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Opinion: St. Louis Expects Lots of Lanes Because of Harland Bartholomew

October 11, 2017 Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on Opinion: St. Louis Expects Lots of Lanes Because of Harland Bartholomew

Before the automobile public right-of-ways (PROW), public-owned land that connects private property, was shared by pedestrians, people on horseback, horse-drawn carriages, trollies pulled by horses, etc.  PROW in cities were becoming increasingly crowded. Many roads were unpaved, those that were in cobblestones. Waste from horses & mules made the PROW filthy.

The new automobile made the PROW even more crowded. More than a century ago, a civil engineer in his late 20s arrived in St. Louis.

Harland Bartholomew (September 14, 1889 – December 2, 1989) was an American urban planner. Although a civil engineer by training and disposition, Harland’s career started just as the automobile production was about to take off, industrial development was booming and urban populations grew. The novel challenges and opportunities brought about by this new form of transport inspired the invention of new community concepts and required the development of new approaches to planning transportation in cities. These challenges called for the skills of an engineer to analyze transportation needs quantitiatively as well as those of a person passionate about urban design and social conditions. Harland was able to deliver these qualities. Starting in 1911 and continuing until 1930 Harland Bartholomew created new methodologies and new designs and concepts which made contributions that remain relevant to urban planning in North America today. This novel approach became known as comprehensive planning. His skills and experience were sought by many city planning commissions. Ultimately cities would develop their own in house technical staff to carry on with planning issues. Harland himself was the first full-time planner employed by an American city, and he remained a planner with St. Louis, Missouri for 37 years. During this period both the city of St. Louis and its surrounding areas were thriving and growing. Due to his groundbreaking work he can be described as the father of American and Canadian city planning in the age of the automobile. (Wikipedia)

Bartholomew, like his better-known contemporary, NYC’s Robert Moses, believed it was necessary to destroy the city to save it from itself. Everything prior to the 20th century was wrong for the modern world of the automobile.

Franklin Ave looking East from 9th, 1928. Nothing in this image remains. Collection of the Landmarks Association of St Louis

This make room for the automobile view is clear in Bartholomew’s 1947 plan, from the streets & trafficways section:

Since 1916 St. Louis has expended over $40,000,000 in opening, widening, connecting, and extending the system of major streets. Much has been accomplished in converting a horse and buggy street system to automobile needs. As the total volume of traffic increases, however, certain new needs arise. An example is the desirability of grade separations at extremely heavy intersections, such as at Grand and Market and at Kingshighway and Lindell. Likewise there is a need for complete separation of grade where traffic volume is sufficiently heavy to justify the cost involved. The Federal Government, which has helped finance our splendid system of national highways, has recently revised its policies and Congress has appropriated substantial funds to aid the cities in the construction of express highways and for facilitation of traffic flows from certain selected state highways through metropolitan areas to the central business districts of large cities. Past and present experience reveals the need for four types of major streets and trafficways as follows:

  1. Secondary Streets (4 Lanes)
    Most St. Louis streets were laid out with a width of 60 feet. A considerable volume of traffic can be accommodated in a 60-foot street with a 40-foot roadway, especially if curb parking is restricted at times of heavy traffic flow. Such streets as Nebraska, Compton, and Goodfellow can pr6bably continue for many years to accommodate a considerable volume of traffic flow without widening. All local residential areas require access and must be served either by wide major streets or by these secondary streets which thereby become important integral parts of the major street plan.
  2. Major Streets (6 Lanes)
    Grand Avenue, Chippewa Street, and Easton Avenue are examples of important cross-town routes which accommo date a considerable volume of traffic including mass trans portation facilities (i.e., streetcars or buses). Their general width of 80 feet permits a 54 or 56 foot roadway to accom modate six lanes of traffic. There is need for quite a number of such routes where traffic volume is insufficient to warrantgreater width of the street except by expensive widening of the street.
  3. Major Streets (8 Lanes)
    These are the main traffic ways, as for example Gravois Avenue, Market Street, Natural Bridge Road, Lindell Boulevard and Kingshighway. They are the dominant structural elements of the street plan. Their traffic capacity is unusually high since they permit three or four lanes of moving traffic in each direction. It is impractical to provide for streets with wider roadways because of weaving and complications encountered in traffic control.
  4. Express Highways
    When traffic volume becomes so great that it cannot be accommodated even on eight lane surface highways it becomes necessary to provide for uninterrupted traffic flows through grade separations in the form of depressed roadways in wide right-of-ways or by roadway elevation. An overall right-of-way width of 200 feet is generally considered a minimum standard. This is far more costly than street widening but a limited mileage can be justified where there is sufficient traffic volume.

In today’s money that’s nearby a billion dollars! I’m uncertain if any city carried out the costly widening of the PROW the way St. Louis did. Based solely on my personal observations in other cities, I’d say St. Louis was the most aggressive. It’s no wonder that more than a quarter of those of voted in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll have a problem with road diets.

