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Signal changes at Broadway and John should make everyone’s trips easier

A person crossing the street in the north-south crosswalk at Broadway and John

(Image: Ryan Packer/CHS)

By Ryan Packer

One of Capitol Hill’s busiest intersections should get easier to navigate this year, whether you’re in a car, on foot, or in a wheelchair. Broadway E and E John is slated to get a brand new set of traffic signals as part of the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Neighborhood Street Fund grant program. With the signal upgrades will come separate turn signals; drivers heading east on John Street or west on Olive Way will be asked to wait to turn left until pedestrian traffic clears the intersection.

Brie Gyncild of Central Seattle Greenways called the grant application a “last resort” in an SDOT blog post about the project. The city looked at including the signal upgrade with a previous Neighborhood Street Fund grant that made spot improvements to John and Thomas Street across all of Capitol Hill, but couldn’t make it happen due to high cost.

“The Neighborhood Street Fund was a last resort, because we have been trying to get these improvements made for a while,” Gyncild said. “This intersection has seen injuries and close calls. We all recognized the need for change here, but it’s expensive because signals are expensive and there are a lot of things that needed to change alongside the new signal, such as ADA upgrades to curb ramps.”


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With the light rail station entrance directly adjacent to this intersection, separating people walking and rolling from turning vehicles will improve safety, which was the goal of the grant and the reason it was selected by a city transportation oversight committee in 2019 for funding over many other proposed street improvements.

“The new signal at Broadway & E Olive Way/E John St this year will make a real difference in how safely people are able to cross the street,” Gyncild said.

Currently there isn’t a distinct left-turn lane at Broadway for people heading east or west. When a driver is making a left-turn maneuver, it is often up to one of the drivers behind them in the queue to decide to pass them to keep traffic moving. That will change as SDOT paints distinct turn and through lanes. Lane striping is expected to happen by the end of September, with the new signal itself coming by the end of this year.

Seattle Police data from 2014 to 2018 at Broadway and John included 16 people who had been injured in collisions at the intersection, one seriously, and nine collisions involving people walking or biking here, a collision history ranked by SDOT as significant relative to others in the city.

A wide-ranging look at collisions all over Seattle found that crashes involving left-turning vehicles were the most frequent type of pedestrian-involved crash, occurring at more than double the rate of right-turning collisions. That same study also found that intersections with both marked left turn lanes and “protected” left turn cycles (where drivers and pedestrians each get their own time to use the intersection) were associated with reduced pedestrian collisions.

Even as the number of traffic collisions plummeted with pandemic traffic levels in 2020, the number of citywide traffic fatalities did not. People walking and biking are involved in 7% of the traffic collisions in Seattle and yet account for 66% of the traffic fatalities. Seattle’s Vision Zero program, launched in 2015 with a goal to end serious injuries and fatalities citywide by 2030, has not been able to keep that trend from going the wrong way. Broadway and John has already seen changes to implement the most widespread pedestrian safety treatment seen under the Durkan Administration: the Leading Pedestrian Interval. Pedestrians get the signal to walk a few seconds before the light turns green for drivers. This treatment now exists at approximately 30% of the intersections in the city.

Bollards protect space for a pedestrian crossing at Denny and Stewart

(Image: Ryan Packer/CHS)

At the foot of Capitol Hill, another 2021 Neighborhood Street Fund project is already complete at Denny Way and Stewart. There some roadway space has been cordoned off to keep the crosswalk clear, as it used to frequently become blocked with drivers queuing to get on I-5. The treatment has been effective but it remains to be seen how it will perform as pre-pandemic traffic levels truly return; vehicle volumes on non-highways in Seattle remain about 25% lower than 2019 levels even as more and more activities restart.

You can read more about the other community-led street improvement projects happening around the city at the Neighborhood Street Fund website. Idea collection for the next round should start in early 2022.


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dave
dave
1 month ago

yay!

Mixtefeelings
Mixtefeelings
1 month ago

Thanks to all the neighbors volunteering their time to make this happen. It is infuriating that basic safety elements like these are not the default when major changes like light rail are added, though, and that people who care about their neighbors must fight intersection by intersection for these basics.

Patrick
Patrick
1 month ago

This intersection should be an all-way walk for pedestrians especially with the light rail station right there

CHDriver
CHDriver
1 month ago
Reply to  Patrick

I’m glad they are adding the left turn lanes but all-way walk for pedestrians is also needed.

