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EDITORIAL: Scrambled idea

The public works department in Charlottetown is looking at the possibility of introducing pedestrian scrambling at the intersection of Queen and Grafton streets. Such a concept would involve traffic stopped in all four directions for about 20 to 30 seconds while pedestrians would be allowed to proceed across each of the intersections at the same time.
- Jim Day

Scrambling is a good idea when you’re cooking eggs or making your way up the side of a hill.

But is scrambling a good idea for the Grafton and Queen Street intersection?

The City of Charlottetown is looking at that idea, which involves having all four directions of traffic stopped at the red lights for between 20-30 seconds so pedestrians can cross.

The estimated cost of upgrading the intersection’s signals to make the scrambled intersection is $5,000-$10,000.

That seems like a lot of money, especially when the traffic lights and the “walk/don’t walk” pedestrian boxes are already installed.

Coun. Mitch Tweel also points out that there is a likelihood that this downtown scrambled intersection would lead to vehicle log jams.

It makes sense that having vehicles stopped at traffic lights for up to 30 seconds while more and more vehicles pile up behind is going to clog traffic.

Businesses aren’t going to like seeing customers trying to back in and out of parking spaces with traffic backed up.

Motorists also aren’t going to like being stuck in traffic on these streets as well as on connecting streets like Great George and Kent.

The idea is trying to solve a pedestrian congestion problem that doesn’t exist.

Charlottetown isn’t New York or Toronto or Tokyo – we don’t have the pedestrian traffic, even on a busy tourist day, to support this idea.

Scrambled intersections do have a place in these larger cities or next to universities.

But it’s fair to question if a scrambled intersection is necessarily better for pedestrians.

Let’s face it. On a good day, most Charlottetown drivers are impatient, speed up through yellow lights and make rolling right turns at red lights.

How will our impatient drivers react as they wait up to 30 seconds at a traffic light?

Anyone stuck in the middle while crossing the street as the light changes will be met with honking horns and impatient vehicles slowly moving toward them. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen when people with mobility issues get stuck in the crosswalk.

As with any city idea, let’s hope there is public consultation, especially with downtown business owners if the idea moves past the committee stage.

Here’s a better idea. Rather than spending $5,000 to $10,000 on a functioning intersection, let’s use that money to fix some of the city’s already confusing and problematic intersections.

The most obvious fix is putting in a “walk/don’t walk” signal box at the Spring Park Road/Euston Street traffic lights. When the light turns green, pedestrians nervously cross Euston hoping motorists turning right understand who has the right of way. Next on the list should be the Euston Street and Longworth Avenue intersection, which is a nightmare for both motorists and pedestrians.

Taxpayers don’t mind spending money on initiatives that improve our city. They do mind when money is wasted on a gimmick idea that is going to cause more problems than it solves.

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