Another crosswalk-design issue in Salt Lake City

Yesterday’s post showed how cars frequently pull up into crosswalks even when painted lines indicate they shouldn’t. But here’s another, similar design-related issue:

Trax crosswalk

The picture above shows the intersection at South Temple and 400 West. This intersection is unique because two TRAX lines cross it, and because one of those lines actually cuts the corner of a vehicle lane. As a result, the line where cars are supposed to stop is way back from the actual intersection. In the picture above, that line is right under the car’s front tires.

I added the arrows and lines to emphasize all the safety precautions in this intersection. The red arrows point to two different signs alerting drivers of where they should stop. The squiggly blue line shows how there really is a lot of space between the stop line (surely there’s a name for this type of line?) and the crosswalk. And finally, the green arrow shows the pedestrians, off in the distance.

It’s worth noting that if cars in the left lane pull too far up they actually stop on the tracks and get honked at by trains until they move. The alternative would be for the trains to run over the cars, so clearly this is a safety issue.

And in the picture above, everything is basically working the way it should. So is that true at other times as well?

Let’s take a look:



The pictures above show two clear examples of people ignoring all the safety elements in the first picture and pulling up into prohibited space. In the top picture, two large trucks pulled up into that space — the line is actually back by the black car — and another vehicle could probably have fit between them.

The cars in the second picture do a little better; the line is at the white car and the black car is only about 12 feet too far forward. But still, in each example drivers ignored the rules and did what felt right even though it was technically wrong.

I also took these pictures after watching this happen over and over again. I walk by this spot almost every day on my lunch break and this problem seems to happen during nearly every cycle through the traffic signal.

That isn’t to say that these pictures show bad people, or even bad drivers; if there is a recurring problem that happens every few minutes that problem has to be at least partly due to design.

I think the underlying design problems here have to do with the unusual distance between the crosswalk and the vehicle stop line, the extreme distance between drivers and their stop light, and other things. Moving the stop light so that it hangs above the stop line — something suggested in a comment on yesterday’s post — might be one easy remedy for this problem.

I’m sure there are many other potential solutions as well, but my point here is merely this: that A) this is another example of design dictating dangerous behavior, and B) solutions must involve fixes to the configuration problems if they hope to succeed.



  1. Leo

    Another issue with this intersection is how little time pedestrians are allotted to cross 400 West. I was with friends one evening crossing the street at a leisurely—but by no means slow—pace, when lo and behold the car waiting to turn left from South Temple to 400 West began honking at us. Of course, I can get into the fact that the driver of the car could have been much more patient (five seconds’ worth) and less aggressive, but we didn’t even notice the timer had counted down so quickly.

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