Why Not Replace the Easton Traffic Circle Lights With Yield Signs?

Has anyone ever proposed replacing the traffic lights in the Easton circle with yield signs? And when did those lights get installed originally?

I thought this was an interesting point in Zach Lindsey’s article on PennDOT’s plan to use more roundabouts:

“You don’t have traffic lights like in Easton,” Brown said. “It’s not like that. Each incoming roadway has (a) yield (sign) so the people in the circle have the right of way. The slow speed actually gives plenty of room to perform merging.”

The trade-off would be slower driving speeds around the circle, which I personally don’t think would be such a bad thing.

Another circle idea I’d like to see happen eventually is replacing the parking spaces in all four corners with larger pedestrian zones. It would be a lot of curb parking spaces to lose, but on the other hand they could create a really world-class pedestrian space if they extended the sidewalk and pedestrian area all the way to the edge of the circle.

I noticed those corners have been closed off to parking for lots of events in the circle and the Farmer’s Market, when there’s peak demand for curb parking. That’s a key point. If the city can clearly handle not having those parking spaces during times of *peak demand* then it wouldn’t be such a big deal to pave over them permanently. I don’t have a good sense of how much this would cost, but I would think that if they succeeded in creating a really beautiful pedestrian space, like Bakery Square in Pittsburgh, that would raise downtown land values and attract more private redevelopment in the circle.


  1. Roundabouts are lousy in pedestrian-heavy areas. They rely on drivers paying attention so they don’t get run over.

    Good luck with that one. Someone follows your advice here and people will die. But that’s ok if it’s in the name of “progressiveness” isn’t it?

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Follow your own logic. Drivers will need to pay close attention, and they’ll slow down to avoid hitting pedestrians or other cars.

      • Like I said, good luck with that one. People pay less attention while driving now than ever before. More distractions – texting, cell phone use, onboard entertainment systems (God forbid we’re not entertained while driving), eating, shaving, makeup, oral sex (seen that one on Rte 22 a dozen times in the past couple of years).

        Now in an area you want to get more pedestrian friendly you want to make it more dangerous?

        Do you actually think these things through or just lob shit out there to see what sticks?

        • Jon Geeting says:

          I just disagree with you that it would make it more dangerous. I think it would make it less dangerous. The traffic signals make the circle more empty than it would be without the signals, making it easier to drive around it faster. Drivers have the illusion of of safety and drive faster than they would if they had to yield.

  2. I have been involved in 4 situations so far where roundabouts were discussed. Everyone involved, from PennDOT to private consultants, said they are not safe in pedestrian-heavy areas, the risk of someone getting run over is too great.

    Lights provide a relative level of certainty. Yield signs rely on people paying attention, both pedestrians and drivers. Couple that with poor sight lines since with circles nothing is straight-0n it’s always off to a side or over your shoulder, and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I absolutely believe PennDOT officials and transportation consultants would say that, but their objective is always to maximize level of service for cars, even in urban areas. They’re way behind current thinking on traffic calming and pedestrian-oriented street design standards.

      • Which is exactly my point – you’re willing to risk lives and injury to make a point. The rest of us aren’t, especially in that location where cars aren’t creating a problem.

        Which brings up another point – why do you always want to bring a solution then go try to create a problem you can solve? Especially when you have to make up a problem?

        • Jon Geeting says:

          Not to make a point, to actually improve the downtown. Easton’s downtown is great, but could be even better. I’m willing to believe that traffic signals are better, but I haven’t seen any evidence either way. I know that PennDOT’s main concern is level of service for automobiles, and I think that’s mistaken so I’m skeptical of what they say about urban street design issues. I’d like to see more research on the roundabout question.

          There is an actual problem here, which is how to translate Easton’s recent turnaround into more downtown population and business growth without adding much more car traffic congestion. The goal is to avoid choking off growth with traffic. To do that you need to reallocate space now used by cars to pedestrians and transit.

  3. Overall, roundabouts are a better way of organizing traffic because they keep traffic flowing in one direction and they tend to lower speed. My experience (in Massachusetts and Europe) is that they work best on intercity state routes through towns, where they tend to prevent traffic from bunching up and hence lower pollution, etc.

    Pedestrians are a different story. I would say overall, the circles are safer for pedestrians (studies indicate the same). But in Europe, for example, the rules of the road for traffic circles, merges, and pedestrian access are drummed into drivers’ heads from day one, so education would be key, since practice in the US tends to be different. I haven’t been to that Center Square in a while, but I would say at a minimum having defined (and well lit!) pedestrian crossing points set back from the circle is the way to go. The combination of lights and confusing pedestrian right of way rules make Easton’s circle very complicated, which means it is dangerous for pedestrians no matter what form of control is used.

    • I love roundabouts in the right settings, they work very well. Just not with pedestrians.

      Also, remember that in Easton you want people to be able t get inside the roundabout. That means where normally you have your walkways outside the roundabout, in this case you have to be right in it, making it even less safe.

      Just a bad idea all around.

      • Jon Geeting says:

        I’d like to see traffic engineers model the effects, but I would support keeping the signals and paving over the parking spaces. Taking parking cruising out of the equation for folks navigating the circle would definitely improve safety.

  4. One thing that traffic planners should contend with is that America has younger and worse trained drivers than most OECD countries, which makes pedestrians hard to contend with, unfortunately.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      It also has a declining number of younger drivers. We should have better public transportation and raise the driving age.

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