Watch this short video to learn about the Pardall traffic signal
The Transportation Division of the Public Works Department of the County of Santa Barbara is tasked with providing a clear path, smooth ride and a safe trip to the travelling public. In an effort to improve safety in Isla Vista (IV), in August/September 2017 the Department is installing a new four-way traffic light at the intersection of Pardall Road and Embarcadero Del Norte. The intersection at Pardall Road and Embarcadero Del Norte is unique with a high volume of cyclist, pedestrian and automobile traffic and is the main artery between IV and UCSB – research has indicated that there is no other intersection quite like it. Due to the high volume of traffic combined with the fact that the intersection is currently a two-way stop and not a four-way stop, there are a disproportionately high number of collisions because the two-way stop sign insufficiently indicates right-of-way. Click here for a map of collisions reported to the California Highway Patrol over the last 10 years in Isla Vista.
Possible solutions to improving the safety and traffic flow at this intersection were seriously discussed in 2006-2007 during the Isla Vista Master Plan process, when the County had access to Redevelopment Agency (RDA) funds to make street improvements in IV. Over the years and through many public input meetings with stakeholders, including: student leaders, IV merchants and business owners, and residents, various traffic solutions have been explored. As a result of those meetings, and the reality of the statewide dissolution of RDA funding in 2011-2013, the County proposed the idea of installing a traffic light. The traffic light will benefit IV by helping cyclists, pedestrians and automobiles safely navigate through the intersection by clearly signaling who has the right-of-way.
Click here for a great resource on California bicycle laws.
We know this is a big change for IV and we hope these frequently asked questions will help you understand the need for safety improvements at this intersection as well as how to travel safety.
Why is the county installing this stop light? Isn’t there a better way to improve safety at this intersection?
Public Works monitors all intersections in the unincorporated areas of the County for traffic safety. There is much documentation (including media publications about collisions at this intersection, law enforcement collision logs, and shared anecdotal experiences) indicating that this intersection is in need of safety improvements. Public Works traffic engineers have studied the intersection or Pardall and Embarcadero Del Norte for over a decade and have evaluated different traffic controls and circulation improvements to help the public navigate this intersection more safely. In 2015 Public Works specifically evaluated the following options for safety improvements: a four-way stop, a roundabout, taking no action, or installing a traffic light. Although all approaches had their plus and minuses the traffic light was the preferred traffic control feature. Additionally, closing Pardall Road off to automobile traffic is not feasible at this time.
It is important to note that four-way stop signs in IV do not sufficiently indicate right-of-way as there is a culture of cyclists not stopping at stop signs, despite the fact that bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers (California Vehicle Code 21200).
Installing a roundabout was not feasible because of physical space restrictions at the intersection as the County does not have easement rights to widen the intersection to properly install a roundabout. Additionally, a roundabout would pose serious and disproportionate safety risks to cyclists in the intersection. With the high volume of automobiles that also traverse the intersection, the circular mixing of bikes and automobiles in a roundabout would be a danger to cyclists.
Given the high volume of reported collisions at this intersection (and it is suspected that collisions here are vastly underreported), Public Works and the County found that taking no action was unacceptable.
In an effort to support the downtown IV business community, it is unfeasible to shut Pardall Road down to automobile traffic. Many businesses depend on truck deliveries and there is currently no realistic alternative to route delivery trucks connected to IV businesses.
The traffic light aims to clarify who has right-of-way at this intersection, so that cyclists, automobiles and pedestrians can all safely cross.
What is the cost of the project?
The traffic light, including purchasing the apparatus and installation will cost approximately $300,000, split between a longstanding infrastructure improvement agreement between UCSB and Santa Barbara County Public Works.
When will construction begin and end?
Construction is slated to begin at the end of August 2017 and finish before UCSB fall quarter commences.
Why is the traffic light being installed in the summer while most students are not around?
The intersection of Pardall and Embarcadero Del Norte is the busiest intersection in the downtown area of IV. To try to avoid delays and disrupting the public, the work is planned while UCSB is out of session.
Why I have never heard of this project before?
Public Works has notified IV residents, including elected leaders and students about this project since January 2017. It has been discussed publically at each monthly Isla Vista Community Network Meeting and at an Isla Vista Community Services District board meeting. Public Works attended a special Associated Students Senate town hall meeting in February regarding this project. From that town hall meeting, a group of student leaders have been part of an ad hoc group to create a comprehensive communications plan for this project. Additionally, the project has been covered in the Daily Nexus and Santa Barbara Independent.
How does the traffic light work?
The traffic light will be set to a fixed time 24/7. The cycle length is 40 seconds total, 20 seconds for each approach. Since the light is fixed time, cyclists, pedestrians and automobiles will get a green light every cycle. The traffic light includes a mast arm visible to bikers so they are able to see the light well before arriving at the intersection.
