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Despite Changes, Intersection Next to St. Louis University Still Dangerous

October 5, 2007 Accessibility, Midtown, Planning & Design, SLU, Transportation 7 Comments

IMG_0517.JPGLast month I posted about the intersection of Vandeventer & West Pine where, at the request of Saint Louis University and Grand Center, the pedestrian signals had been turned off and the Vandeventer traffic given a flashing yellow. This left pedestrians coming to/from SLU from the neighborhood or parking lots to the West of Vandeventer were left on their own to find a break in traffic to make their way to the pedestrianized former West Pine on SLU’s campus. To be fair, I don’t think they sought out eliminating the pedestrian signals but that was a consequence of the action to give motorists on Vandeventer the flashing yellow.

Last week the lights were suddenly back to a typical red, yellow, green cycle. Sorta. I’d noticed some odd things with the intersection in the last week and a couple of days ago, right before the Young Democrats meeting a block away, I shot a few video clips to show the problems.

Here is some of what I have observed and that you will see in the rather boring video (5 minutes of watching signals change!):

  • Pressing the pedestrian crossing button from the SW corner does not activate the pedestrian signal. The light is green for roughly 5 seconds — not enough time to safely cross the busy street.
  • Pedestrians I observed do not seem willing to wait for the signals to change.
  • From the NW corner the pedestrian signal button does activate the “walk” signal. This gives all motorists a red light and gives the walk signal across both streets.
  • The walk signal is only on for 5 seconds before switching to “don’t walk.” The total time is 15 seconds. The signal for West Pine switches to green while the pedestrian signal is still flashing “don’t walk.”
  • Only the crossing along the north side is accessible for users of wheelchairs & mobility scooters. While the SW corner has a curb ramp the crosswalk on the east side at SLU leads to a solid curb rather than a ramp.
  • At 3:45 in the video you’ll see a man on the SLU side of Vandeventer press the pedestrian button. He seems impatient and appears to hold the button. I pan to the south to see that part of the intersection and the man crosses during a break in traffic — tired of waiting for the signal to change. It does appear that the button on that corner does activate the pedestrian signal.
  • I did not test the button at the SE corner to see if it would activate the signal. Again, from the SW corner it does not work.
  • Toward the very end (roughly 5:15) you’ll see how the pedestrian signal crossing West Pine stays on “walk” until the moment when the light changes — potentially catching a pedestrian in the intersection when the motorists are given the green. The pedestrian you see walking southbound on Vandeventer is Tim Schoemehl, son of former Mayor & director of Grand Center, Vince Schoemehl.

Here is the video:


Hopefully the city and SLU are planning signal improvements for the intersection, as you can see it is certainly needed.


Currently there are "7 comments" on this Article:

  1. john says:

    So what’s new? These problems are not unique to this signal and are common throughout the StL region. Remember cars come first here and people, especially pedestrians and cyclists, are lower on the list of priorities. As you note, these problems are getting worse and spreading. Just don’t finger SLU and the City because it is the advocacy groups for pedestrians and cyclists which sit, watch and remain silent. The lack of advocacy is what you should be addressing and explaining.

  2. Dan Icolari says:

    John, what do you imagine URBAN REVIEW StL is about, if not advocacy for reform on this and countless other issues that relate to planning, urbanism, transportation and the like?

    I suggest you take your criticisms directly to the groups you mention but do not name, rather than misdirecting them to an individual who, via this blog, is doing exactly what you propose the unnamed groups do.

    [SLP — Grab another cup of coffee Dan, John was being sarcastic and correctly pointing out that intersections all over the city are poorly designed and not meant for pedestrians.]

  3. Dole says:

    (5 minutes of watching signals change!):


    Seriously enough, getting this signal fixed is another small piece of the puzzle. Fixing a bunch of the small pieces makes for a more livable city.

  4. Dan Icolari says:

    Sorry, Steve and John–neglected to plug in the ol’ irony-detector.

  5. john says:

    Like with most systems in the StL region, there exists a great deal of division and thus a lack of accountability. This makes finger pointing easy, common and too often used to delay results. Some of our pedestrian and cycling advocates are these: EWGC Bike-Pedestrian Cmte., MO BikeFed, StL BikeFed, Trailnet, Great Rivers Greenway, and believe it or not, other governmental entities such as MoDOT, StL Couty and numerous city managers. The MOBikeFed is a members of the Thunderhead Alliance which is a strong proponent of Complete Streets.
    Progressive and well-intentioned advocates like PedNet in Columbia MO makes it easy for people like Steve (and myself) to file complaints regarding dangerous intersections and to hopefully get solutions. To report dangerous intersections here often requires noticing two municipalities and the County (or City) simultaneously. Getting constructive results (let alone a response) are quite difficult and often impossible.
    The solution in this case can be achieved jointly by SLU and the City. For the whole region though, a well-defined set of standards can be adopted if our advocates were more outspoken and effective. Relying solely on Steve and other citizens to address these problems is placing an undue burden on him and others.

  6. Nick Kasoff says:

    I live in a walkable community (Ferguson) so I spend plenty of time as a lowly pedestrian, both near home and elsewhere in the metropolitan area. I have several observations:

    1. Those buttons almost never work. Mostly, they seem to be for the purpose of keeping pedestrians busy while they wait for the light to change.

    2. Since pushing the button is neither entertaining nor rewarding in some other way, such as causing the light to change, few people bother.

    3. An intersection is generally the most dangerous place to cross. At an intersection, cars are coming at you from four different directions, while a mid-block crossing only involves cars coming from two directions.

    4. Because people can turn right on red, and do so without regard for pedestrians, you really aren’t any safer during “Walk” than “Don’t Walk.”

    Ultimately, I’ve come to view crossing the street as an enactment of the old video game, Frogger. Except, of course, you only get one life.

  7. While we’re at it, has anyone experienced the ridiculous timing of signals on 18th just east of Ameren and south to Choteau? I’m pretty sure ALL THREE of these are new as two are for Ameren employees. I know Ameren doesn’t control the lights, but I’m amazed they can’t time these new signals that happen to be next to the POWER company.

    If you proceed south on 18th from just north of Union Station in the evening, you will be stopped by 6 of the 7 lights before reaching Choteau almost without fail.


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