Stop walking to the hand, countdown works better, reader says

Dear Street Smarts, Q: I was wondering if the city of Santa Cruz could change the pedestrian signals to show how many seconds were left to cross the street. At the moment, all you see is a flashing hand with no time counting down. These signal countdowns would especially be helpful at River Street, Bay at Mission streets and by the high school lights at Mission Street. I think it's a safety issue that the city should review and implement. Steve Welch, Santa Cruz A: Great idea. The only thing needed to make it happen is money. “Most people agree that these types of signals are more clear and understandable than the flashing hand type,” said Karena Pushnik, senior transportation planner and spokeswoman for the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission. “If they have an audible component, they also work well for members of the blind and sight impaired community. In this economy, crossing devices will be replaced as funds are available.” Right now, there are countdown pedestrian traffic lights at the intersection of Front and Cooper streets, “as a test,” said Chris Schneiter, assistant director of the city's public works department. Meanwhile, there are 400 pedestrian signal indicators around town, said Jams Burr, the city's transportation manager. Countdown timers cost between $300-$800, according to the nine county San Francisco Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission's website, http://www.mtc.ca.gov/planning/bicyclespedestrians/tools/countdownSignal/index.htm. In the meantime, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission's Pedestrian Safety Work Group is drawing up a final report for a Caltrans grant. That report will include various pedestrian-friendly traffic control devices, including signals, crosswalks and ramps, as well as make recommendations, said Pushnik. Expect the report to be completed around February or March 2012, she said. Holiday travel tips If you plan to take a road trip as part of your holiday vacation, Caltrans and the CHP recommend the following:
  • Slow down during the early morning hours where black ice may develop, such as near bridges, underpasses and low or shaded areas.
  • Back off the accelerator when Caltrans workers, law enforcement or tow truck drivers are working on the side of the road.
  • Pay attention to electronic message boards and other road signs with information on road conditions, lane closures or detours.
  • Make sure your brakes, windshield wiper blades and tires are in working order, and that your head and tail lights are clean and illuminating to maximize visibility on the highway.
  • Report road hazards and drunk drivers by calling 911.
Caltrans' is ready to respond to any rain, snow or other emergencies that may arise along the state highway system. No scheduled lane closures will occur Christmas weekend, from noon Friday Dec. 23 until 8 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 27 or New Year's weekend, from noon Friday, Dec. 30 through 8 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3. Check road conditions by calling the automated California Highway Information Network at (800) GAS-ROAD or viewing Caltrans' traffic camera network at http://video.dot.ca.gov/.  
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