John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Crosswalk Visibility Study

The subject of crosswalk visibility came up in a conversation I recently had with a Bucks County Courier Times reporter. We were talking about the recent pedestrian death while using the crosswalk at N Sycamore St and Silo Drive (read “Sycamore Street Is Popular, But Is It Safe?”). It was suggested that the brick crosswalk (see photo below) is difficult for drivers to see at night.

A view of the crosswalk at the N Sycamore and Silo Dr intersection.
Is there a visibility problem with this type of crosswalk?

I’m no expert on the visibility of crosswalks, but the people at the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Texas Transportation Institute are. In 2010, these experts investigated the relative daytime and nighttime visibility of three crosswalk marking patterns: transverse lines (e.g., like the crosswalks on N Sycamore St), continental, and bar pairs (see figure below).

These markings are used in conjunction with signs and other measures to alert road users to a designated pedestrian crossing point. Although the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) contains basic information about crosswalk markings, many municipalities develop practices that are not discussed in the MUTCD.

The following is a synopsis of a “TechBrief” of the 2010 Crosswalk Marking Field Visibility Study.

The Study
The three crosswalk marking patterns studied.

In this study, participants drove an instrumented vehicle on a route through the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, TX. The route provided an open road environment that included portions in a typical college setting (e.g., sidewalks, buildings, basketball arena) and roads through the agricultural area of the campus, which were more rural in feel. Roadway lighting was present at each of the crosswalk locations. The study vehicle was equipped with instrumentation that allowed the researchers to measure and record various driving performance data. However, the vehicle operated and drove like a normal vehicle.

Conclusions

The detection distances to continental and bar pairs are statistically different from transverse markings. A general observation is that the continental marking was detected at about twice the distance upstream as the transverse marking during daytime conditions (see figure below). This increase in distance reflects 8 seconds of increased awareness of the crossing for a 30-mph operating speed.

This figure from the study shows the most relevant result: Traverse-type crosswalks like those on N Sycamore St are less visible than the continental and bar pairs designs.
Recommendation

Based on the findings from this research, the researchers recommended that municipalities consider making bar pairs or continental the “default” for all crosswalks across uncontrolled approaches (i.e., not controlled by signals or stop signs), with exceptions allowing transverse lines where engineering judgment determines that such markings would be adequate, such as a location with low-speed residential streets.

Painting continental markings (bars) over the brick crosswalks on N Sycamore St
could be an economical method of making them more visible to motorists.

 

Posted on 06 Jan 2022, 13:08 - Category: Public Safety



Top Ten Most Viewed Videos in 2021

The following are the TOP TEN viewed videos in 2021 in rank order. Click on the video icon to view the video.

Oct 21 2021 Police Report
D'Aprile Accuses Residents of Being Lazy
Dan Romanelli Comments on Proposed Use of Taylor Farm House
Ya Got Trouble Right Here in Newtown
Calabro Harangues Delancey Court HOA President
Hot Dog Pig Race
Newtown Twp 2022 Budget Presentation: Roadwork & Fire Protection
Marlene Pray Comments on Love is Love Resolution
Public Comments Regarding Toll Settlement Plan
Mack's Guide to the Newtown Township Website. Lesson 1: Downloading Meeting Agendas

Posted on 03 Jan 2022, 10:03 - Category: Misc



Top Ten Most Viewed Blog Posts in 2021

The following are the TOP TEN viewed blog posts in 2021 in rank order.

  1. Wawa is Back! (205 views) Wawa has been a perennial favorite topic since 2018!

  2. Newtown Gate Residents Versus Doggy Dayz K9 Resort (159 views) It's all about the noise (see #8).

  3. It's Time to Improve Pedestrian Safety on N Sycamore Street! (117 views) A pedestrian death at N Sycamore & Silo Dr.

  4. Newtown Township Employee Salaries & Wages (107 views) There were big increases in "exempt" township employee salaries in 2021.

  5. The Future of Newtown Township's Paid Fire Services (93 views) Pouring more money into volunteer recruitment may not help. Meanwhile, Newtown Twp has sent several invoices to the Borough in an attempt to get it to pay its fair share of paid firefighter expenses.

  6. Attacking the Root of the Opioid Crisis - Pharmaceutical Companies (89 views) The township recently approved a settlement a lawsuit against certain opioid manufacturers and distributors. It may get $250,000 if the settlement is finalized.

  7. 5G Technology Near You/Me/Schools (81 views) The Jointure - Newtown, Wrightstown, and Upper Makefield - is working on an ordinance to have some control over the location and appearance of short 5G antennas.

