DOT Unveils Short-Term Ped Fixes Near Brooklyn Traffic Hub

ashland_hanson.jpg
A sidewalk addition will keep traffic from turning onto Hanson Place from Flatbush and Fourth Avenue.

Streets near the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the LIRR’s Atlantic Terminal are set to receive a basket of pedestrian improvements that may get underway as soon as November. Speaking last night to the CB2 transportation committee and about a dozen other residents, DOT’s Chris Hrones laid out plans for new pedestrian spaces and traffic signals — including a Barnes Dance (exclusive walk signal) at the intersection of Flatbush and Fourth Avenue.

The presentation [PDF] met with a generally positive reception — applause, in fact — although some in the audience voiced disappointment that the improvements do not address the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue, and others expressed concern about traffic backing up onto local streets as a result of the changes. Hrones said DOT would be able to incorporate feedback into its plans, but that the work is scheduled to proceed in about three weeks. No vote was held.

The pedestrian spaces will be created by closing short segments of roadway to traffic. Cars will no longer be able to turn onto Hanson Place from the intersection of Flatbush and Fourth Avenue, where a new permanent sidewalk will be constructed. Pedestrians will also be able to cross Flatbush and Fourth Avenue more easily, with the implementation of a 31-second exclusive walk phase. Pedestrians currently have an eight-second interval to cross Flatbush before turning vehicles get a green light.

barnes_dance.jpg
New signal timing will let pedestrians cross Flatbush and Fourth without worrying about turning traffic.

3rd_ave.jpgA short distance up the street, another road segment will be closed to
traffic, keeping cars from turning onto Third Avenue from Flatbush (top right).
Permanent pedestrian plazas are on the drawing board (bottom right), but the
Department of Environmental Protection has scheduled a project at the
same location that will delay construction until 2013 or later. In the
meantime, barriers and striping will set aside space for pedestrians.

Committee members welcomed the new signal timing in particular. One asked for new crosswalk striping to reflect people’s desire to walk straight across the street, and another requested a countdown timer so pedestrians can tell how long the exclusive phase will last. They worried, however, that traffic agents would ignore the signal timing and wave cars through since their mandate from NYPD is to keep traffic moving.

When the subject of the Atlantic and Flatbush intersection came up, Hrones said that location was outside the scope of the project.

"At this point there’s not something that jumps out that will help address the issue," he said. "In the course of this exercise we didn’t find any silver bullets."

Graphics: NYCDOT

  • Ian Turner

    These changes sound great, though as a Queens resident I don’t know much about the intersections.

    However, it looks like a pedestrian who is standing on the W side of 4th ave and wants to cross flatbush now has to wait up to 90 seconds to cross; isn’t that a rather long time? Before it was 72 seconds, which itself seems long.

    Finally, can we stop using the word “traffic” to refer to automobiles? Instead, let’s say “automobile traffic”, which makes the (true) implication that there are other important street users.

  • Geck

    “They worried, however, that traffic agents would ignore the signal timing and wave cars through since their mandate from NYPD is to keep traffic moving.”

    I second that concern.

  • v

    it’s amazing how such small changes could make such a big improvement for pedestrians.

    should note that the ‘existing timing’ is a bit misleading, as you aren’t actually supposed to walk north across flatbush on the east side of 4th ave. for nearly two years, there has been considerable construction in the area (i think they’re finishing a big entrance for the terminal?), and for a while now that route is blocked by construction-y stuff. the pedestrian lines (amusingly but frighteningly) run smack into a barrier rather than reaching sidewalk on the other side.

    of course, this doesn’t stop any number of people from crossing there in order to avoid another of those long light cycles. meaning there are people squishing between a temporary wall on one side and fast traffic on the other, in order to get to the main entrance of the atlantic terminal. it’s really dangerous.

  • Michael1

    I’m a Queens resident too, and I know this intersection somewhat well. It would be easier to picture if they put Atlantic Avenue which is only about 500 feet south of that intersection. You’re right in that a pedestrian has to wait a while to cross from the NW corner of 4th and Flatbush (due to the fact that Flatbush has priority). You’re also right that a pedestrian from that particular spot has to wait even longer in the new signal patterns. However, the new pattern is still better in spite of that. Currently, 4th Avenue northbound consists of two travel lanes straight and only one left turn lane for Flatbush, even though a majority of cars traveling north on 4th turn left onto Flatbush. Closing the street off between Flatbush and Ashland/Hanson helps because now all the lanes can focus left. Remember that Atlantic is only 500 feet south of this intersection so when the light turns red for 4th Avenue it’s important to have that corner clear or else cars will block 4th and Atlantic. However, a pedestrian can still make their way to the west side of 4th Avenue simply by crossing at the north side of 4th and Atlantic, which is exceedingly safer. Eastbound traffic from Atlantic is prohibited from turning left on 4th or Flatbush and Westbound traffic tends to turn on Flatbush directly from Atlantic (a troublesome intersection). When Hrodes mentioned that that corner is out of the scope of the project, I think he meant that what is being applied to 4th and Flatbush is not enough for Flatbush and Atlantic, because both streets are near equal width and the crosswalks are twice as long. My experience from this intersection is from late in the evening, I don’t know how it is in the morning rush.

    Since you’re a Queens resident, Northern Blvd with Broadway/54th Street in Woodside might be a similar comparison to this intersection.

    I didn’t incorporate the construction materials on Flatbush in my comment because I’m assuming that’s temporary until work is done.

  • Since you’re a Queens resident, Northern Blvd with Broadway/54th Street in Woodside might be a similar comparison to this intersection.

    For several months, if not years, that intersection has had a Barnes dance phase where no cars are allowed to cross. Unfortunately, no pedestrians are allowed to cross in any other phases.

  • Michael1

    That intersection has been like that for many many years. I think the exclusive-walk phase is primarily due to the longer-than-normal crosswalks and that a majority of the peds cross Northern Blvd because of the subway exit on the other side.

  • paulb

    My favorite sight at that intersection was at the beginning of the summer I saw an old guy riding an old bike and trailed by an old hound, crossing Flatbush Ave at Fourth Ave in the middle of the worst NY traffic as relaxed as if he and the dog were heading to a fishing hole in rural South Carolina.

  • Michael1

    Nice 😎

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