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Poor/Inconsistent Pedestrian Experience: 18th Street & Olive Street

June 14, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability Comments Off on Poor/Inconsistent Pedestrian Experience: 18th Street & Olive Street

I thought I was done pointing out glaringly bad intersections for pedestrians, but on Saturday I went through one that was odd. Yesterday I returned to study.  Usually when I cross Olive Street at 18th I do so on the East side of 18th. Though I’ve lived nearby for over 8 years, I can’t think of one time I crossed Olive on the West side — until Saturday afternoon.

We were headed to the St. Louis Science Center, catching MetroLink and then a MetroBus. Knowing we’d need to be on on the West side of 18th I crossed at Locust and headed South. At Olive I pressed the button for a walk signal — something I shouldn’t need to do in a pedestrian-friendly city. The traffic light turned green but the pedestrian signal remained don’t walk. We were in a hurry to catch the train so we went based on the green traffic signal. Yesterday morning I went back to try to figure out why I didn’t get a walk signal after pressing the button. What I found is this intersection is one of the most inconsistent in the city.

Each crossing point in an intersection is called a leg, typical intersections have four legs. Intersections where are four are treated consistently is a challenge, but the is among the worst — if not the worst in the city. And it’s recent work!

Looking South across Olive from the NW corner
Looking South across Olive from the NW corner

At the NW corner of 18th & Olive I see the traffic light turn green and the pedestrian signal remain on don’t walk. I press the button at the next red and when the light turns green the pedestrian signal remains don’t walk. At the next red I press the other button marked for crossing 18th Street. This time when the light turns green the pedestrian signal gives a walk symbol. It should be noted, the pedestrian signal to cross 18th St always gives a walk sign when the traffic signal is green.

Looking South across Olive from the NW corner
Looking South across Olive from the NW corner

Pushing a button to cross Olive but not a side street is consistent with the other intersections redone along Olive at the same time. After posting about Olive & Leffingwell in April I was told by the City’s bike/ped coordinator, Jamie Wilson, that a button was necessary to cross Olive there because vehicle traffic on Leffingwell is infrequent and they didn’t want to stop traffic on Olive to cycle through stops when there were no pedestrians or vehicles to cross.  Makes sense…at Leffingwell.  Leffingwell is one of the many streets where the city gave away the public right-of-way to private interests a block South of Olive. PROW that doesn’t so through sees fewer vehicles & pedestrians.

Back to 18th & Olive — 18th Street is always a busy street. Recently many MetroBus routes were moved to 18th. So switch the buttons and it’s fine?  I decided to check every corner to see. So I pressed the button to cross 18th  so I’d get a walk signal to cross Olive.

Looking North across Olive from the SW corner
Looking North across Olive from the SW corner

At the SW corner I pressed the button to cross Olive. Like the NW corner, I didn’t get a walk sign. Thinking it must also be reversed like the NW corner, I pressed the button to cross 18th. Still nothing, neither button activates the walk signal for NB pedestrians wanting to cross Olive on the West side of 18th Street!

Looking North across Olive from the SE corner
Looking North across Olive from the SE corner

I crossed 18th to the SE corner — no button is necessary — these always give the walk signal when vehicles get a green light. Interestingly, the pedestrian signal gives a walk sign when the traffic light is green regardless of the button or not. It’s possible pressing the button adds additional crossing time. I crossed to the NE corner.

Looking South across Olive from the NE corner, the automatic walk light
Looking South across Olive from the NE corner, the automatic walk light

Southbound pedestrians don’t need to press the button to cross Olive on the East side of 18th. Same as those crossing NB. What’s different is those crossing SB get a countdown timer, those crossing NB do not.

Looking South across Olive from the NE corner, the countdown timer has started
Looking South across Olive from the NE corner, the countdown timer has started

So I have many questions for Jamie Wilson:

  1. Why only one countdown timer?
  2. Why do three legs automatically get a walk sign, while the forth doesn’t?
  3.  Why don’t NB pedestrians on the West side of 18th ever get a walk sign?
  4. For the legs where pedestrians do get a walk sign, does pressing the button give additional crossing time?
  5. Why not have all four legs automatically get a walk sign?