  8. Newtown Township to Consider Amending Noise Ordinance (64 views) It was considered and enacted! However, there is still a barking dog nuisance ordinance!

  9. Residents Present Their Case For and Against a Super WaWa on the Bypass  (56 views) The PROs won! But Wawa did not get all it wants form the Zoning Hearing Board. So, it is suing Newtown again to get what it wants! Not a nice gesture!

  10. Another Proposed Project on Newtown Bypass (56 views) Now that Wawa will build on the Bypass, there is likely to be more development along the Bypass like this proposed nursing home.

Posted on 02 Jan 2022, 10:30 - Category: Misc



How I Spent My Time as Newtown Supervisor in 2021

I keep track of my activities as a Supervisor partly because I want to be accountable to residents, but also to make sure I am making the best use of my time. It's really an honor to serve the community! I learn something new every day and have met many fine people and volunteers who also put in a lot of time without any compensation at all.

Hours Per Month

In 2021, I spent a total of 481 hours (an average of 40 hours per month) engaged in official Supervisor activities that included preparing for and attending meetings and interacting with residents. This compares to 548 hours (an average of 46 hours per month) on such activities. The following chart shows the hours per month I spent on these activities.

Average per month = 40 hours
I work for you every day of the week!
Breakdown by Type of Activity

I keep track of the time spent on the following activities:

  • Attending “Required” Meetings (BOS regular & special meetings and Executive Sessions; Supervisors are not required to attend Work Sessions)
  • Preparation for BOS Meetings
  • Attending Optional Meetings/Activities
  • Interaction with Residents
  • Travel To & From Meetings

What This Report Does Not Include

My log of Supervisor-related activities does not include the many hours I spend posting to this blog, maintaining my personal website, writing a newsletter, creating and posting video clips from meetings, hosting podcast interviews, summarizing decisions made by the Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition), etc. Also not included is the time I spend posting to my personal Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. These activities are NOT part of my official duties as Supervisor, but represent my personal views.

The following chart shows the percentage of time I spent on all these activities in 2020:

Interacting With Residents

Interestingly, I spent only 12% of my time attending required Board of Supervisors (BOS) meetings. However, 40% of my time is spent preparing for these and other official - but not required - meetings.

In my opinion, personal interaction with residents regarding their concerns is an important part of my responsibilities as Supervisor - as important as attending required meetings. I want to be sure that I spend enough time reaching out to and responding to residents via personal contact, official email via my johnm@newtownpa.gov account and via my personal john@johnmacknewtown.info account, and via phone and/or Facebook.

Probably the biggest change in how I interact with residents is via my Meet Mack Monday meetings. Thanks to COVID-19, I began hosting these meetings remotely using Zoom - usually every month before the first BOS meeting. More residents are able to join in these remote discussion discussions - usually between 7 and 15 people attend each meeting. 

My Compensation

Every Supervisor is provided a yearly stipend of $4,125 per year. This has not changed in many years. Thus, I earned about $8.60 per hour in 2021 as a Supervisor. That's more than the $7.25 per hour PA minimum wage (a disgrace!). So, I can't complain.

But it's possible to make a higher hourly wage as a Supervisor. That's because Supervisors only need to attend "required" meetings as noted above. If I only attended required meetings, my hourly wage would be about $71. Not bad at all! If I also include hours spent preparing for these meetings, then my hourly wage drops to about $18. Still decent.

The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) - of which I am a member - has been lobbying the State Legislature for an increase in the Supervisor stipend for years without success. No wonder! Even a Supervisor like myself who spends a lot of time on official business and not just attending required meetings makes more than a minimum wage earner in PA!

Of course, I'm not in it for the money. And I'm sure my fellow Supervisors feel the same.

My Voting Record for 2021

I've been keeping track of how Newtown Township supervisors voted on motions before the Board. The following is the supervisor voting record for 2021, based on the approved minutes of meetings.

NOTE: This is NOT an official record of votes. Some very minor motions, such as to approve minutes, bills lists, etc., are not included. Please refer to the BOS meeting minutes for the official voting record of each meeting.

Download a PDF version here.

Posted on 01 Jan 2022, 01:30 - Category: Open Records/Transparency



It's Time to Improve Pedestrian Safety on N Sycamore Street!

Newtown Township Police are investigating a Fatal Auto/Pedestrian crash, which occurred in the 200 block of N. Sycamore Street (at Silo Drive - which back in early November I labeled "A Dangerous Intersection").

The crash occurred on December 22, 2021 at approximately 11:04 pm. A male was struck while attempting to cross N. Sycamore Street using the crosswalk to catch an Uber with friends. 

