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Initial Thoughts on CBD Traffic Study

I attended the presentation today on the downtown traffic study. Here are my initial thoughts:

  • Boundary for study should have included Cole on the North rather than Lucas. Other boundaries includes Memorial on the East, Spruce on the South, and Tucker on the West.
  • Doug Shatto, President of the consulting firm Crawford, Bunte, Brammeier did an excellent job of explaining the tradeoffs between various methods such as one-way vs. two-way streets. I felt he understands what it takes to create a pedestrian & retail-friendly environment. What I didn’t get was a sense that he will fight for that. Instead I think he’ll do whatever the city tells him.
  • The steering committee is still undecided on many aspects of the project and they are looking for feedback before making a final decision most likely next week. I will review some of the things up for debate and a few others that should be.
  • Washington Avenue East of Tucker. While they say that on-street parking has not been ruled out I’m suspicious. They hinted at allowing parking except during peak hours. I pointed out after the meeting to Doug Shatto how KitchenK will not use their sidewalk cafe license until they have a row of parked cars to make sidewalk dining more hospitable to their patrons. I also pointed out that Copia is allowed to take a traffic lane for valet parking. If we can take a lane for a valet we can certainly take the balance of the lane for parking as the flow is already restricted. I still want to see on-street parking all the way from Tucker to at least Broadway.

    I asked at the end of the meeting about Cole street being abel to take some of the traffic off Washington Avenue. Shatto did indicate that if Washington Avenue was restricted from four lanes to two lanes through drivers would likely alter their route and use the nearly vacant Cole. Another factor that may reduce some traffic on Washington Avenue is people going around the block due to one-way streets. They are recommending changing 8th & 11th from one-way to two-way (more later).

  • Streets they deemed “appropriate” to change from one-way to two-way were 8th, 11th (North of Market only), and Walnut (from Tucker to either to 4th or Broadway).
  • Streets they deemed “inappropriate” to change from one-way to two-way were 9th, 10th and Pine.
  • Streets they deemed “inappropriate but viable” to change from one-way to two-way were 6th, 7th, and Locust.
  • One-way streets not even mentioned were Broadway or Chestnut.
  • The immediate plan (2006) is to change the controllers for the existing signals. This will allow them greater flexibility in controlling the signals via computer. This might include changing the timing for game days or setting the signals to flash after a certain time. I think changing the timing makes sense as this could help with special events. I’m not sure how I feel about the flashing signals after hours. Does this say we have so little going on that we don’t need normal timing? Or does it say that we change over to a pedestrian environment after hours?
  • They mentioned trying to change Missouri law to allow a left turn on red on one-way streets. Apparently this is allowed in 16 or so states but not Missouri. It is commonplace downtown to see drivers do this.
  • I think they did an excellent job of evaluating pedestrian concerns and will do a good job upgrading the system and reducing conflicts. One of the changes it to go to a simple two-phase system where pedestrians are permitted to cross with the flow of traffic. Currently some intersections are considered scrambled where pedestrians can cross any direction while cars wait. While this sounds good that also means that they are generally not allowed to cross with the flow. It seems more natural to have the simpler system.
  • Conversion of streets to two-way is a long term goal and may take a number of years, mostly due to lack of funding.
  • One part of the plan was looking at a 2004 Streetscape plan for downtown. This called for a wider median on Tucker. This would reduce the total number of lanes two three in each direction — including parking lanes. The drawings shown did not include parking although on-street parking could be included. While I agree that Tucker is way too wide I think not having on-street parking at times is a mistake.
  • The proposed Mississippi River bridge was considered as part of the plan but the future MetroLink loop through downtown was not considered. Hmmmm.
  • As Shutte said in the presentation different users have conflicting demands. The CEO wants his/her employees getting to/from work quickly while the retailer wants a great environment for customers to stroll and spend. It is a trade off and we must “strike a balance.” For the last 50 years or so the balance has been decidedly off balance with the emphasis toward moving cars quickly, people be damned. My first reaction is that we need to tilt the scale dramatically the other way and screw traffic flow as retribution for the last 50 years. But that will just cause other problems that will need to be solved in time. Currently the scale is out of balance big time in favor of cars and the proposed changes bring it much closer to the middle ground they just don’t go quite far enough to create a true balance. Just a little more guys!
  • – Steve


    Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

    1. What was said about Olive Street?

      Making it two-way east of Tucker seems to go without saying.

    2. tom says:

      I also attended the briefing and was wondering what impact if any increased usage of the Eads Bridge might have on the plan. My impression is that the bridge is under utilized and drivers will discover it over time bringing increased use to Washington Ave.

      I too was pleased that pedestrians were given a great deal of consideration. I gleaned from the discussion that a lot could be done with elimination of the scramble system and maintenance of current equipment. (This too assumes that if changes are made, that the city will have the resources to maintain the new signal system. If not pedestrians will loose confidence in the signal system and ignore it as they do now.

      [REPLY – Tom, I agree the Eads bridge is under utilized at this time and increasing use could bring more traffic to Washington Avenue. But I think much of that traffic will turn toward garages before 8th street. That still leaves four blocks where parking on-street could work even during “rush ” hour. The real problem with the bridge is the various lights from Broadway to the bridge — what a nightmare. – SLP]

    3. Hans Gerwitz says:

      Great summary. Overall it was encouraging to hear the the concerns of pedestrians and retailers are being considered.

      The one-way street conversion seemed to be positioned only as initial input into a conversation expected to take many years, still. This is probably good, as it seems there’s a lot of immature opinions being voiced on all sides yet.

      The study area indeed should have extended further north. I shudder to think of an “obsoleted” Cole, when Cass has taken its place. The “Courtyards at Cityside” deserve better. At a minimum, I think it’s time to start talking about giving the convention center and dome proper north-facing entrances.

