Signal timing on New Westminster's radar

Ask City Hall

Do you ever feel like pedestrian signals don’t give you quite enough time to cross New West streets? If so, you’re not alone.

Moody Park resident Phil Walkinshaw recently raised the issue of the timing of pedestrian signals as part of the city’s 2019 budget deliberations.

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Is it possible for the city to divert some of the $1.395 million included in this year’s budget for the replacement of vehicles and automotive equipment and put it toward initiatives that make the city more walkable and improve pedestrian safety?

Walkinshaw, who has served on the city’s neighbourhood traffic advisory committee, also questioned if the city could improve the timing of traffic lights, saying there are locations where the timer doesn’t provide enough seconds to allow people to safely cross.

“The Transportation Association of Canada is actually decreasing the number of feet per second that people walk for the new traffic control guidelines for 2021,” he said. “I was wondering if move New West could move forward quickly on this.”


Jim Lowrie, the city’s director of engineering, said the vehicle replacements planned for 2019 are “essential” for this year as they’ve reached the end of their recommended service life.

Lisa LeBlanc, the city’s manager of transportation, said the city is working on plans to change the timing of some of the pedestrian signals.

“What we are doing is looking at focusing first on the signals that have a pedestrian usage that are in areas where particularly there is more vulnerable pedestrians,” she said. “To readjust all the signals in the city is a significant piece of work, so what we are looking at is the areas that are most significantly impacted that would most benefit from an adjustment like this. Adjusting signal timing is not a straightforward process in many locations in the city because many signals are coordinated with the signals on either side of them in each direction. So, in order to adjust the timing on one signal we may need to adjust the timing on the entire corridor. It takes some time to do the analysis and to ensure that coordination continues to work. It’s something that we are continuing to work on.”

LeBlanc said the city has been reviewing the crossing time of all pedestrian-activated signals in New Westminster. (These are the signals that turn on and begin flashing when pedestrians push a button.)

“It is quite an undertaking. We have 85 or 87 signals throughout the city. Not all of them are pedestrian-activated,” she said. “We have started with the obvious ones, and then we are going to be working our way through, prioritizing first all the pedestrian-activated signals and then secondly we will be prioritizing where we know there are a lot of pedestrians, particularly vulnerable pedestrians – seniors, school kids, near libraries, maybe near where there are services for people who have disabilities, or seniors or children.”

LeBlanc said staff has started putting together “timing plans” for pedestrian-activated signals in New Westminster.

“Some (plans) may actually already be done. Those should unroll fairly quickly,” she said. “The others are going to take some time.”


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