Q: Agree or disagree: ‘Road Diet’ projects slow traffic too much, cause congestion; should be reversed.

  • Strongly agree 7 [18.42%]
  • Agree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat agree 3 [7.89%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 3 [7.89%]
  • Somewhat disagree 1 [2.63%]
  • Disagree 8 [21.05%]
  • Strongly disagree 14 [36.84%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 2 [5.26%]

Sadly, our road diets have been designed to appease critics, so sidewalks new still too narrow — barely wide enough for existing for traffic.  Motorists usually drive on typically wide Set. Louis area streets then encounter the “Great Streets” section for a brief period before returning to the more common Awful Streets of our region. We’re too timid to do more, so it can have a ater impact on population density, pedestrian/transit rates, etc.

Bartholomew also thought St. Louis’ population in 1970 would increase to 900,000 — it had dropped to 622k. Fingers are crossed we don’t drop below 300k in 2020. If St. Louis wants to grow again the entire region needs to reject the many ways Bartholomew screwed up our region.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Bus Stop Design In The St. Louis Region De-Prioritizes Transit

September 25, 2017 Featured, Planning & Design, Public Transit Comments Off on Bus Stop Design In The St. Louis Region De-Prioritizes Transit

Last month I posted about how St. Louis Does the Opposite of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), this is the first example: bus stops.

Transit is returning to its central place in the life of cities. With more people using buses, streetcars, and light rail than ever before, our street design paradigm is shifting to give transit the space it deserves. People are choosing to live, work, and play in walkable neighborhoods, and cities are prioritizing highly productive modes like transit as the key to efficient, sustainable mobility for growing urban populations. Transit agencies and street departments are working together to create streets that not only keep buses and streetcars moving, but are great places to be. Cities are extending light rail systems, investing in streetcar lines, and creating new rapid bus lines at a stunning pace, with ridership growing even faster in city centers. Transit agencies are rethinking their networks to serve neighborhoods at a high level all day, not just at commute times, while bike share and active transportation networks make it even easier to not only reduce driving, but to avoid the expense of owning a car.  (NACTO: Transit Street Design Introduction) 

Some of NACTO’s principles:

On streets of every size and context, design can directly improve transit travel time, reliability, and capacity. Major projects like dedicated transitways can substantially increase transit speeds and the total person capacity of a street. On smaller streets, fine-grained improvements like bus bulbs and signal timing combine to transform the way the street works.  (NACTO: Transit Street Principles)

Transit streets are built around safe, low-stress, and complete pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure. Transit riders are active users of the street, relying on comfortable sidewalks and bikeways—and orderly motor vehicle traffic moving at safe speeds. Intuitive travel paths and frequent opportunities to cross the street make it easy and safe for people to get to transit stops, and are essential to building ridership.

Factors like presence of bicycle and pedestrian facilities, mixed land uses, and transit stop amenities have all shown significant positive correlations with transit ridership. However, the most significant indicator to ridership is transit level of service—transit frequency, transit alternatives, and route density—at a given stop location. (NACTO: Transit Street Principles)

On stops…

Use boarding islands and bulbs to allow transit vehicles to stop in their moving lane. Buses have long been expected to pull out of traffic to the curb, but this practice de-prioritizes transit, sometimes significantly on mixed-traffic streets. In-lane stops eliminate that delay, and provide an opportunity for near-level or level boarding. They also create shorter, safer pedestrian crossings, provide more walking space on the sidewalk, and make the street more predictable by sorting out bike-bus conflicts at stops. (NACTO: Transit Station & Stop Principles)

Sr. Louis, naturally, makes buses pull out of traffic rather than stay in the travel lane, as recommended. A problem I see often is people parking in the pull-out bus stop, from the archives:

MetroBus stop on the north side of Market Street filled with parked cars.
Cars on the north side of this 14th Street bus stop made it impossible for buses to pull up to the curb
Car parked in a bus stop on Forest Park
A St. Louis police car parked in front of a fire hydrant in a bus stop at 16th & Market.

More on the benefits of in-line stops:

By allowing buses to move in a straight line, in-lane stops eliminate both pull-out time and traffic re-entry time, a source of delay and unreliable service. In-lane stops are especially valuable on streets operating at or near vehicle capacity, or on streets with long signal cycles, in which transit vehicles may experience long re-entry delays while waiting for traffic to clear. (NACTO: Stop Placement & Intersection Configuration)

And the negatives of requiring buses to pull-out of the travel lane:

Where buses are required to pull from traffic to make stops, longer bus zones are needed to accommodate transitions to and from traffic.

Short transition distances add delay to transit service and require sharper transitions to the curb, wearing transit vehicles and infrastructure more quickly.

Enforcement is required to keep pull-out stops clear; vehicles standing or parking in the stop zone constrain the operator’s ability to pull completely to the platform.

