A rash of malfunctioning crosswalk signals is cutting a hazardous path across the five boroughs, confounding pedestrians and public officials who feel the city has no effective plan to short-circuit the problem.
And the problem could get a lot worse. The Department of Transportation insists the malfunction — when both the “walk” and “don’t walk” signs light up simultaneously — only happens “occasionally” as the LEDs in the signals reach the end of their seven-year lifespans.
The trouble is, the last of the 100,000 signals citywide were installed in 2003, so many are already beyond their life expectancy and conceivably poised to malfunction.
“I’m still hearing complaints [from constituents] all the time,” said City Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan), who added that her office conducted a survey on the Upper West Side, finding that several intersections along Columbus and Amsterdam avenues had busted signs.
amNewYork first reported the malfunctions in a Jan. 22, 2008, blog post, and press accounts since then have depicted it largely as a Manhattan problem.
But amNewYork in December found three broken crosswalks signs along a stretch of Prospect Park West in Park Slope. Three more were spotted at consecutive intersections along Victory Boulevard, one of Staten Island’s busiest thoroughfares.
Brewer said that while the DOT has fixed many of the signals she contacted them about, the agency hasn’t offered her a long-term solution.
DOT spokesman Monty Dean said the department dispatches a crew “within a matter of a few hours” of learning about a broken signal. Fewer than 3,000 signals needed repair after the walk/don’t walk glitch in 2009, he said. He was not able to provide a figure for 2010.
Dean said that the department is replacing signals on the fritz with newer models that have reconfigured LED lights that are not expected to malfunction.
Chinatown resident Kathryn Kraemer is skeptical about the DOT’s responsiveness. She’s noticed a malfunctioning signal at Hester and Baxter streets for about two months.
“It’s ridiculous,” Kraemer said.