Photo by Casey Gomez

Both pedestrians and vehicles traveling through the intersection of Fifth Street and Spring Street will note new traffic patterns as part of a recently-implemented “pedestrian scramble crossing” also known as a Barnes Dance.

The traffic management technique will be in place in the heart of Tech Square for an initial 90-day testing period that is intended to improve the efficiency of all kinds of traffic.

The implementation is comprised of green light cycles for vehicles on Spring and Fifth Streets during which no pedestrians may cross, and then an all-way red light cycle for vehicles during which pedestrians can cross in any direction, including diagonally.

The pedestrian scramble is a collaboration between several groups, including professional traffic engineers, the City of Atlanta and Tech researchers in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Another organization involved is the Midtown Alliance, which is concerned with the beautification of Midtown and efficient travel of cars, trucks, bicycles and
pedestrians.

The project began with the realization that the intersection in Tech Square is a busy one for both pedestrians and vehicles. Even if a car had a green light, there were often pedestrians in the way that prevented the car from easily turning left or right. This, in addition to heavy construction along Spring Street, dramatically slowed down traffic and agitated drivers.

“It presents a conflict between cars and pedestrians,” said Taylor Stukes, a traffic engineer working on the project and a BSCE ‘85 alum. “If we eliminate that conflict and we only have cars going on Spring, then only cars on Fifth, and then we only have pedestrians, we actually have a more efficient use of our time at that intersection.”

The project has been in the works for several months, and Stukes expressed confidence that it will be successful now that it is in action. He anticipates an increase in efficiency of five percent for traffic through the
intersection.

“Someone came up with an idea,” Stukes said, “and like all good engineers, we looked at the idea and figured out what is good about it, what is bad about it and what evidence supports its implementation.”

After the initial 90-day testing period, as long as everything goes smoothly, lines will be painted across the intersection diagonally for pedestrians and the light timing will become permanent.

Concerns with the testing period mainly fall on how often pedestrians will break the rules and walk without a signal, and possible multi-car crashes.

According to Li Chen of the City College of New York, when the Barnes Dance was instituted in New York City, the amount of pedestrian related crashes decreased, while the amount of multi-car crashes increased.

The best thing that can happen to prevent these occurrences is all parties, drivers and pedestrians, following the guidelines set out for operation of the scramble.

Currently, officers from the Georgia Tech Police Department can often be found in the area supervising traffic patterns, ensuring safety and making sure everything is going smoothly.