How long will I have to wait at the light for traffic?
The longest a person will need to wait for the traffic light to change is 20 seconds, which is the mandated amount of time to allow for pedestrians to safely cross the intersection.
Won’t this traffic light cause a jam of bikes at the Pardall tunnel?
The tunnel is a bottle neck and the traffic light has the potential to platoon cyclists into a large group all entering the tunnel at the same time. If this is observed occurring it can be mitigated with signage and lane striping.
Can the traffic light be timed to accommodate the rush of bikes during peak class times at UCSB?
Public Works did not have the option to sensor the intersection to accommodate specific times of traffic flow. The longest a person will need to wait for the traffic light to change is 20 seconds, which is the mandated amount of time to allow for pedestrians to safely cross the intersection. However, after the light is operationalized, if there is a need to adjust the times – though the 20 second intervals cannot be shortened to accommodate pedestrians – Public Works traffic engineers can look into making timing adjustments.
With all of the bikes crossing, how are you supposed to turn left onto Embarcadero Del Norte from Pardall?
The volume of left turns are low. Automobiles and bikes will need to wait for a gap to turn left. If a gap does not happen during the green or yellow phase, the vehicles in the intersection will have the right of way to make their left on the red per the California Vehicle Code.
What will happen if accidents increase or the situation at the intersection gets worse? How will traffic flow improvement be measured?
Public Works has been monitoring collisions in the intersection for many years. It is the analysis of the collisions in the intersection that warranted the traffic light. After the project is implemented, Public Works will continue monitoring the intersection for safety including reviewing all collisions reported. If collisions do occur, they will be studied to see if any engineering solution could help reduce the risk of future collisions.
Will law enforcement ticket bikes and cars who run the red light?
Yes. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has lead jurisdiction for safety enforcement on County roads in unincorporated areas. (https://www.chp.ca.gov/find-an-office/coastal-division/offices/(760)-santa-barbara). However, in the interest of protecting public safety, other law enforcement entities like the Sheriff’s Department, including the Isla Vista Foot Patrol (IVFP), and/or UC Police Department (UCPD), can have jurisdiction over public offenses that occur in their presence (California Penal Code Chapter 4.5. Peace Officers).
What kind of citation could be given out to someone for not stopping at a red light?
Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers (California Vehicle Code 21200). (Helpful resource: http://www.calbike.org/bicycling_in_california_sharing_the_road)
Therefore, if a cyclist or automobile breaks the law in the presence of law enforcement, they may be given a citation. In Santa Barbara County, the traffic bail schedule (the cost of a citation for cyclists and automobiles) for Section 22450(a) Failure to Stop at Stop Sign can amount to a $200+ ticket for a first offense. Additionally, a citation can also add a one-point infraction on your license with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
What does a traffic citation cost?
In California all citations have a base fee, and then applicable State, County, Court and/or fees and surcharges can be added escalating the cost. Because California law states that cyclists are governed by the California Vehicle Code, citations are priced on the same traffic bail (or fee) schedules. In Santa Barbara County, the traffic bail schedule (the cost of a citation for cyclists and automobiles) for Section 22450(a) Failure to Stop at Stop Sign can amount to a $200+ ticket for a first offense.
I received a citation while travelling through the intersection, now what?
The paper copy of the citation you received will provide directions for your next step. Additionally, here is a resource for understanding traffic ticket basics in California: http://www.courts.ca.gov/8452.htm
Why can’t downtown IV be a car free zone?
It is important to note that this option has been explored throughout the public process for improving safety in IV. However, in an effort to support the downtown IV business community, it is unfeasible to shut Pardall Road down to automobile traffic. Many businesses depend on truck deliveries and there is no alternative option to route trucks for deliveries at this time.
Won’t this traffic light negatively impact the bike culture of IV?
Due to the safety issues at the intersection (a map of reported collisions over the past 10 years is documented here https://drive.google.com/open?id=1UkLRxHPtXOZp4uOxgp4ULWjUHIE&usp=sharing), and because many residents and business owners are invested in improving the intersection, the County needed to act to improve the intersection’s safety. This improvement has come with community input. To fit in with the artistic feel of IV, the light will be painted green to match the other street fixtures in the area and the traffic light cabinet will be painted by a local artist like those along El Colegio. Additionally, there are traffic lights along the well-traveled bike path on El Colegio where automobile traffic is also present. Cyclists and automobiles are already in the habit of complying with traffic lights in and around IV and UCSB.
Who can I contact to voice my concerns about this project?
If you have issues will the operations of the traffic light you can call the County’s Traffic Engineer at (805)568-3308.