Check twice before pressing the pedestrian button at a stoplight now. You may not have to bother.
In the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation has been deactivating pedestrian push buttons in East Hollywood, Highland Park and other neighborhoods and converting them to "automatic walk cycles" -- meaning the pedestrians will get a green "Walk" signal without having to do anything.
The new touch-free system is being implemented in neighborhoods with high volumes of pedestrian activity, LADOT said. Areas where the department is converting signals currently include East Hollywood/Little Armenia and on York Boulevard in Highland Park. It has already been set up in Downtown, Hollywood, Westlake, MacArthur Park, Chinatown and Koreatown.
"Walkers will receive a walk signal regardless of whether they have pressed the pushbutton or not," said Colin Sweeney, Public Information Director with LADOT. "This is uniform to all crosswalks where a push button has been deactivated, but the length of time for the walk signal varies based upon the conditions of each intersection."
For example, two East Hollywood intersections that are already on automatic cycles are Lexington and Vermont, and Lexington and Virgil. In both cases, Lexington did not used to get the green light unless a car tripped the detector or a pedestrian pressed the button for the walk signal.
Now, however, the crossing times at each intersection are about equal. Vermont gets the green light for about 35 seconds, while Lexington gets it for about 25. At Virgil, Lexington actually gets the green light a little bit longer even though Virgil is more heavily trafficked - about 23 seconds for Lexington versus about 20 for Virgil.
Different methods are required for deactivating different pedestrian buttons, depending on the makes and models of the traffic signals network and their control mechanisms, Sweeney said.
“Sometimes a crew may be needed to physically visit a particular signalized intersection when lacking communication links,” he said.
Some advocates have long called for making walking phases automatic anyway, calling these pedestrian switches “beg buttons,” and saying they’re part of a bias toward cars.