Dear PoPville – Countdown Removed from Cross Walk Signals?


“Dear PoPville,

On my walk to the metro this morning, I noticed that all the walk signals had stopped the countdown feature. That is, they were all just flashing either a white walk sign or an orange stop — see picture above. (This was along Park between 18th and 14th). Any idea what’s going on?”

Hmm, I wonder if has to do with the malfunctioning countdowns we spoke about in June. Will tweet to DDOT and update with their response. Anyone else notice the countdown disappearing from other parts of town?

25 Comment

  • I believe the countdown at 16th and Decatur has stopped too – or at least, doesn’t turn on until most of the time has already elapsed. Not sure when this change happened though, but it definitely used to count down from 60 or 70 seconds.

    • If this is the case, this is how they are supposed to work, as established by the MUTCD: “Where countdown pedestrian signals are used, the countdown shall always be displayed simultaneously with the flashing UPRAISED HAND (symbolizing DONT WALK) signal indication displayed for that crosswalk.”

      • Furthermore “05 The display of the number of remaining seconds shall begin only at the beginning of the pedestrian change interval (flashing UPRAISED HAND). After the countdown displays zero, the display shall remain dark until the beginning of the next countdown.
        06 The countdown pedestrian signal shall display the number of seconds remaining until the termination of the pedestrian change interval (flashing UPRAISED HAND). Countdown displays shall not be used during the walk interval or during the red clearance interval of a concurrent vehicular phase.”

        • This is terrible. With this countdown info, I could decide whether to cross at Monroe, or whether the wait would be so long that I could make it to Park. After DOT came out to so helpfully “fix” the signals at Monroe and 16th, I now have no info on which to base this decision. Being the impatient guy that I am, this means that I do not wait. When the lights change and I’ve only made it halfway to the next intersection, I usually end up crossing mid-block to not have to wait so long.

          This may be the rule, but on what planet does this make things safer?

  • I really don’t like the countdown timers and I’m glad they’re gone!

      • It’s stupid, but as a pedestrian, I always feel like its a race between me and countdown timers. I’ll see one down the block and I’ll think “crap, I have 50 seconds to walk down the block and cross the street, can I do it?” Like I said, it’s stupid. The only time I find them useful is during the last 10 seconds or so of the countdown, because then I can figure out if I have enough time to cross the street or if I should wait. I just don’t find the ones that start counting back from 60-70 seconds very useful.

        • i find them useful. as a driver, as a biker, and as a pedestrian.
          as a biker it makes the most difference to me actually, since im exerting the most then. from the end of a block, i know if i should pedal really fast of should expect to not make it.

  • I find the countdown very useful whether I’m walking or driving. Hope it comes back.

    • +2
      They are great for both drivers and pedestrians. It’s a nice indicator as to whether you need to slow down (either driving or on foot) in anticipation of the light changing. No one wants to get stuck in the middle of the intersection, regardless of mode of transport.

      • Yeah but who really slows down? I bike and walk most of the time, but when I’m driving I use the countdown from pretty far away as a means to know if I should speed up so I can get close to a light before it even turns yellow. I imagine a lot of people do that, and it’s admittedly not the safest…

  • As a driver I love the countdown timer – it lets me know whether I need to gun it or not.

  • This doesn’t appear to be citywide as they are still functioning at Farragut North and H St/NoMa. At least they were as of this morning.

  • Anastasia Beaverhausen

    These are so unnecessary. All the city needs to do is figure out how long it takes to cross the street and make the don’t walk light flash at that point. Nobody trusts them though because they’re all so poorly timed. Half of the intersections start flashing red at 20 seconds when it only takes 5 to cross. DC government ineptitude.

    • Disagree. The amount of time it takes to cross the street varies from person to person. With a second-by-second countdown, there’s no subjectivity — you can weigh whether there’s enough time for you to cross the street by yourself, whether there’s enough time for you and an elderly parent to cross the street together, etc.

    • I wish people who have put 30 seconds of poor thought into a topic wouldn’t resort to calling professionals inept. They clearly know more than this anonymous poster.

    • saf

      These days I walk well. A few years ago, I used a cane and took a LOT longer to cross the street.
      I loved those counters SO much. Without them, I would not have ever left the curb, except at the beginning of the walk signal.

  • I noticed that they also weren’t counting down in other places today… on 7th Street along the Mall, and Pennsylvania Ave.

  • As a driver, I think they’re also useful so I can be more careful of not blocking the box.

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