‘Hybrid pedestrian beacon’ could replace no-longer- needed stoplight at 17th

       Colorado Springs Traffic Engineering is looking at a different kind of traffic signal for 17th Street and Colorado Avenue.

An ambulance rumbles west along Colorado past the 17th Street intersection recently. City Traffic Engineering has reassessed the location, now that Buena Vista Elementary has relocated from 17th and Bijou streets, and the Westside Community Center (which has some services for children) is operating at that site. (Note that the sign and street markings in the photo still indicate a school crossing.) A proposed "hybrid" light would only come on if a pedestrian crossing the avenue at 17th Street pressed the button.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Because a nearby school (Buena Vista Elementary) relocated after May 2009, the intersection no longer meets the “warrant” that justified a full stoplight previously, according to Rob Helt of City Traffic Engineering.
       But he said the location does meet the specifications for a new type of light called a “hybrid pedestrian beacon” that would help people wanting to walk across Colorado Avenue at 17th.
       “The hybrid allows for pedestrian traffic which may be present due to the repurposing of the school site and other pedestrian factors,” Helt elaborated in a recent e-mail.
       No date has been announced for a change. “The design of the hybrid signal for the location has been completed, but is still in review from city staff,” he wrote. “The 17th location is one of several locations for rebuild/treatment, but the schedule has not been set.”
       Helt also gave a presentation at an Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) board of directors meeting in April. He told the board that a big advantage for the hybrid lights is their expense - 30 percent of the cost of a regular signal. Helt said it costs less than $50,000 to install a hybrid, whereas the price tag for a regular light is about $150,000.
       The main reason is that a hybrid does not require a vehicle detection capability, Helt said.
       Here's how it works: After a pedestrian pushes the button to cross, the hybrid's lights go through a cycle for oncoming traffic that begins with flashing amber (yellow light), then solid amber, then red and finally a flashing red before shutting off altogether.
       During the time when the light has turned red, a “countdown” in seconds will display for pedestrians crossing in front of the stopped cars so they'll know just how long they have. The city can adjust the amount of time, Helt noted.
       When a hybrid signal is not activated, it stays dark, as if there were no traffic signal at all. This also saves energy costs, he said.
       The hybrid “has been used successfully in 20 states,” the city website states. “In 2009, the Texas Traffic Institute found there were 69 percent fewer accidents involving pedestrians and 29 percent fewer crashes overall at beacon sites.”
       The first hybrid in Colorado Springs was installed recently outside Edison Elementary School at 3125 N. Hancock Ave., the website continues, adding that the new type of light “will be installed where traffic signals need replacement, but only a pedestrian signal is required.”
       According to Helt, the use of hybrids is part of an evaluation of all 564 signalized intersections in the city.

Westside Pioneer article