilms doesn’t cite safety statistics, virtually all pedestrians can imagine how LPIs might improve their odds. We’ve all likely had the experience of getting a “WALK” signal and stepping out into the crosswalk right as Mario Andretti (or at least his evil twin) takes off from his pole position right as the light turns green as if the green signal releases a massive rubber band holding Mario’s car in place.
The city of Seattle has already started experimenting with LPIs in “a few” locations (Sadly, no mention of where). I stumbled across one on 4th Ave S, just north of Costco and can say that it at least *feels* safer. Going forward, I’ll be interested to see more of these, especially in locations with heavy volumes of turning traffic. Perhaps 4th & Olive, or 6th & University near the I-5 onramp? Where would you like to see an LPI?
I have been rereading a chapter from Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us” titled “The City Without Us”. The chapter opens with a look into what would happen to New York if humans vanished from the planet one day. Under normal circumstances, the subway tunnels in New York are kept dry by constant pumping. Once humans are no longer around to maintain the pumps, the tunnels would fill up quickly, even without flood waters from Sandy’s storm surge. The chapter goes on to illustrate just how delicate New York’s infrastructure is and how much it relies on constant human intervention to keep the large portions of the city from quickly collapsing. With more Irene and Sandy-like storms likely in New York’s future, the chapter is an excellent view in the possibly futile effort to keep New York dry.
The rest of the book is equally fascinating and looks at what happens to several different human creations after we simply vanish. The chapter on our Nuclear Power plants and warheads is applicable for those curious about what happens to all that spent nuclear fuel we have laying around in cooling ponds. Given the fragile state of Fukishima’s cooling ponds, that chapter contains a sobering look at our “Hot Legacy”.
Anyway, I highly recommend the whole book.
UPDATE: Apparently, I missed the fact that the US Army Corps hasn’t received a request to help with subway tunnels. From the look of MTA’s web site, they appear to have things under control. I can only imagine how long it’s going to take to pump all that water out and then inspect the electrical equipment.
I ran across an interesting article in Wired Science about the process of removing flood water from New York’s tunnels. It’s a fascinating short read worth your time. A few highlights: The US Army Corps of Engineers has built up a specialized Task Force for such operations in the years after Katrina. Interestingly enough, they have the people but no equipment on standby. It’s going to take some time since they are waiting for pumps and the dewatering process needs to be done slowly to prevent damage to the tunnels. I also found it interesting that they are focusing on the Brooklyn Battery tunnel for cars first rather than Subway tunnels. MTA’s Subway Recovery Map shows that the Brooklyn Subway lines are all completely cut off from Manhattan. In New York of all places it seems like you’d want to focus on the rail system first, but perhaps there is other damage further up the line or the MTA has things in hand on their own.
The demise of the Ride Free Area and surging demand for public transportation have combined forces to virtually guarantee packed standing loads on my final trip. When I get stuck behind a train, which happens almost every evening, I usually start denying rides at University Street or Pioneer Square stations where frustrated passengers longingly eye the space in front of the yellow line. I’ve heard stories of harried passengers, after being passed by multiple overflowing buses, being pushed to the brink of violence and DEMANDING to be allowed to ride forward of the yellow line. Some drivers may demur and allow it, but as the bulletin to the left shows, management appears to be quite serious about enforcing this rule.
But perhaps management pressure on drivers doesn’t motivate you. Frankly, why should it? How about enlightened self interest? When you are on a 30-ton vehicle you may think it’s very safe, and it is. A combination of the heavy frame, professional drivers, and stringent safety regulation makes them so. But there are times where the safety bubble of a bus can be pierced. The picture to the right illustrates why being in front of the yellow line can be such a bad idea during a crash. So please stay back and, ideally, move as far to the back of the bus as you can to make room for more people. We’ll get you there, even if you have to wait for one of the next couple of buses.
“The two-thirds rule offers these interests the protection of a rigid supermajority barrier by making it impossible to reform our overly complex tax code through the elimination of underperforming tax exemptions”
Let me be clear: I support well thought out limits on taxes. Our general sales tax is already high enough to encourage day trips to Oregon to avoid it and our B&O tax system is an archaic burden to struggling small businesses that can’t afford lobbyists to protect their interest. But over the years, I’ve come to revile Tim Eyman’s ham-fisted efforts to limit taxes because of how poorly thought out they are and the array of unintended consequences. The key problem with 1185 is that it hands an effective veto against ANY revenue measure, no matter how well thought out and broadly supported, to a mere 17 out of 147 legislators. That has been a recipe for special interest control or our state’s tax code. Want a tax loophole to “create jobs”? You only need convince a simple majority of legislators in both houses. Want to get rid of that tax loophole after it’s shown to be ineffective? The bar has been raised to 2/3.
Eyman cites new taxes on candy and bottled water imposed by the legislature as an example of the need for I-1185. This is ironic since those taxes were repealed by the voters through a simple majority vote. (A campaign coincidentally funded by, you guessed it, the candy and beverage manufacturers) Another Irony: Tim Eyman claims to support “Joe Six Pack” and yet the majority of his funding comes from large corporate interests such as BP, Conoco Philips, and the Beer Institute.
By all means, make your views about limited taxes clear to your legislators and demand limits on taxes. Yes there will be unpopular taxes imposed from time to time, but they can be repealed and legislators can be voted out of office. Vote NO on I-1185.
On December 11th, 2011, the Kirkland City Council approved the purchase of the abandoned BNSF rail corridor within the city limits of Kirkland. The purchase closed sometime back in March and shortly afterwards, Kirkland placed concrete blocks across the rail line. Because the tracks have already been severed south of the Wilburton trestle in Bellevue, it is currently impossible for trains to travel anywhere within the city of Bellevue. With Kirkland planning to convert their section into a bicycle and pedestrian trail you can be assured that trains will not be crossing at either NE 8th in Bellevue or 108th near the South Kirkland park & ride any time in the near future.
Unfortunately, because of the way State law is written, commercial drivers in buses and trucks are still required to stop at these crossings, because they both lack an “Exempt” or “Out of service” sign. Given the mandatory penalty of a 60-day license suspension for not stopping, you can bet that the vast majority of commercial drivers will be stopping. (The State Patrol has recently been stepping up enforcement at other crossings in the area – ones with active train traffic – so there has been increased awareness among commercial drivers of the rules and penalties)
I’m not sure what the hold up is in getting these crossings marked “Exempt” but it is likely due to the fact that the Port of Seattle still owns the corridor within Bellevue. Rest assured though, that marking these crossing as “Exempt” will improve traffic flow in both areas. Cars can’t pass stopped buses at 108th and NE 8th has a considerable amount of bus traffic since it has the RapidRide B-line and is a deadheading route for buses coming from the east side bases.
A noticeable improvement in traffic flow for two congested areas for the cost of 4 “Exempt” signs? I’d call that a prime example of low hanging fruit.