      Thanks to your influence, Steve, my comment form highlighted the positive effects on-street parking can have on pedestrian flow, safety, and comfort.

    4. Hans Gerwitz says:

      @Michael: Olive was discussed only in terms of previously-suggested conversion of Locust to two-way. Locust and Olive serve as twins, and should not be considered separately.

      Although they listed Locust (and Olive) as “viable”, I would disagree. They are both quite narrow and littered with parking and loading zones… and as a regular pedestrian on both between 6th and Tucker, I like them that way!

      [REPLY – I’m going to agree and disagree with you on Locust and Olive. First, I agree that both should be taken together since they are in opposite directions. If you change one you need to change the other. I’ll also agree they are narrow and have good on-street parking. I also think as a pedestrian these narrower one-way streets are not so bad. That having been said, I don’t think it is completely impossible to look at making them two-way and keeping the on-street parking in most areas except where a bus or truck needs to round a corner. – SLP]

    5. Hans Gerwitz says:

      Perhaps my opinion of Olive’s width has been too strongly colored by the staging the Century Building Archeology Project.

      Generally, I’m supportive of two-way streets both for traffic calming and for addressing the “downtown’s too confusing” complaints from those outside I-270. (Besides, I live and work here, what do I care if drivers get gridlocked? 😉 )

    6. Edge says:

      Glad to hear they’re looking at the lights. I drive down Chestnut every morning from either Tucker, 11th, or 8th, and there are certain blocks which I know I will never hit consecutive green lights on.

      [REPLY – The timing of the lights is the main focus. Basically many of the existing controllers are broken so they have no way, other than manually at the light, to control the signals. With new controllers they’ll be able to do a better job of getting you through a few more lights before you hit a red. – SLP]

    7. jason says:

      The biggest issue I came away with is that 2-way parking [2-way streets?] while good for retail, can be bad if it comes at the expense of on-street parking. I would rather have synchronized lights, 1-way streets, and plenty of parking in front of the store I want to go into instead of 2-way streets, that reduce parking. Also some of these streets they mention making 2 way would be greatly affected if construction must occur in one lane or on a building nearby where a lane must be closed for protection. Some of the streets they mention making 2-way they also acknowledged that it would be problematic for deliveries, and during construction times(which we almost never have right?) I commend them for their thorough presentation, but agree with Steve and thought they could do more to push a scheme instead of being “yes” men. It seems they do have a “scheme” in mind, which I dont agree with entirely, but I think we will have to wait and see how the light synchronization goes in ’06. The major issue Mr. Shatto said faced downtown right now is the out dated light signals and sensors which will be addressed in the next year. I look forward to it, and hopefully they can fix the lights in the pedestrian signs also.

      One final note. If they stuck with 1 way streets, I think it would be cool if the city adopted a wayfinding system for cool signage that directs you to various points of interest, i.e. retail, restaruants, historic markers, etc. The red strip on the pavement is just not cutting it and that just is a historic walking tour anyway. Retailers could provide the money for the signs, they just need prominent intersections to be able to display them.


      [REPLY – The two-way vs. one-way debate is complicated and the team did an excellent job of presenting pros and cons of both. I was impressed and regular readers know that is not commonplace.

      I do think politics crept into the picture and some scare tactics around loss of parking were used to build support for keeping one-way streets. Buses & delivery trucks need to be able to turn the corner, yes. I also think our buses are entirely too big.

      I agree with the wayfinding suggestion. The redline just doesn’t work in a modern metropolis. I couldn’t even tell you where to find information on the red line while walking around downtown. The retailers are already paying — the CBD has a special taxing district with funds going to the Downtown Partnership. – SLP]

    8. Joe Frank says:

      I always thought the “pedestrian scramble” set-up where you can cross diagonally and all cars are supposed to be stopped, was kinda cool. It’s probably a remnant of the days when 6th and Olive was PACKED with pedestrians, especially at the holiday season.

      As for the buses being “too big” – tell that to passengers on the SRO #70 Grand! I’m pretty sure the average MetroBus is smaller than it was 10 or 20 years ago!

      Granted, most buses coming into and out of downtown don’t run nearly that full.

      I don’t know how most of the one-way north-south streets could realistically be changed, unless you redesigned the I-70 and Highway 40 off-ramps and on-ramps. That’s also why Chestnut probably needs to stay as a one-way eastbound.

      I kind of like the one-way set-up downtown. It actually makes the streets easier to cross as a pedestrian, since you need only look one direction.

      [REPLY – On the scramble, what you’ve got now are motorists sitting at lights polluting the environment much longer than really is necessary. I think we can do away with the scramble without any loss of function for pedestrians. But yes, it is a cool idea.

      The #70 Grand bus is the exception to the rule. I’ve been on a #40 Broadway bus that was also packed but that is just at peak hours. The solution here is not necessarily bigger buses or even the same size. I’d much rather see smaller buses or streetcars running at 10-15 minute intervals, as needed, to handle the volume. We send massive buses around as if all lines were the #70 during the peak. No wonder they have budget issues at Metro.

      Most of the on/off ramps from the various highways are one-lane so having 2-3 lanes in one direction to serve them really doesn’t do much good in my view.

      And as a pedestrian always check both ways when crossing a one-way street! I see many people driving the wrong way downtown because they didn’t realize a street was one-way or they are just cheating to get where they want to go. Also, the bike police & downtown guides often bike against traffic. – SLP]

    9. John says:

      At least part of Locust has just been converted (West of 14th street)

      [REPLY – I just saw that today, working on a new post on the subject. – SLP]


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