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Opinion: Proposed Crosswalk “Improvements:” On Grand Won’t Improve Pedestrian Safety

May 30, 2018 Featured, Midtown, Planning & Design, SLU, Walkability Comments Off on Opinion: Proposed Crosswalk “Improvements:” On Grand Won’t Improve Pedestrian Safety

Grand Avenue runs through Saint Louis University’s main campus. It’s very busy because other North-South options like Spring & Theresa were vacated years ago. This means North-South that had 5 options now have 3: Vandeventer, Grand, and Compton. To handled the increased volume, on-street parking was removed. Without having to slow for cars parking, speeds increased. For pedestrians this is dangerous.

Since the city has given away public right-of-way (aka streets) to private property owners for years this problem exists throughout the city.  The proposed solution is the same superficial one — decorative crosswalks. The warm & fuzzy element of urban planning.

SLU’s rendering of proposed changes to Grand where West Pine used to be

Here again is what SLU is planning at Lindell, where West Pine used to be, and Laclede:

The project calls for the elimination of one of the three northbound lanes on Grand, which will allow the remaining lanes and the median to be widened. Bollards will also be installed to protect pedestrians who are about to cross the street as well as those who might be standing in the median. The roadway where the crosswalk is, will be changed to a brick-like surface to enhance the look and remind drivers to slow down. (KMOV)

Let’s take a closer look at each element.

  • Removal of one Northbound travel lane: Reducing the number of travel lanes is good.
  • Widen the remaining travel lanes & median: While widening the median is ok. increasing the width of travel lanes is the wrong thing to do! Wider lanes means driver’s feel safe at higher speeds. The remaining lanes should either be kept at their current width or reduced if you want to slow vehicles to increase pedestrian safety.
  • Bollards installed: In this context bollards gov an impression of safety, though they might help since cars will be going even faster on wider lanes.

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I’ve long been interested in the Grand & formerly West Pine crosswalk. I visited and observed at 4:45pm on Tuesday September 21, 2010 — nearly 8 years ago.

The crosswalk was highly visible to pedestrians & motorists, September 2010

After I observed the crosswalk and took the photo (above) I decided to record what I was witnessing,

Here are the problems I listed at the end of the video:

  1. Signal timing is too long for pedestrians, they get tired of waiting and cross when they can. The timing needs to change so pedestrians can safely cross more frequently.
  2. The pedestrian button, like most in St. Louis, doesn’t do anything. Even the one person who pressed the button crossed before getting the “walk” signal.  Eliminate the button or make the signal change quickly once pressed.

The fixes, save for shortening the crossing distance & giving students more space to stand between traffic, won’t make this crossing any safer. It’s possible the dark bricks will be less noticeable to motorists than the white paint. I know from a wheelchair perspective brick crosswalks are highly annoying. Motorists need to slow down before they reach the crosswalk.

Looking North on the East side of Grand, June 2011

One of the big problems is the lack of anything to get motorists to slow down: parked cars, narrow lanes, or — my favorite — street trees. It feels too wide open so motorists feel ok going faster than they should. Other things to do would be rumble strips in the pavement prior to reaching the crosswalk. make traffic stop more frequently during busy times, embed flashing LED lights in the lane markers ,a lighted sign overhead, etc.

Sadly too many are fooled by this region’s superficial efforts to appear to make pedestrian-friendly environments. Here’s the results of the recent non-scioentiofic Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Proposed changes to the crosswalk on Grand South of Lindell will greatly improve safety for pedestrians.

  • Strongly agree 3 [13.64%]
  • Agree 3 [13.64%]
  • Somewhat agree 7 [31.82%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 2 [9.09%]
  • Somewhat disagree 2 [9.09%]
  • Disagree 4 [18.18%]
  • Strongly disagree 1 [4.55%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

This crosswalk will, to most eyes, look better. Aesthetics aside, it won’t perform any better — it might be worse. This is a way for SLU to mitigate damages from a future lawsuit by claiming they made an effort to improve safety. Actual safety is perceived as too inconvenient to motorists.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Sunday Poll: Which Location Would You Pick For A Soccer Stadium?

October 30, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Midtown, Popular Culture, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Which Location Would You Pick For A Soccer Stadium?
Please vote below
Please vote below

The NFL has left, but major league soccer (MLS) is interested in St. Louis.

