Please note: The signal timing work in Davis Square is now complete. The text below, which describes the Square's previously existing signal timing, will help to explain the need for improvements.
The signal cycle in Davis Square is over two minutes long, meaning long waits for everybody as they try and get through the intersection. For pedestrians, this is an especially long time, especially in cold, hot, or rainy weather, or if a pedestrian has mobility issues. Depending on when you arrive at a crosswalk, it can take about four to six minutes to legally cross the intersection diagonally (e.g. between Oath and JP Licks). However, many pedestrians have noticed that it’s pretty safe to cross certain crosswalks during parts of the signal phase. At the crosswalk across Holland Street, it’s currently safe to cross during 60% of the signal cycle, but pedestrians are only given 20% of the signal cycle to cross. Similarly, at the Day Street crosswalk, it is safe for pedestrians to cross during 80% of the signal cycle. As a result, pedestrians do not wait for the exclusive pedestrian phase. Over 75% of pedestrians in Davis Square (during observed times) cross outside of the pedestrian phase.
Rather than enforce this unrealistic and pedestrian-unfriendly phasing, we have decided to formalize the safe crossing locations that naturally exist during the signal cycle. This will allow us to make the signal more efficient by removing the exclusive pedestrian phase. When a crosswalk is safe to cross, pedestrians will receive a walk signal. Walk signals will no longer all turn on at the same time, so depending on your direction of travel, you may be able to cross multiple crosswalks with minimal wait. Delay for pedestrians crossing during pedestrian phases will be reduced by 24-70%, improving walkability in Somerville’s most walkable square. Pedestrian phases will now occur automatically, so if you forget to press the button, no worries! You’ll still get a pedestrian signal.
In the next phase of this project (which we will be planning for over the next few calendar years), we are hoping to upgrade the traffic signal equipment to include countdown timers and audible signal indications.