Cars turning right have to wait for pedestrians and will block the straight thru traffic causing more congestion.

All-way walk signal for pedestrians is what is needed to keep traffic moving and keep everyone safe

dave
dave
1 month ago
Reply to  CHDriver

I’m not really a huge fan of all-way walk signals because you end up waiting a really long time between walk phases (see examples at 1st/Pike and at Alaska Junction).

Hillery
Hillery
1 month ago

Further south, they need to sync the signals to buses or at least the Streetcar to give it priority. Going past Swedish is as fast as walking because the lights are bad and the transit vehicles have to stop at all the ridiculous lights

Kevin
Kevin
1 month ago

Every *single* traffic light in Bellevue has been converted to automatically adapt to traffic congestion… years ago.

This shouldn’t even be news if City of Seattle has any resemblance of competency.

SooValley
SooValley
1 month ago
Reply to  Kevin

Most Shoreline traffic lights are traffic sensitive as well.

Hillery
Hillery
1 month ago
Reply to  Kevin

Seattle DOT is pretty bad at signals, technology, sensors, etc. living in the 1960s.

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
1 month ago
Reply to  Kevin

Every *single* traffic light in Bellevue has been converted to automatically adapt to traffic congestion… years ago.

Bellevue (and Shoreline) have much newer infrastructures than Seattle. To retrofit all or even a portion, of traffic lights would cost billions.

That money (that we don’t have) is better spent elsewhere.

This shouldn’t even be news if City of Seattle has any resemblance of competency.

You might try to find some competency yourself before blindly throwing out accusations of incompetency!

Maria
Maria
1 month ago
Reply to  Kevin

This typically only works when it prioritized car traffic. Accounting for peds, cyclists, rollers, and other modes is much harder to capture. Its not competency, its complexity.

Caphiller
Caphiller
1 month ago

Great news. A better and safer environment for everyone walking around our neighborhood instead of enabling drivers speeding toward I-5.

Now can we please have more signals and crosswalks across Olive as it heads toward downtown? Except for the light at Summit, it’s a constant game of frogger to walk across.

Seaguy
Seaguy
1 month ago
Reply to  Caphiller

Not everyone is speeding towards I-5. Some people just have places to be.

Mutha Mary
Mutha Mary
1 month ago

Finally! I do wish they’d done an all-way walk for pedestrians, but this is a good start. Have seen 2 people nearly hit while in the crosswalk on John.

Ella Jurado
Ella Jurado
1 month ago

It would be even better if they added a turn signal to Bellevue and Olive by City Market. I have emailed the city multiple times over the years and got no response.

Hillery
Hillery
1 month ago
Reply to  Ella Jurado

I cross there often very cautiously as I have seen pedestrians hit so I agree.

Also all way walks at some intersections can work I’ve seen it elsewhere. Maybe in 2050 when SDOT catches up to the times.

Michael Goldman
1 month ago

WuT abOut a RouNDaBoUt?

I’m kidding.

I’m still somewhat concerned about any left or right turns at this intersection. Or, alternatively, a true all-way stop (but NOT like the one one block to the south — whatever fakakte Starbucks intersection that is).

Just another question: is there another example of this intersection treatment somewhere else in the city so we can see what it might look like when its completed here.

-Thanks Ryan

Scott
Scott
1 month ago

Educating pedestrians would help. Anyone crossing against a don’t walk signal holds up traffic. People paying more attention to phones than to traffic is a huge problem.

mixtefeelings
mixtefeelings
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, Scott, but you know what holds up traffic? People driving around in cars, which are the least inefficient way to travel, take up disproportionate public space, and, oh, yes, also are pretty much the reason we’re going to choke on wildfire smoke again this summer. And which are largely not truly *needed* by the vast majority of people who use them.

Seaguy
Seaguy
1 month ago
Reply to  mixtefeelings

How does people driving around in cars hold up traffic?

97paradisohoe
97paradisohoe
1 month ago
Reply to  mixtefeelings

Boo hoo! Go back to living in the Stone age then.

RWK
RWK
1 month ago
Reply to  mixtefeelings

So, obviously, you are a car-hater. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to own a car… I use mine to do volunteer work….are you opposed to that? And please explain how cars cause wildfires.

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
1 month ago
Reply to  RWK

So, obviously, you are a car-hater.

A bike hater and a car hater walk into a neighborhood blog. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott

Educating pedestrians would help. Anyone crossing against a don’t walk signal holds up traffic. People paying more attention to phones than to traffic is a huge problem.

People operating 2 ton hunks of steel without regard for life or law is by far the largest problem.

I’m nearly hit by drivers at least once a day and I’m not looking at my phone, so phones are clearly not the problem.

Glenn
Glenn
1 month ago

Now, will pedestrians please stop entering crosswalks when the flashing red hand is signaling? Cars trying to turn left or right cannot do so until the crosswalk is clear. Those entering the crosswalk against the flashing hand signal prevent that from happening, tie up traffic flow, and undermine attempts to make these intersections safer. So, do your part pedestrians.

mixtefeelings
mixtefeelings
1 month ago
Reply to  Glenn

Will consider it as soon as drivers stop cutting me off when I’m trying to enter the crosswalk with the signal so they can turn right on red instead of yielding to peds and as soon as SDOT sets the walk signal to WALK for at least as long as drivers have a green, sure. And as soon as drivers stop running red lights including when people are the crosswalk. And as soon as drivers stop blocking the entire crosswalk so that people who have the signal have to walk into oncoming traffic to cross the street. And as soon as drivers stop parking on sidewalks and curbs. And as soon as drivers stop pulling over at bus stops for “just a minute” and holding up dozens of people at a time. And as soon as drivers stop driving in bus-only lanes, holding up scores of transit riders every time. As soon as drivers stop doing all these clearly way more selfish and dangerous things, I’ll *consider* not entering the crosswalk on the flashing hand.

Glenn
Glenn
1 month ago
Reply to  mixtefeelings

Wow. All I did was ask pedestrians to take some responsibility for improving safe movement for all at this and other intersections. By your reaction it is pretty clear that will never happen, which means safety at that and other intersections will suffer. Too bad. Drivers, of course, have to take responsibility as well, but premising your behavior on the actions of others is not going to help the situation. Really, it sounds like your just giving yourself permission to break the law because big bad drivers are such entitled polluters, blah, blah, blah.

Mixtefeelings
Mixtefeelings
1 month ago
Reply to  Glenn

Do you think that a 5’ 100-pound person has more responsibility than a 7’ 250-pound person dressed in armor and moving at a considerably greater velocity? Or anywhere near the same level of responsibility?

Glenn
Glenn
1 month ago
Reply to  Mixtefeelings

Yes. If we want to solve these problems we all need to do our part.

mixtefeelings
mixtefeelings
1 month ago
Reply to  Glenn

Do you think that a grocery clerk with a GED making the going average wage (I am guessing it’s maybe 24K a year if that?) has the same or greater level of responsibility for paying taxes than a multi-billionaire?

97paradisohoe
97paradisohoe
1 month ago
Reply to  Glenn

Exactly. And just listen to the know-it-all responses coming from the people who are guilty of such acts within these comments.

Mixtefeelings
Mixtefeelings
1 month ago
Reply to  97paradisohoe

Hey there! I actually don’t cross like that if I can help it. It’s called a rhetorical device. I writes gud.

RWK
RWK
1 month ago
Reply to  Glenn

Thanks, Glenn. As usual you are a voice of reason.

Eli
Eli
1 month ago
Reply to  Glenn

Sure! As soon as every driver behaves perfectly towards me, I’ll consider doing the same.

Until then: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2019/8/14/the-cult-of-the-fantasy-pedestrian

Glenn
Glenn
1 month ago
Reply to  Eli

Per your article, making these crossings safer for pedestrians makes sense, especially if we do so in ways that encourages the safe movement of motor vehicles. But at the end of the day drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, etc., need to individually act responsibly to put the design into action. You have listed objectionable driver activities and that is fair enough. But pedestrians cannot act irresponsibility by ignoring traffic signals and expect the improvements to work. Work together.

mixtefeelings
mixtefeelings
1 month ago
Reply to  Glenn

Glenn, go stand and any intersection in town at an arterial and count the number of drivers who skirt the law or just outright violate it, and the number of people walking who do the same. Then think about the risk to other people that each of those acts represents and honestly ask yourself why you are so focused on pedestrians following the letter of the law? Especially when our entire, yes, entire street grid, is built around prioritizing the convenience of motorists over the *safety* and convenience of anyone getting around any other way. Now try getting around without a car to do anything you want or need to do, for a month, and once again ask yourself the same thing. Until then, consider holding off on further observations about “working together” or equal responsibility or other “personal responsibility” shiboleths.