Not All Grade Separated Intersections Are Bad: An Idea for Kingshighway and Forest Park Parkway

With nary a public comment or press release, it appears the City of St. Louis is set to transform the intersection of Kingshighway and Forest Park Parkway to an at-grade intersection. Thanks to significant funding from BJC and Washington University, construction is apparently set to begin as early as next month. All information about this project thus far is courtesy of the always excellent NextSTL. Read their article for all known information regarding the project.

The proposed changes at the intersection of Kingshighway and Forest Park Parkway has many drivers concerned about increased congestion and travel times. Traffic along Kingshighway can be punishing to get through during rush hours, today; bringing the Parkway to the same grade as Kingshighway threatens to make traffic worse and more difficult than it already is.

Of course, one of the main reasons the intersection is being brought to grade is to give vehicles on Kingshighway access to Forest Park Parkway towards Clayton. But is there a way to include this missing movement at the intersection without negatively affecting existing traffic conditions? Here’s one idea I drew up.

FPP Kingshighway Turn Ramp

So how does this design differ from the standard 4-way intersection? Two things in particular:

  • Grade-separated left-turn ramp from westbound Forest Park Avenue to southbound Kingshighway.
  • Prohibited left turns from eastbound Forest Park Parkway to northbound Kingshighway. Drivers wishing to make this turn would continue to exit at Lindell just as they do today.

It may cost a bit more, but by removing the Parkway’s left-turn movements from the intersection, these two changes allow for the simplification of the traffic signals from a standard 4-phase system to the 3-phase system in place at the intersection today allowing more green time for everyone.

MetroLink on east riverfront viaduct

Top 25 US Rail-Based Transit Systems of 2015

Four years ago, St. Louis had the 16th most riders of rail-based transit systems in the United States. By the end of 2015, St. Louis had fallen to 19th in the rankings. As of today, St. Louis is 20th. In 3 years time, St. Louis could be be 22nd which, for all intents and purposes, is rock bottom.

The table below summarizes the top 25 rail-based transit systems excluding commuter rail, but combining totals from separate metropolitan transit agencies (e.g. Philadelphia). Data comes from the APTA Ridership Report for the 4th quarter of 2015.

RankMetroRidershipPopulationPop. Rank
1New York20,182,3051
2Washington D.C.836,8006,097,6847
5San Francisco626,3004,656,13211
7Los Angeles334,50013,340,0682
9San Diego123,3003,263,43117
15Salt Lake City67,3001,170,26648
19St. Louis47,6002,811,58820
21 •Seattle41,0003,733,58015
22San Jose33,4001,976,83635
25New Orleans22,9001,262,88846
 – •Honolulu998,71454
  • Seattle opened its U-Link extension on March 19, 2016 and has likely jumped 5 or more spots in the rankings.
  • Honolulu is expected to open its new automated rail transit system in 2018. The system has a projected ridership of 120,000 trips per day.

Cincinnati Metro Transit Imagined

Cincinnati, I made a fantasy transit map for your fair city. This fully grade-separated metro-style system has the following characteristics:

  • 6 lines that pair together into 3 trunk lines
  • 92 route miles
  • 111 stations

Also included on the map is a slightly extended streetcar line and commuter rail lines that activate Union Terminal and the Riverfront Transit Center.

Cincinnati Metro Map
Click on the map for a full sized version.

How did I end up creating a fantasy transit map for a city I’ve only visited once before? Curiosity! Curiosity about the subway Cincinnati tried to build 100 years ago and never completed. I began by trying to draw the completed subway alignment in Google Earth… and then just kept on drawing.

Some of the design principles I tried to follow in creating the system shown in the map were:

  • Try not to duplicate the streetcar’s route.
  • Follow dense urban corridors and avoid highway alignments as much as possible.
  • Keep the system geographically compact.

To further emphasize the last point, Cincinnati employment is spectacularly centered in or near downtown, an incredible contrast to St. Louis where jobs continue to migrate westward. Also, density in the Cincinnati metro area seems to decrease dramatically about 10 miles from downtown to the point where the expense and capacity of rail-based transit seems unnecessary and wasteful. Consequently, I mapped few stations further than 10 miles distant from downtown.

Read more about the inspirations for this Cincinnati fantasy transit map here.

The new riverfront trail near the Arch

Almost Perfect: The New Bike Path Along Leonor K Sullivan Blvd

Progress continues on the reconstruction of Leonor K Sullivan Blvd. Major construction has been completed on the southern half of the street from the Arch to Chouteau Ave. Flooding over the summer stopped construction on the northern half to Cole St for about 2 months and the project is now slated for completion by the end of the year.

Included as part of the reconstruction of Leonor K Sullivan Blvd is a two-way bike path on the east side of the street. The path will extend 1.5 miles end to end and will serve as excellent way to visit the riverfront or bypass downtown.

The best part of the new path is that it’s not another bike lane, rather it’s physically separated from the road by about 5 ft. And thanks to the fact that it parallels the riverfront, there’s no need to stop along the entire length of the path as there are no cross streets, traffic lights, or stop signs along the way. In short, the path is close to ideal.

The only aspect of the bike path that is imperfect are the crossings across the access roads to the riverfront parking. As indicated by signs on the side of the road, cars are supposed to yield to bicyclists and pedestrians. However, there are no pavement markings for cars—yield triangles or zebra stripes—only sidewalk curb ramps and a continuation of the concrete road surface that visually imply pedestrians must yield to cars.

Riverfront trail Riverfront trail with continuous bike trail
Above: Access to riverfront parking cuts through the trail and sidewalk.
Below: How access could have looked with better prioritization for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Ideally, the bike path and sidewalk would be continous, raised, and visually distinct across the parking lot access road. Almost as good would be zebra striping for the sidewalk and green paint for the bike path.

Bike Lanes on Tower Grove Ave Scrapped in Favor of More Auto Traffic

Bicyclists on Tower Grove Ave
// Matthew Wyczalkowski

Tower Grove Avenue was slated to get buffered bike lanes as part of Bike St. Louis Phase III. However, future reconstruction of the Kingshighway viaduct south of I-44 has thrown a monkey wrench into the proposal. Matthew Wyczalkowski of SafeTGA tells the story.

We’ve recently learned that traffic engineers are insisting on opening up two lanes for cars in each direction along Tower Grove Avenue to maximize the volume of traffic which can flow through it. They are looking to get rid of on-street parking and to delay any bike infrastructure projects until after the Kingshighway bridge is complete in Fall 2016 or later. We have heard from people closely involved in the project that Phase 3 buffered bike lanes are on hold indefinitely on Tower Grove Avenue.

Incentivizing Sprawl with Sales Taxes

From Boom: A Journal of California via Per Square Mile

To see what a city formed around a power center—one of those enormous retail complexes anchored by a huge big box storelike Targetl—ooks like going forward, one need look no further than Phoenix, which has been dependent on sales tax for a long time. The incentive is to continue to build sales tax generating centers at the edge of the city, nearer the highway, to capture the consumption of people who live in surrounding areas, and development simply keeps sprawling outward. On the other hand, a property-tax-dependent city has no interest in moving the border of the city. It is interested in increasing the value of land and one way of doing that is having more dense areas, more amenities located in proximity to population.
Here in St. Louis, we can see the effect sales taxes have had on the urban environment by the concentration of retail along the region’s major freeways and arteries, I-270 in particular. It makes you think how differently development may have been built out had sales taxes been capped to, say, 2% at the local level or abolished altogether.

“We’re a Highway Department, Not a Bicycle Department”

No bikes
// nofrills

So the St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic wants to build its long sought South County Connector, a $110 million dollar project that would build a new road between Hanley Rd and River des Peres Blvd. Following the release of the draft environmental impact statement, the project has elicited a fair amount of criticism and condemnation from the City of Maplewood, Great Rivers Greenway, Trailnet, and St. Louis Alderman Scott Ogilvie. Great Rivers Greenway expressed some of their concerns in a recent interview on KMOX.

Great Rivers sent a note of its own to the highway department, saying the Connector could neutralize $27 million in investments the organization has made to pedestrian and bike infrastructure on the River Des Peres Greenway and the Deer Creek Greenway.

“We would really like to see a connection that incorporates pedestrians, bicycles and motor vehicle use,” Susan Trautman, executive director of Great Rivers Greenway told KMOX. “The South County Connector could be a really great example of multimodal transportation where people can walk, ride their bikes, use their cars.”

But [St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic spokesman David] Wrone pours cold water on her comment.

“We want to provide a much need boulevard for cars and trucks,” he said, while also stressing that “bike ridership is important to us.”

“But I want to say we are in the business of providing safe and efficient necessary motor vehicle driving pavement. We’re a highway department, not a bicycle department.”

Words fail me, again.

It was a year-and-a-half ago that the County spokesman first left me speechless.

As a matter of policy, we don’t build dedicated bike lanes. St. Louis County salutes the bike-riding community, but we manage our system in the knowledge that motor vehicles comprise the vast majority of our customer base. The ground and money aren’t available to provide ‘Bike Only’ travel lanes.

And not long before that comment, there was the reasoning the department gave for removing Delmar Blvd through The Loop from the County’s arterial road system.

David Wrone, a spokesman for the highways department, contended that Delmar through the Loop “is a destination for many, many people. It has metamorphosed into a municipal road. It’s University City’s Main Street. You have so many pedestrians and parked cars and soon we’re going to have a trolley. It’s not an arterial road.”

“Our arterial roads are designated as such because they move a lot of traffic as quickly as is prudent.”

Click here if you would like to sign a letter asking County Executive Charlie Dooley and Councilman Pat Dolan to withdraw the South County Connector DEIS.

Illinois Chickens Should Only Cross the Road at Marked Crosswalks

Waiting to cross the road
// webmink

Must read article by Streetsblog Chicago. A recent court ruling in Illinois may erode the right of pedestrians to cross the street, making pedestrians personally liable if they get injured if they do not cross the street at a marked crosswalk.

On November 9, 2009, Joan Orth, 51, was crossing 95th Street at Kenton Avenue at around 5:45 p.m. in the Village of Oak Lawn. Before she could get to the other side of the street, a driver struck and killed her. […] The village and ComEd denied responsibility and the case was thrown out. Oak Lawn said it didn’t owe anything, arguing that Orth “was not an intended and permitted user of the street where the accident occurred” because there was no marked crosswalk, according to the ruling.

I can think of more than a few places where this ruling would effectively outlaw pedestrians.