It should be noted this work was done prior to Mr. Wilson starting his current position. It was done either by the Board of Public Service  (BPS) or the Streets Dept, not sure which. Hopefully I’ll know more soon, and the city will clean up this intersection’s bad pedestrian experience.

— Steve Patterson

 

Public Should Be Notified of Proposed Street Closures/Vacations

17th looking North toward Washington Ave
17th looking North toward Washington Ave

This morning the full Board of Aldermen will meet, but they won’t have a final vote on Board Bill 64  — a bill to vacate a short block of 17th Street — because it has been moved to the “informal calendar” as a result of fierce grassroots opposition being vocalized to the full board. See Proposed 17th Street Closure Would Reduce Safety & Security For Existing Residents Around Monogram Project.

BB64 passed unanimously in committee, though Downtown Neighborhood Association Executive Director Jared Opsal spoke against it. Had we all known about it we would’ve packed the hearing room. Which is why the developer & Ald Davis didn’t tell us. However, my post today isn’t about BB64, it’s about the broader issue of notification about street vacations.

The fact that a bill giving away a public right-of-way (PROW) so many of us use daily could move so quickly before being noticed is shocking. I don’t want this to happen to others in the city. Your alderman might tell you of such things, but not all of us are that lucky.

What we need is a process for public notice, not unlike the one used for liquor licenses, zoning changes, etc.  I think it need several components:

  1. Posted notice at the location for at least 15-30 days in advance of first hearing
  2. Mailed notice to property owners within 500′-1,000′ of location

The same should apply to blocking an end of a street, severing the street grid. It was the street grid that first attracted me to St. Louis 25+ years ago, it has been painful watching as we repeatedly make short-sided decisions here and there. Death by a thousand cuts.

I urge the Board of Aldermen to establish a process of notification regarding proposed street closures & vacations.

— Steve Patterson

 

Proposed 17th Street Closure Would Reduce Safety & Security For Existing Residents Around Monogram Project

Over the last 8+ years I’ve written about the view from my balcony many times, including last Friday. Today’s post is about three locations I’ve covered separately: former CPI building, 17th St, and the former CPI parking lot:

Turns out the Kansas City developer isn’t keen on making 17th Street two-way as I suggested last year — he wants the city to abandon it for his private project. Board Bill 64 cites “Monogram Building LLC will use vacated area to improve safety and security.”  What about the safety of everyone else who lives adjacent? Not having access to 17th Street will reduce our safety & security!

Looking South on 17th St from Washington Ave, this bit is one-way in the direction we are looking
Looking South on 17th St from Washington Ave, this bit is one-way in the direction we are looking
This view looks at the intersection of St. Charles (1-way WB) and 17th toward Locust (2-way)
This view looks at the intersection of St. Charles (1-way WB) and 17th toward Locust (2-way)

I get it — they want residents in the Monogram to be able to park in the new building and walk to their building safely, but their safety shouldn’t come at our expense. We all use 17th Street to access Washington Ave via foot & vehicle. We have a vacant commercial space that’s visible from Washington Ave. Also cut off from access to Washington Ave would be the former Dragon Trading building, Blu, Leather Trades. etc.

This block of public property measures 50′ x 150′, or 7,500 square feet. Ideally 17th Street would remain public. But if the city will cave and butcher our street grid again. we get something in return. In exchange, the developer should give 16.5′ of the East end of the lot so the 16th St right-of-way would be 50′, instead of 33.5′. This is 2,475 square feet. This would permit two-way traffic (18′), parking (14′) and generous sidewalks (18′) on both sides.  They’d pay to reconstruct the West side of the widened 16th Street.

The significantly narrower 16th St is one-way northbound -- the opposite of 17th
The significantly narrower 16th St is one-way northbound — the opposite of 17th

Additionally, St. Charles St (which is a glorified alley) should be widened from 38 feet to 50 feet so there’s room for 2-way traffic. trash & recycling dumpsters, moving vans, etc.  A would require another 2,184 sq ft (12′ x 182′).

So we give up 7,500 sq ft in public property, but gain back 4,659 sq ft — a net loss of 2,841 sq ft.  I’d prefer a zero loss of public right-of-way, but if they rebuilt the West side of 16th I could see it as a fair reallocation that could benefit everyone.