There are at least two potential MLS ownership groups in St. Louis.

They include Foundry St. Louis, which has already identified property at the northwest corner of Chouteau Avenue and Grand Boulevard for stadium development, and MLS2STL, whose representatives are adamant the stadium site should be downtown. (Post-Dispatch)

The downtown site would technically be in Downtown West — just West of Union Station.

So today’s non-scientific poll seeks to figure out where the readership thinks a dedicated soccer stadium is best placed, if at all. There are many pros & cons to both possible locations.

The poll will close at 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

Downtown>Hampton>IKEA>Downtown Part 2

Yesterday, in Part 1, I talked about the two different transit I’d taken (MetroLink, #90 & #32 MetroBus) and issues faced as a pedestrian trying to navigate in between.  I’d made it to IKEA for shopping, followed by lunch.

I'm obsessed with food so naturally I took a pic of my plate: Veggies balls with vegetarian black bean sauce,, steamed veggies, Swedish apple cake, and tap water.
I’m obsessed with food so naturally I took a pic of my plate: Veggies balls with vegetarian black bean sauce,, steamed veggies, Swedish apple cake, and tap water.
When I was done with lunch the rain had resumed.
When I was done with lunch the rain had resumed.

I checked the transit options, it would be a while before a MetroBus stopped out front. Plus, that would only get me to Lindell where I’d have to wait in the rain for the #10. The Grand MetroLink is closer than the CWE MetroLink, but Forest Park is the most direct route and I recall some access issues the last time. Plus, my transfer from earlier was now long expired.

No matter what I’d be in the rain, so I decided to just roll home — 2.9 miles. I’ve done it a few times before, though not in the rain. I’m still wearing a poncho to keep me and the controller on my chair dry. My shoes, however, get soaked.  North on Vandeventer to Lindell. I stayed on the West side of Vandeventer because I’m bot sure if the city ever got around to the huge gaps in front of the curb ramps on the NE corner of Vandeventer & Forest Park. At Lindell, I checked the schedule again — I can get home before the next bus would arrive.

Because of the rain I only took a few pictures. The following week I took the bus to Lindell & Spring to backtrack and take pictures of things I saw in the rain.

Lindell & Spring, the crowd passed the walk button. Not sure if required.
Lindell & Spring, the crowd passed the walk button. Not sure if required.
New traffic signals being installed at the Lindell/Olive intersection. April 6th
New traffic signals being installed at the Lindell/Olive intersection. April 6th
This signal is long overdue! In the background the Hotel Ignacio is getting its EFIS facade repaired
This signal is long overdue! In the background the Hotel Ignacio is getting its EFIS facade repaired
How many years ago did I post about the need for painted crosswalk lines here? August 2011 -- click image for post.
How many years ago did I post about the need for painted crosswalk lines here? August 2011 — click image for post.
Olive & Compton, no need to push the button tho cross Compton. If you want to cross Olive you must press the button.
Olive & Compton, no need to push the button tho cross Compton. If you want to cross Olive you must press the button.
At Ewing is a ramp my powerful chair cannot get up -- the vertical height is too much. April 6th
At Ewing is a ramp my powerful chair cannot get up — the vertical height is too much. April 6th
The same ramp again. Like hundreds/thousands of curb ramps it was built too high relative to the paving. Plus, like so many, the paving right in from is partially missing. I have to role in Ewing a little bit to get to a driveway.
The same ramp again. Like hundreds/thousands of curb ramps it was built too high relative to the paving. Plus, like so many, the paving right in from is partially missing. I have to role in Ewing a little bit to get to a driveway to get onto the sidewalk.
The West side at Ewing & Olive is another issue. The concrete at the top has caved in. .
The West side at Ewing & Olive is another issue. The concrete at the top has caved in between the top of the ramp and the access panel.
I've not tried to go up this ramp. it might also be impossible
I’ve not tried to go up this ramp. it might also be impossible
At Leffingwell you must press the button to get a walk signal to cross Olive -- even when traffic has a green light
At Leffingwell you must press the button to get a walk signal to cross Olive — even when traffic has a green light
At Olive & 20th I saw the buttons in the rain, they were far away. To cross 20th you needed to be over by Olive and vice versa.
At Olive & 20th I saw the buttons in the rain, they were far away. To cross 20th you needed to be over by Olive and vice versa.
When I went back I confirmed no button is needed to cross 20th but you do need to press a button top cross Olive. The signs are wrong, the button next to each crosswalk is what is wired.
When I went back I confirmed no button is needed to cross 20th but you do need to press a button top cross Olive. The signs are wrong, the button next to each crosswalk is what is wired.

