Thursday, December 13, 2012

Traffic Compromise

Busier neighborhood streets serve two purposes - they move traffic and they are shopping districts for neighborhoods. Unfortunately, most of them do a better job moving traffic than they do serving neighborhoods, as is evidenced by the often tattered appearances of the edges of our neighborhoods formed by these busy streets.

What if there was a way to accommodate both purposes - to move traffic and better serve adjoining neighborhoods? Here's a suggestion. Consider Hampton Avenue between Nottingham and Loughborough for example.

Through this stretch, Hampton is six lanes wide. The two outside lanes double as parking lanes with two through lanes in each direction. Traffic moves quickly, parking is difficult among speeding cars, and left turns are treacherous. What if the city were to restripe the lanes and restrict parking?

Instead of the current six lane configuration, what would happen if the road were restriped to create five lanes, including a two-way center turn lane plus two additional lanes in each direction? Fewer lanes would allow for slightly wider parking lanes.

To maximize traffic flow during peak commute times, say from 6-9 AM mornings and from 4-7 pm evenings, Monday through Friday, no parking would be posted in the outside lanes, keeping two through lanes in each direction for those busy hours.

Then during the rest of the day and on weekends, street parking is allowed in the outside lanes, leaving only one through lane in each direction plus the center turn lane? Would such an arrangement make the area more walkable, be better for neighborhood businesses, and safer for drivers?


Scott Pluff said...

I live one block off the area you describe, so this is very interesting. In order for such a plan to work, the no-parking times should be enforced as an immediate tow zone. Hampton near I-44 has parking lane restrictions like you describe, but almost every morning there is a car parked there from the night before, creating a traffic bottleneck.

I suspect that many of the businesses along that route would object, since this would leave no parking for their customers for roughly half of the day. Some businesses have limited off-street parking, others do not. Imo's Pizza is a good example.

Some property owners with parking lots jealously guard against anyone other than their customers parking there. One such business was known to gleefully tow away the car of any person who visited the business next door, even standing there laughing at the person's misfortune. It may be neighborly to share and cooperate, but there's no law against being a bad neighbor.

Rick Bonasch said...

Thanks Scott for your comment. I think you're right, the potential for something like this happening rests more with the local businesses than the adjoining neighbors or commuters.

The question is whether doing something like this makes the area more or less attractive to local business. We know the area looks pretty tired now.

A similar traffic calming and lane restriping effort has made a marked improvement to South Grand between Arsenal and Utah. However, another effort on Gravois near Bevo Mill was reversed after local businesses complained and wanted traffic lanes returned to their previous configuration.

As a neighbor, I know the area looks weak, is dangerous for pedestrians and drivers, and makes for a rather unattractive edge to Southampton, Princeton Heights, and St. Louis Hills.

However, there's no denying the fact that most people would rather live with the devil they know than one they don't.


Scott Pluff said...

The idea is promising. I agree in principle with traffic calming measures, a degree of congestion is healthy, etc. I drive this area every day, and I or my family walk it nearly every day. Accidents, some serious with deaths or injuries, are regular occurrences due to the high traffic volume, speed, and patterns.

GMichaud said...

It is not so much the number of traffic lanes, as the pedestrian bulbs on south Grand that make the difference.
There is no question traffic sort of moves slower, then shoots forward (with a higher speed limit. This is both north and south of the main Grand Ave business district, basically from Tower Grove Park to Carpenter Library.
The real difference in my view is the bulbs help change the scale of the street from auto to pedestrian. This physical reality is with the bulbs there are only 3 lanes of traffic to cross, not 5.

Anonymous said...

The above link gives good info about the South Grand project. I wish it had the project cost on the front page, but I didn't see it.

It was expensive, and required a substantial federal grant if I'm not mistaken.


GMichaud said...

Yes, that is why we should do nothing at all, it requires a federal grant after all. Why bother, we should just enjoy the shit we live in.

GMichaud said...

I'm sorry, I'm tired of there is not enough money argument when we masturbate ourselves to death throwing money at the sacred automobile.
If that is what you want, just say so.

GMichaud said...

Again, I apologize for harsh words. I just find it unbelievable to me that every time even modest improvements to pedestrian, bicycle or transit environments the cry goes up about money.
Yet the automobile pretty well has carte blanche in the region. I just visited my nephew on Christmas; Hwy 94 has been turned into a limited access highway. Millions had to be spent; it is such a radical change that it is hard to recognize the surroundings.
Then of course there is the Blanchette Bridge. Bridges can last for more than a century (Eads, Brooklyn, Golden Gate, or even longer in some parts of the world). Instead the Blanchette Bridge was blown up to create more lanes of traffic. (Weren’t these bridges just redone a few years back?)
These projects contribute to the sprawl like Highway N to Wentzville, farm land a few ago, now there are subdivisions. Hwy N will no doubt need an upgrade “to meet needs”
So we have a regional sustainable plan in draft form, while the reality is full steam ahead with urban sprawl.
I guess it just comes down to whether the death grip the oil and concrete cartels have on American culture will end before civilization collapses under the weight of global warming and the adventures of oil .

Gary S said...

I live in Southampton, and I would love some type of traffic calming along that stretch of Hampton.

But the hours you propose for no parking are precisely the hours I would need to park, on the way to, or from, work.

It doesn't help that the nominal speed limit along Hampton is 40-45 mph, no mater what the posted speed is.

Rick Bonasch said...


Thanks for posting. If you live in Southampton, do you work at a Hampton business? Are you stopping for coffee or to pick up dry cleaning? Would it be possible for you to park on the side street?