Recent Significant Pedestrian Incidents reported by police (does not include car-only incidents):

  • 12-22-21 11:04pm 200 Block N. Sycamore Street Auto/Ped (In Crosswalk) - Fatal
  • 12-16-21 Durham & Sycamore Street Auto/Ped (In Crosswalk) - minor injuries
  • 10-22-21 Sycamore & Jefferson, Auto/Ped (Mid-block) – critical injuries
  • 09-21-20 Sycamore & Jefferson, Auto/Ped (In Crosswalk) – minor injuries
  • 05-04-19 Sycamore & Jefferson, Auto/Ped (Mid-block) - Fatal
Education of Drivers and Pedestrians

At the November 10, 2021, BOS public meeting, I asked Chief Hearn what could be done to improve the unsafe situation at N Sycamore St and Silo Dr. The Chief said “It comes down to educating the public. The public needs to know that they can’t cross outside of a crosswalk. Inside a crosswalk the cars are supposed to yield to them. Additional signage with lighting elements, that runs into an additional cost factor and involves ongoing maintenance and a liability factor if a bulb burns out and it’s not replaced in a timely manner. It’s a managed approach, but I believe education is the best way to go at this point.”

The Chief specifically mentioned that the Police Department will be distributing flyers to local businesses to hand out to customers.

Pedestrian Safety Weeks

I found an interesting discussion in the minutes of the May 26 2010 BOS meeting. At that meeting, the supervisors adopted Resolution 2010-R-9, presented by the Joint Traffic Committee, designating the week of May 28 – June 4 as “Newtown Pedestrian Safety Week”:

“Whereas Newtown Township and Newtown Borough have formed a Joint Newtown Traffic Committee (hereinafter the “Committee”; see below) with a goal to improve pedestrian safety; and

“Whereas, the Committee has outlined a program to educate both drivers and the public on pedestrian safety, especially the meaning of pedestrian crossing signs, through the assistance of our law enforcement officials; and

“Whereas the Committee has determined that improving pedestrian safety and adherence to posted speed limits will ultimately lead to safer streets that will benefit both residents and visitors to Newtown Township.

“Now, therefore, be it: Resolved, the week from May 28, 2010 – June 4, 2010 is declared and recognized as “Newtown Spring 2010 Pedestrian Safety Week.”

“Further, Resolved, the Newtown Township Police Department and Committee will collaborate on a program designed as a combination of education and enforcement, with the goal of raising awareness for both drivers and pedestrians for safety at crosswalks with signed sentinels and for adherence to posted speed limits during the Newtown Spring 2010 Safety Week.”

At the December 8, 2021, BOS public meeting, I proposed that Newtown adopt a similar resolution going forward. I mentioned that a week of educational activities would be more likely to be covered by local media than a one-time distribution of flyers. A Joint Newtown Traffic & Pedestrian Safety Committee" -- if we had one (which we don't - see below) -- could recommend educational and promotional activities for the week. 

Joint Newtown Traffic & Pedestrian Safety Committee Proposed

I would add at least one other suggestion: resurrection of a new version of the Joint Newtown Traffic Committee, which the BOS rejected to do at the July 14, 2021, Board of Supervisors meeting. The new committee should be named "The Joint Newtown Traffic & Safety Committee" so that the focus is safety as well as promoting multi-modal transportation. In fact, back in 2010, this committee made some of the same recommendations as the Chief mentioned above. For more on that, see my Notes for the December 8, 2021, BOS Meeting.

*Tim Szwedo, P.E., P.P., a Senior Project Engineer, notified me in a November 11, 2021, email that  when a McDonalds was proposed for the shopping center, a "traffic count for Silo Drive at N. Sycamore Street revealed that 95% of the traffic was turning right at this intersection. The 5% trying to turn left or to cross over to the Sycamore Grill side would cause excessive delays for all traffic and make drivers accept small gaps in traffic which compromises safety. I suggested directing all of the left turns and thru traffic to use Ice Cream Alley to  a right turn onto Rt 532 Durham Rd then the left turn and thrus can be made under the safety of the traffic signal at Goodnoes Corner."

Sign The Petition!

I started the "Improve Pedestrian Safety on N Sycamore St" petition on Change.org. If you believe as I do that it's time for the township to step up its efforts to improve pedestrian safety along this stretch of road, then please sign the petition and add comments. The signatures will be presented to the Newtown Board of Supervisors.

Posted on 27 Dec 2021, 01:57 - Category: Public Safety



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The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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