Longer stops ease transitions into and out of stops, but require more curb length, reducing curbside parking spots.
At high-volume boarding locations, longer stops can be used to distribute queuing riders along the sidewalk and to ease pedestrian congestion.

The design of the humble bus stop can prioritize or de-prioritize transit. For decades the entree St. Louis region has de-prioritized transit use through the design of streets in the the public right-of-way.

— Steve Patterson

 

Crosswalks Meet At One Curb Ramp, Rather Than Two

August 28, 2017 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Crosswalks Meet At One Curb Ramp, Rather Than Two

Recent work downtown has been mostly good for pedestrians, but Saturday night my husband and I found an awful corner: the NE corner of Market & Broadway.  This is the SW corner of the Old Courthouse. I;m not sure who gets the blame, the possible culprits are city streets dept, city board of public service (BPS), MoDOT, National Park Service, or Gateway Arch Park Foundation.

Most new work has gotten away from placing one curb ramp at the apex at the corner, instead doing a ramp/crosswalk to cross each street. This improves ADA-compliance and reduces inconveniences for all pedestrians.

We had to cross the ramp on the NE corner of Market & Broadway as we crossed Broadway. Both times the ramp was full of pedestrians waiting to cross Market. Both times I had to ask others to move.

Heading back to Kiener Plaza I snapped this photo of the crowd at the corner, two guys on the left are avoiding the crowd at the corner by walking in the street — not an option for those of us who use mobility devices.
In this crowed view you can see hoe the one crosswalk is angled to meet the sole curb ramp.

The idea is to get Arch visitors to start in Kiener Plaza, so this corner should see many pedestrians. It amazes me each crosswalk doesn’t lead to its own curb ramp.

No, I’m not amazed. I’ve experienced first hand how even brand new work ism’t designed by people who think like pedestrians.

— Steve Patterson

 

Wheelchair Users Locked Out Of St. Louis Public Park

August 25, 2017 Accessibility, Featured, Parks Comments Off on Wheelchair Users Locked Out Of St. Louis Public Park

Since moving downtown nearly a decade ago I’ve spent a lot of time in Lucas Park, just two blocks to the East. Unfortunately, the city has me locked out of the park. Lucas Park has four entrances — two along the South edge off Locust St, and two along the North edge off St. Charles Sr. The city’s parks department keeps the two South gates locked and opens the North gates during the day. The problem is the two North gates both have steps.

When I first began visiting Lucas Park only one ramp existed — the South entrance nearest to 14th. When the dog park was added a 2nd ramp was installed near the North entrance nearest to 13th. That pedestrian gate gas unlocked by the nearby gate at the ramp does not. It’s impossible for me, while using my power wheelchair, to use Lucas Park.

The SW gate is locked on Wednesday August 23rd @ 8:32am.
The NE gate for the ramp was also locked
An hour later, on the way home from the grocery store, the park still looks inviting.

Wednesday I emailed the first two photos to a couple of city officials and posted them to social media. Yesterday was also a very nice day, I tried to visit the park again on my way to the grocery store.

A couple of people were working out in the park at 1:50pm
Again, the SW gate to the original ramp was locked
The NW gate was unlocked
It has steps down
The NE gate to the newer ramp was locked
The NE gate with steps was wide open
I can see into the park, I just can’t get inside
The SE gate was locked.

As I understand it, city parks dept employees come out to unlock the NE & NW gates, but don’t unlock the NE gate for the ramp. I don’t think this is deliberate, just another example of people not thinking.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Does the Opposite of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)

August 18, 2017 Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on St. Louis Does the Opposite of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)

Last month I wrote about a new book, an excellent design guide, see Reading: Urban Street Stormwater Guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials. I loved it so much I asked the publisher to send me the rest pf the hardcover guides: Transit Street, Urban Bikeway, and Global Street. All information in the printed guide books is available for free online.

There are some here trying to get the City of St. Louis to become a member city of the National Association of Transportation Officials (NATCO). Who you ask?

NACTO’s mission is to build cities as places for people, with safe, sustainable, accessible and equitable transportation choices that support a strong economy and vibrant quality of life.

We do this by:

  • Communicating a bold vision for 21st century urban mobility and building strong leadership capacity among city transportation officials.
  • Empowering a coalition of cities to lead the way on transportation policy at the local, state, and national levels.
  • Raising the state of the practice for street design that prioritizes people walking, biking, and taking transit.

Here’s their intro video:

Since St. Louis, and the region by extension, does the opposite of what NACTO recommends, we could benefit greatly if the city joined — and followed their lead. But I doubt the traffic engineers in the Streets Dept and the like-minded engineers at the Board of Public Service are willing to change the way things have always been done.

Peer cities like Indianapolis, Memphis, and Nashville are affiliate members. Click image for their member cities page

Again, see various departments fighting NACTO’s recommendations. In the coming months I plan posts showing the NACTO way vs the St. Louis way.

— Steve Patterson

 

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