Toward more pedestrian safety on the Green Line

Bob Collins/MPR News

If authorities are looking for ways to reduce the risk of pedestrians getting hit by Green Line trains on University Avenue in Saint Paul, this intersection at Western Avenue provides a good laboratory to test it out.

Let’s assume, first of all, that you’re a law-abiding pedestrian who pays attention to the warnings not to cross against the traffic light.

If you’re standing on the northeast corner, I noticed today, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to miss the next eastbound train because the light favors the two lanes of cars heading westbound on University.

In this scenario, a train is still a couple of stations away, the light has turned green on University and the pedestrian waits. And waits. The light appears to be as long as two or three minutes.

You can, of course, jaywalk and ignore the light if no traffic is coming, but our sample pedestrian is law-abiding.

There’s also the problem of having two stations on opposite sides of the block. You have to cross the light-rail tracks if you jaywalk, but in your concentration on the traffic and the eastbound train, did you pay attention to the westbound train that’s about to roar into the station on the next block?

Now the eastbound train is getting a little closer. Maybe the light will finally change, forcing the train to stop, but then you think, “maybe this is one of those intersections where the approaching train keeps the light green so that the travel time on the Green Line is reduced.”

Now you have two choices. You can (a) make a run for it, assuming there’s no traffic or a westbound train, and risk getting hit by the train that’s about to enter the station or (b) let the train go by, stay legally planted on the corner and resign yourself to the fact you have a 10-minute wait for the next train.

Do you feel lucky? Which do you choose? The fact that you’re forced to presents the obvious safety problem.