Incorporating Pedestrian Considerations into Signal Timing

Sirisha Kothuri, Portland State University


The role of walking in the development of healthy, livable communities is being increasingly recognized. In urban areas, intersections represent locations where different modes converge, and are often viewed as deterrents to walking. This is due to the unwarranted and often unnecessary delays imposed by signal timing policies for pedestrians and increased potential for conflicts. Traditional signal timing design prioritizes vehicles over pedestrians leading to undesirable consequences such as large delays and risky pedestrian behaviors. Pedestrians are accommodated in a manner that is designed to cause least interruption to the flow of motor vehicles. This lack of pedestrian accommodation at signalized intersections is the focus of this dissertation. Understanding pedestrian attitudes and perceptions is important because it offers insights into actual crossing behavior at signalized intersections. An intercept survey of 367 crossing pedestrians was undertaken at four signalized intersections in Portland, Oregon, and binary logistic regression models were constructed to quantify the impacts of demographics, trip characteristics and type of infrastructure on pedestrian perceptions and attitudes regarding delay, crossing time and motivators for crossing decisions. Safety was found to have a larger effect than compliance on the decision to cross the street. Pedestrians at recall intersections expressed higher satisfaction with delay than at actuated intersections. i Novel methods to measure pedestrian delay using 2070 signal controllers and Voyage software were developed. These methods have been adopted by the City of Portland to record actuation trends and delays at various intersections. In the absence of demand data, pedestrian push button actuations can be considered as a proxy for crossing demand. The micro-simulation software VISSIM was used to analyze delays resulting from varying pedestrian and vehicle volumes on a network of three intersections in Portland, Oregon. From a pedestrian perspective, free operation was found to be always beneficial due to lower pedestrian delays. However, from a system wide perspective, free operation was found to be beneficial only under low-medium traffic conditions from an overall delay reduction viewpoint, while coordinated operation showed benefits under heavy traffic conditions, irrespective of the volume of pedestrians. Control strategies were developed to identify the best mode of signal controller operation that produced the lowest overall average delay per user. A procedure to identify the optimal control strategy based on user inputs (major street volume to capacity ratios and rate of pedestrian phase serviced for the minor street) was developed. The procedure was applied to a network of three intersections in east Portland, OR and the findings were verified. This research offers significant contributions in the field of pedestrian research. The findings related to attitudes and perceptions of crossing pedestrians offer greater insights into pedestrian crossing behavior and add to the body of existing literature. The methods developed to obtain pedestrian actuations and delay data from signal controllers represent an easy and cost-effective way to characterize pedestrian service at intersections. The results pertaining to signal timing strategies represent an important step ii towards incorporating pedestrian needs at intersections and demonstrate how control strategies employed to benefit pedestrians could benefit the entire system.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
June 30,2014
UTC Grant Cycle:
NITC Tier 1 Dissertation Fellowships Spr. '12
UTC Funding: