2016-11-24 Thu


An article by May Warren in the Metro newspaper published online on Tuesday Oct 11 2016 “As Toronto enforces the pedestrian countdown law, New York scraps it” describes the confusion in Toronto, and yes, I know that some seven weeks have passed, but I have been watching and listening and thinking.

I am retired and on permanent vacation and cannot be said to be in a hurry to go anywhere, but I feel impelled to cross the street when there are seven or more seconds left on the countdown clock.

I had not understood that the countdown is over-ridden by the flashing of the “Don’t Walk” text.

Turns out that once that “Don’t Walk” text starts flashing, pedestrians are by law not supposed to enter the crosswalk.

Who would know?

Our brains are hard-wired to pay attention that things that move, and a numeric countdown is way more interesting than a flashing “Don’t Walk” text.

So we focus on the countdown.

We see the 22-21-20-... sequence is at, say 15, and we reason, for we are thinking beasts, that we can easily make it across the four lanes of traffic in fifteen seconds.

Some of us (ahem) are smart enough to realize that once the count reaches zero, there is still the amber-light phase for vehicles, giving us a few extra seconds of grace.

Some of us (ahem!) are even smarter, and recognize that if we are crossing facing the oncoming traffic, we have a few more seconds of grace as the stream arriving from our right takes at least two seconds to cross the intersection before turning us into a smear of raspberry jam.

What might a solution be? Simply reprogram the lights right across the city with a patch in the computer program so that the countdown measures the time up to which you can enter the crosswalk, and that is followed by the Don’t Walk text with the countdown left at zero.

Yes, there will always be people who scurry across when they shouldn’t.

Toronto’s lights are a puzzle.

We have intersections where the pedestrian lights flash and countdown to zero then immediately go to the white-WALK phase. You feel a right idiot when you slow down because you have missed the opportunity to cross and then have to put on speed because you are after all permitted to walk across.

The so-called “scramble” intersections are poorly implemented, because they STILL encourage pedestrians and vehicles to share the intersection at the same times.


Presto and the Toronto Transit Commission

Around the same time both Metro news and the Toronto Star carried articles about continuing problems with Presto.

I walk most places around the downtown core, and take a streetcar or bus perhaps once a week. Even then I am amazed at the number of times someone boards a vehicle, taps their Presto card at the front and is told by the driver to walk to the rear doors and tap there.

I am even more amazed that the driver doesn’t close the doors or start the bus until the poor passenger has made their way to the rear and tapped the card on a functioning reader.

That increases the probability that we will miss the green phase and wait for the next crossing cycle, and that always increases the probability of bunching and over-crowding of vehicles.