Archive for February, 2016

You don’t hear about it much, but the Highway Capacity Manual does have a definition for pedestrian LOS:

Pedestrian LOS is determined based on the average delay per pedestrian (i.e., wait time). Pedestrian delay is calculated using two parameters: cycle length and effective green time for pedestrians. The HCM 2000 recommends estimating effective green time for pedestrians by taking the walk interval and adding 4 seconds of the flashing DON’T WALK interval to account for pedestrians who depart the curb after the start of flashing DON’T WALK. The equation for calculating pedestrian delay based on equation 18-5 of the HCM 2000:

The average pedestrian delay, in seconds, equals 0.5 times the square of the difference of cycle length minus effective green time for pedestrians, both in seconds, all divided by the cycle length.
Where: dp = average pedestrian delay (s)
C = cycle length (s)
g = effective green time for pedestrians (s)

Pedestrian LOS thresholds at signalized intersections.


Pedestrian Delay (sec/ped)

Likelihood of Noncompliance


< 10



≥ 10-20



> 20-30



> 30-40



> 40-60



> 60

Very High

Using this metric, one can predict the amount of jaywalking. Intersections with “A” or “B” pedestrian LOS will have a high degree of compliance. Intersections with “C” or “D” LOS will have a moderate amount of jaywalking. Intersections with “E” or “F” LOS, well, can expect to have lots of jaywalking.

Because I don’t have a social life, I spent the better part of last evening with a stopwatch timing the signalized intersections and observing pedestrians in my Berkeley neighborhood. Supposedly, this is a pedestrian-friendly city and yet pedestrian LOS were all within the “C” and “D” range — meaning one can expect a moderate amount of noncompliance. Jaywalking is fairly common, so the pedestrian LOS chart models reality pretty well.

As in most cities, the pedestrian signals in my neighborhood were upgraded to the beg-button type. Pedestrians must press a button, then wait (as long as a full cycle) to get the walk light. What if instead these beg-buttons were Pedestrian Priority buttons? The walk light would come much sooner, and LOS would move into the A” or “B” range. There would be less jaywalking, and a much improved pedestrian experience.


The Claremont/62nd intersection has pedestrian LOS of “E”. Everyone jaywalks here.

Read Full Post »

Australia’s mandatory helmet law provided the ideal experiment for testing the effectiveness of bike helmets. The result of that experiment was that helmet laws were completely ineffective.

That negative result should have led to the law being rescinded, but instead they are going full-retard on helmet laws:

Australia’s newest piece of criminal legislation is among the toughest in the world. The target: cyclists.

In a week, riders in Sydney and the rest of New South Wales state will be subject to a package of new laws aimed at cutting deaths and the more than 1,000 serious injuries a year among cyclists. The penalty for cycling without a helmet more than quadruples to A$319 ($229), stiffer than many speeding fines for drivers, and riders jumping a red light will get a A$425 fine. Adult riders will have to carry identification, or face a A$106 penalty from March 2017.

“This legislation is reaching new lows,” said Chris Rissel, a professor at the University of Sydney’s school of public health who has researched the benefits of cycling for 15 years. “There are many things that could be done to make cycling safer and to encourage more people to ride. These things are not it.”

Tougher rules, which come into force March 1, are needed because on average 11 cyclists die and 1,500 are seriously injured each year in New South Wales, said Bernard Carlon, executive director of the government’s Centre for Road Safety.

“If one cyclist chooses to now wear a helmet because of the new penalties, we consider that a win for cyclist safety,” Carlon said in an e-mail.

Read Full Post »

Under the blended plan, Caltrain and high-speed rail are supposed to share tracks and infrastructure. And yet, for completely inexplicable reasons, Caltrain is installing a PTC signal system incompatible with HSR.

The Caltrain PTC system is called CBOSS. It has already cost the agency over $230 million, a price far higher than comparable PTC projects elsewhere. One reason for the huge cost is that Caltrain elected to develop a custom, in-house system — and this is the inevitable result:


Read Full Post »

Hillary Clinton was in Flint today for a campaign rally on lead poisoning. It calls to mind this infamous speech, where she drew comparisons between video games and lead poisoning. Who knew Grand Theft Auto was as dangerous as lead pipes?

Read Full Post »

Japan National Police have released traffic fatality and injury data for 2015:

The number of deaths caused by traffic accidents in 2015 rose by four from the previous year to 4,117, up for the first time in 15 years, the National Police Agency said Monday.

An NPA official attributed the rise to the growing population of elderly people, who have a higher mortality rate in the event of an accident.

The data mean that the government failed to achieve its target of reducing the annual traffic death toll to 3,000 or less by 2015, which was set under the basic plan for traffic safety covering fiscal 2011 to 2015.

Even though they did not reach their goal, the progress is still quite impressive. Imagine if the US had achieved this kind of reduction:


Read Full Post »

The disaster that is Metrolink

As Metrolink lurches from crisis to crisis, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry:

“We knew we were going to have a rough year,” said Gary Lettengarver, chief operating officer for Metrolink. “Conflicts with freight trains plus track construction were problems. And we’re learning to use positive train control. This is a technology no one really knows about.

Good Lord. PTC is a critical safety system — and nobody knows how it works?

Last year, Metrolink became the first commuter railroad in the nation to implement so-called PTC. Rail officials said they are still fine-tuning the system to prevent it from unnecessarily stopping trains — a problem that resulted in 613 delays. Resetting the onboard equipment, they add, takes up to 20 minutes.

“We are one of the first railroads in the world to have positive train control,” said Art Leahy, Metrolink’s chief executive. “We have a learning curve, and we’ve had to debug the system.”

Leahy must have been living under a rock for the past 15 years, if he really believes Metrolink was the first railroad in the world to install PTC.

Adding to the delays, officials said, were unwarranted activations of positive train control, mechanical problems, operational issues and the use of slow freight locomotives to replace all 57 of Metrolink’s cab cars at the front of trains. After the Metrolink crash in February 2015 near Oxnard, the railroad decided to remove its cab cars from the lead position because of concerns about substandard front-end deflectors that are designed to keep debris and wreckage from getting under the wheels. Rail officials said the large freight locomotives were used on the line for only 10 days in December. They proved slower than passenger engines, and their size, plus the added cars, increased the length of trains, complicating the unloading of passengers because they were too big for station platforms.

As discussed previously, the defective cab cars was a self-inflicted problem. Instead of using service-proven rolling stock, the agency went with a untested design that obviously needs a lot of debugging.

Metrolink officials said they are dealing with the delays and have created a team to visit commuter railroads elsewhere in the U.S. to study how they prevent and cope with late trains.

Oh, great. So they are going to fix the problems by sending staff off on junkets to observe other crappy Amurican commuter railroads.


Read Full Post »