LADOT Debuts School-Hour “All-Red” Phase Crossing at Thomas Starr King Middle School
This morning, L.A. City Councilmembers David Ryu and Mitch O’Farrell joined Thomas Starr King Middle School and LADOT in celebrating the city’s first use of a
scramble “all red” crosswalk to get students to school safely. (See correction below: LADOT clarified that technically this not a “scramble” but an “all red” phase) Both Ryu and O’Farrell expressed that keeping students safe was a top priority.
Thomas Starr King Middle School is located on Fountain Avenue, just east of Sunset Boulevard, on the border between the neighborhoods of Los Feliz and Silver Lake. The neighborhood is sometimes called Franklin Hills.
With many students crossing a busy Fountain Avenue to get to class, the school has an unfortunately long history of difficulty in keeping students safe. In 2008, ABC7 reported that three students were struck by cars within a two-week period. These dangerous crashes prompted the city to seek and obtain state Safe Routes to School funding, which went to widening sidewalks, speed feedback signs, underpass lighting, and a program to teach students to walk safely.
Nonetheless, traffic dangers persisted. This stretch of Fountain earned the dubious honor of being included in the city’s Vision Zero High Injury Network, the six percent of L.A. City streets where 65 percent of all deaths and severe injuries take place. In adopting its Vision Zero policy, L.A. is committed to reducing traffic fatalities to zero by 2025.
As of this morning, the T-intersection of Fountain Avenue and Myra Avenue features a separate pedestrian “all red” phase. The all red phase is somewhat similar to pedestrian “scramble” intersections in Los Angeles, including Hollywood/Highland. At Fountain/Myra there are no new pavement markings but there are new signs restricting right turns on red. The all red phase operates only at school travel hours: 7 to 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. At those times, pedestrians get their own 30-second crossing phase, while all automobile traffic waits.
This morning, while officials celebrated the new safety feature and LADOT traffic control officers worked the Fountain/Myra intersection, eastbound cars backed up into the five-way intersection at Sunset Boulevard. The back-up peaked just before 8 a.m. and lasted only a couple of signal phases. The worst back-up coincided with a high volume of drivers dropping students off at Starr King.
Hopefully the new pedestrian scramble phase can help turn the tide on the vicious cycle where high traffic volumes make streets unsafe, thereby triggering more parents to drive, resulting in higher traffic volumes, less safety, and more and more driving. Studies show that, in the U.S., 10-14 percent of morning peak hour traffic congestion consists of parents driving kids to school. As LADOT makes streets safer, perhaps more parents will support their kids walking or bicycling to school.
A brief car traffic back-up (which may lessen over time as drivers become accustomed to the new arrangement) seems like a small price to pay for major improvements for getting students to school safely.
This morning’s celebration also honored the work of maverick LADOT transportation engineer Zaki Mustafa. Nominated for a 2016 SBLA Streetsie award, Mustafa has been the LADOT expertise behind numerous great projects, including bike lanes, scramble crosswalks, high-visibility crosswalks, bus-only lanes, parklets, plazas, and more. Mustafa is retiring later this week. Councilmembers Ryu and O’Farrell presented Mustafa with a commendation certificate and a “Zaki Mustafa Wy” street sign. Even though he is retiring this week, Mustafa was excited to explain to SBLA his newest innovative idea: a pedestrian-activated scramble intersection that would use camera sensors to detect pedestrian volumes.
Thanks Zaki Mustafa for all your important work.
Correction 5/24 4:15 p.m.: LADOT spokesperson Bruce Gillman clarified that “the location is not a scramble crosswalk” but is an “All Stop location.” According to Gillman, “people do not cross in any direction when the traffic is stopped. They use the regular crosswalks, and no diagonal crosswalks exists at this location.”