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Why Seattle isn't making better use of the 'Denver Stop' or all-way-walk

Seattle currently uses the all-way-walk formula near Pike Place Market and a few other intersections. ( Photo/Riley Elliott)

I received a lot of responses from people after our first Chokepoint about crosswalks at 5th and Union, a spot where cars back up for blocks because they can't turn. There are too many people crossing the street.

KIRO Radio listeners started sending me the intersections they said back up for the same reason.

Then I started getting emails asking about the "Denver Stop" and why Seattle doesn't use it more often to reduce the car-pedestrian friction.

Vern wrote, "I think this is used at some intersections, but why not use it everywhere?"

The Denver Stop, or the all-way-walk, as it's called in Seattle, allows one light phase at an intersection where all car traffic is stopped and pedestrians can walk wherever they want, including diagonally, across the intersection.

Cars can then turn without waiting for walkers when it's their turn.

Seattle currently uses this formula near Pike Place Market and a few other intersections.

But it turns out this is not the solution to all of Seattle's crosswalk chokepoints.

The city said the reason this formula isn't used more often is because it really doesn't work all that well. While it's great for pedestrians, the city says its data finds this snarls traffic even more and makes getting around even harder.

The city actually studied 70 intersections in 2007 to see if the Denver Stop would make sense.

Engineers found that most of the intersections would suffer worse choking, and it would actually adversely impact the main corridors. It would also create longer wait times for walkers and lead to even more jaywalking, which the city admits is a huge problem.

The study did find a few intersections that would benefit from the all-way-walk, so engineers installed the formula at those spots.

The city is always looking for spots where this would make sense, but it said the negatives often outweigh the positives.

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About the Author

Chris Sullivan is a traffic reporter for KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. He cares deeply about the amount of time you spend sitting in Seattle traffic.


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