Region may consider pedestrian scramble in Waterloo

Regional councillor Geoff Lorentz says staff may consider placing a pedestrian scramble at the intersection of King and University in Waterloo.

Scramble would allow pedestrians to cross in all directions

One local politician says regional staff may study whether or not a pedestrian scramble should be placed in Waterloo at King St N. and University Ave.

The intersection, which is close to both the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, has a high volume of pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

A pedestrian scramble, similar to the ones at major intersections in Toronto like at Yonge St. and Dundas St., would allow people to cross from all sides simultaneously while traffic is stopped. The idea for the intersection was suggested by two audience members, one on the CBC KW Facebook page, and another in a tweet to online host Andrea Bellemare.

Regional councillor Geoff Lorentz, who is also vice-chair of the planning and works committee, told CBC News the idea would be considered.

“Everything’s a possibility, and yes we will look into that,” said Lorentz. “I think our staff is very progressive, but there’s a lot of factors that affect all this stuff.”

However, not everyone thinks a pedestrian scramble would work at King and University. 

"The way that intersection is designed now is really from the perspective of a driver," Jeff Casello, an urban planning and design professor at the University of Waterloo told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Wednesday. 

"What that does is that it makes a really long crossing distance for pedestrians in all directions." 

Casello said while a pedestrian scramble would be safer for pedestrians, installing one at King and University would create long delays for drivers. 

"The idea is to allow all the pedestrians to move at once and allow them to move diagonally. But if you wanted to cross diagonally from the southeast to the northwest of that intersection, you would have to cross something like 50 metres and a slow walker travels at about a metre per second, so we're talking about 50 for pedestrians to move."

The length of the crossing for pedestrians was a concern for commenter Tara in the CBC K-W daily live chat.

She wrote,"I'm temporarily using a cane & the scramble looks horrifying to me! It looks like I'd get trampled! Timing of intersections is key."

Casello said the intersection already has 90 second red lights and installing a pedestrian scramble would stop vehicular traffic for an additional 50 seconds each way per cycle, causing some drivers to wait at the lights for over two minutes. 

"So if you're going to introduce 50 seconds of wait times for all cars, you can imagine there's going to be some pretty long delays," he said. 


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