Sometimes little changes can make a big difference — in your attitude, at least, if not in absolute reality. Take the light at the intersection of Third Street and Livingston Avenue, for example.
I walk through that intersection every day on my way to work, and I’ve memorized the traffic light and walk signal progression. First the cars turning from Third to head east on Livingston get the green light, then the cars streaming from the highway off-ramp and east on Livingston moving through the intersection, and then finally the cars moving south on Third — which is when pedestrians like me finally get the walk signal. The green light for eastbound Livingston traffic lasted forever and the walk signal that followed it was very brief — probably about 15 seconds, tops.
If you missed the walk window of opportunity you’d have about a two-minute wait, staring at the annoying red hand, breathing car exhaust fumes, and marveling at the willingness of cars to power through red lights until the walk signal came around again. Two minutes might not seem like much in absolute terms, but it seemed like an eternity as we waited, for permission to cross. As walkers approached the intersection, we hoped that our timing was right and we wouldn’t have that long wait. Once in a blue moon you’d luck out and hit the intersection at just the right instant, but usually you’d end up stuck in Red Hand Land.
Recently, however, they changed the signal progression. Now the green light for eastbound traffic on Livingston is much briefer, meaning that the whole progression is faster and the super-long wait for the walk signal has been eliminated. Now I don’t fret about the signal status when I approach the intersection, and I get to work faster without having to cool my heels in front of Katzinger’s Deli, watching the traffic zoom by.
I’m guessing that the traffic engineers didn’t make the change to help out pedestrians, and probably decided to alter the timing to do something about the speeders and red light runners barreling through the intersection on Livingston. But whether they were thinking of me and my fellow German Village walkers or not, I’d still like to say thanks for the signal change. It’s a small thing, but it’s made a real difference in our day. It’s amazing what not staring at a red hand for minutes at a time will do for your mood.