The pedestrian traffic signal at the Hennepin/Lyndale bottleneck & Groveland Avenue is one of a kind in Southwest: it has a "Walk/Don’t Walk" timer that tells pedestrians how long they have before the light changes.
Other large cities such as Washington, D.C. use such timers. The Minneapolis Public Works department installed its first one this spring, said Scott Tacheny, a traffic operations engineer.
The city chose the Lowry Hill site, near the south end of the Walker Art Center expansion, because of the pedestrian volume and the extremely long crossing — 124 feet, he said. (Groveland is where Hennepin and Lyndale split.)
One "Walk/Don’t Walk" unit with a timer costs $500, approximately double the cost of a traditional unit, Tacheny said. (That will be a tough sell when Public Works is cutting maintenance budgets.)
The "Walk" phase varies by time of day but stays on a minimum of seven seconds, he said. The "Don’t Walk" phase counts down starting at 31 seconds, enough time for a pedestrian just stepping off the curb to cross, walking at 4 feet per second.
Public Works staff has added two similar timers along Hiawatha Avenue, but Tacheny said he did not think it would become a standard feature across the city.
"I have not had any response from the public," he said.
Stand at the intersection for a few minutes and talk to passersby, and their reactions are generally positive.
Curt Red Earth said he liked the timer, but, "it should be a little longer for pedestrians."
Casey Robbins, a recent New York transplant, called the timer "a little bit helpful" but said she thought they probably cost a lot of money.
Bob Gunderson of Loring Heights said he has seen similar timers at Cleveland Avenue and Ford Parkway in St. Paul and Miracle Mile in St. Louis Park.
"We need more of them," he said. "It depends on how bad the intersection is. This is a bad one."
Gunderson said the city should put a timer one block north, where pedestrians cross Hennepin/Lyndale at Vineland Place, the crossing between Loring Park and the Walker/Guthrie complex.
Gunderson also complained about the poor condition of the crosswalk paint, noting that cars don’t see the stripe and don’t stop at the right spot. As he said it, a car pulled into the crosswalk, drawing an irritated glance from a pedestrian.
"Any intersection worth a stoplight is worthy of good white lines," he said.
Tacheny invites comments about the "Walk/Don’t Walk" timer. His number is 673-5758.