Used to be — but no curb ramp is missing for the nearly 3 mile trip. If I tried to use Locust there are many missing curb ramps.

I still fail to understand why all the cost of the buttons when they don’t need to be pushed in the East-West direction. And why have to press a button to get a walk signal when vehicles from side streets get a green light?  This is how we’ve spent money — building infrastructure that frustrates this pedestrian!

— Steve Patterson

 

1960s Grand Bridge Closed For Replacement 5 Years Ago Today

It was five years ago today when St. Louis closed the 1960s Grand Ave bridge over the railroad tracks so it could be replaced:

The Grand Bridge is scheduled to close from Chouteau Avenue to the I-64 off-ramp on Monday, March 14, 2011. The bridge will close before the morning rush around 5:00 am. The bridge will be closed to traffic for about 14 months; the entire project is expected to be completed in 18-24 months. During that time, the current bridge will be completely removed and replaced. When finished, the project will provide a dramatic facelift to Midtown. (St. Louis)

The old bridge had 3 vehicles lanes in each direction and vary narrow sidewalks.

Looking north from the old transit stop, June 2010
Looking north from the old transit stop, June 2010

The new bridge, with 2 lanes per direction & wider sidewalks, opened in July 2012. See: New Grand Viaduct Huge Improvement, Development Opportunities Remain.

The Grand bridge over I-44 will soon be replaced, though traffic won’t be completely cut off:

The driving surface of the bridge will be completely replaced and the bridge will be raised to meet interstate standards. Although the project will be completed in stages, drivers can expect fewer lanes across the bridge and will not be able to make left turns during construction, MoDOT said.

At least one lane will be open in each direction on Grand during each stage of construction.

Construction is expected to start in June, with all driving lanes expected to be open by the end of the year. (Post-Dispatch)

Work continues on a new kingshighway bridge over the railroad tracks South of I-44, the old bridge closed last July.

— Steve Patterson

 

Downtown Trolley Route Expands To Compton Starting March 14th

Tuesday’s post (Metro Makes Long-Needed Changes at 18th & Clark, Still Violates ADA) listed the many MetroBus route changes effective March 14th, one of which was the #99 Downtown Trolley. As mentioned in a July 2014 post, the Trolley will reach Union Station — and well-beyiond, as it turns out.

First, some history…

Me leaving the #99 Downtown Trolley after the first ride on July 6, 2010. This replaced the #99 Downtown Circulator that used non-wrapped buses. Photo by Jim Merkel, Suburban Journals
Me leaving the #99 Downtown Trolley after the first ride on July 6, 2010. This replaced the #99 Downtown Circulator that used non-wrapped buses. Photo by Jim Merkel, Suburban Journals
In 2014 new low-floor buses replaced the ones used since 2010
In 2014 new low-floor buses replaced the ones used since 2010
The trolley route hasn't changed except the addition of one stop on Spruce at 14th.
The trolley route hasn’t changed except the addition of one stop on Spruce at 14th.

The route — until March 14th — had a loop at each end: City Museum and Civic Center MetroBus Center. Mostly in Downtown, a little in Downtown West (West of Tucker).

Overview of new route, click image to view PDF
Overview of new route, click image to view PDF
New West extension, only daytime on weekdays
New West extension, only daytime on weekdays

As you can see, it’ll now turn around at 18th & Clark, with some turn arounds still at Civic Center. The main difference is going much farther West on Market Street into Midtown. This will connect more businesses with the Central Business District (CBD). It’ll also show how bad this area is for pedestrians trying to use public transit — see Harris-Stowe State University Campus Disconnected From Adjacent City.

I personally would like to see the trolley not do the 14th/Delmar/16th loop around City Museum — but continue on Washington Ave to 18th or 20th — to reach Market. This would better serve Downtown West, a stronger connection with the CBD.  Rather than them turning around on each end half would go clockwise, half counter-clockwise.

Looking forward to riding the new route, checking out the new stops.

— Steve Patterson

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