I ask that everyone reading this post to contact their Alderman before Friday and ask them to vote against the bill as written or amend it as I suggest above.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

18th & Market St: Pedestrians Must Wait While Vehicles Turn Opposite Direction

Recently my husband and I were walking/rolling back toward our loft from the Union Station MetroLink Station. For some reason we were on the East side of 18th — usually I’m on the West side. However, both sides are equally poorly designed and maintained.

Anyway, we’re Northbound on the East side of 18th as we approach Market St and I notice something I’d never seen before: Northbound vehicles get a green light but pedestrians don’t get a walk signal while the left arrow is on. Since NB vehicles are turning left I get why pedestrians on the West side of 18th St aren’t given a walk signal. You’d never want to give pedestrians the ok to walk while drivers get a left arrow — like at Tucker & Olive and Tucker & Locust.

Why should pedestrians get a walk signal? Pedestrians have the right-of-way except in cases where vehicles are given a specific signal such as a left arrow. In this cases pedestrians must wait, but in the example the only turning cars would be NB ones turning right onto EB Market — they’d yield to pedestrians crossing the street — like most intersections. My guess is this is another instance where the city just didn’t think about pedestrian users.

Let’s take a look…

Vehicles have a red and pedestrians don't walk, click image to view location in Google Maps
Vehicles have a red and pedestrians don’t walk, click image to view location in Google Maps
Northbound vehicles get a green light, those turning left onto Westbound Market get a left arrow. But pedestrians on the West side still get a don't walk
Northbound vehicles get a green light, those turning left onto Westbound Market get a left arrow. But pedestrians on the West side still get a don’t walk
The don't walk remains as the left arrow goes yellow, then when Southbound traffic gets a green the walk signal to cross market comes on
The don’t walk remains as the left arrow goes yellow, then when Southbound traffic gets a green the walk signal to cross market comes on
Very quickly the pedestrian signal begins to countdown to zero
Very quickly the pedestrian signal begins to countdown to zero

Because still images can’t tell the full story I’ve put together a brief video:

Yes, another crossing at this same intersection is done correctly. If this were done right, pedestrians could cross Market St before Southbound vehicles get a green light and potentially make left turns onto Eastbound Market St — they don’ t get a left arrow so they must yield to Northbound vehicles and pedestrians crossing Market.

I see no reason why pedestrians don’t get a walk sign as soon as the Northbound traffic signal turns green.

— Steve Patterson

 

Shoddy Curb Ramp/Crosswalk At 16th Street & Market St

Lately I’ve been focusing on my pedestrian experience in the city, some recent posts include:

Today post is another example of poor quality work.  This isn’t about being a cash-strapped city — this is incompetence at all levels.

Looking West across 16th St at Market, note the location of the crosswalk relative to the detectable warning mat, click image for map to intersection
Looking West across 16th St at Market, note the location of the crosswalk relative to the detectable warning mat, click image for map to intersection
From the crosswalk looking toward the "ramp"
From the crosswalk looking toward the “ramp”
Here's a closer view of the ramp.
Here’s a closer view of the ramp.

Looking at Google Street View I know this was done by the city sometime between September 2009 and August 2015.  It was during this time the city took possession of the building from the federal government. I remember the old ramp, there are still some like it. It was done during a period when detectable warnings weren’t required, plus the location had no relationship with their crosswalk. But it was flush with the street.

The maximum vertical hight change allowable per ADA guidelines is 1/4″  — but this curb ramp is substantially higher than that. Sadly, it is very common to have greater than 1/4″ at ramps. Many are so bad I email the Streets Dept’s asphalt guy directly so they can do a non-compliant patch. Many things can be non-compliant, but still useful. This, and others, are hard to use and they damage the drive wheel on my chair. This would be very challenging for someone using a manual chair, and a trip hazard for a person walking with a cane or walker. In fact — this is a trip hazard for anyone walking here.

I have no idea if this was built by city employees or by a hired contractor. Either way, we’s never tolerate such shoddy work on our homes or cars — it shouldn’t be allowed in the public right-of-way.

— Steve Patterson

 

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