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Thread: Multi-modal intersection alternatives

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Multi-modal intersection alternatives

    The big thing going on right now in the Twin Cities is planning for the Central Corridor project, the centerpiece of which is an LRT line that will down the middle of University Avenue between the downtowns of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The idea is that this will link the downtowns, spur transit-oriented development, and revitalize certain not-so-vital areas.

    One of the major issues being addressed is traffic on and around University and the light rail. Some places are already congested, and the addition new development and the complication of traffic light timing for the LRT could make things worse.

    The area around the intersection of Snelling and University Aves is a good example. There was a study done on various alternatives to manage the traffic in the area (scroll down to "Snelling/University Capacity Study" on http://www.stpaul.gov/depts/publicworks/ ). Anyway, it's my feeling that the one of the options are a slam dunk, and that there are some good ones that haven't yet been considered (I'll post them after I get home from work).
    My questions is, if I manage to figure out where I should be giving my feedback (There are a lot of entities involved, which is confusing to a layperson like myself), what would be the best way to approach the issue? And what kind of corespondence is likely to grab their attention? As planners, do you prefer to be pestered by us proles via email, snail mail, phone, or in person? What special considerations should I, um, consider when it comes to transportation infrastructure issues?

    Thanks for the feedback, dudes and dudettes.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gsys View post
    The big thing going on right now in the Twin Cities is planning for the Central Corridor project, the centerpiece of which is an LRT line that will down the middle of University Avenue between the downtowns of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The idea is that this will link the downtowns, spur transit-oriented development, and revitalize certain not-so-vital areas.

    One of the major issues being addressed is traffic on and around University and the light rail. Some places are already congested, and the addition new development and the complication of traffic light timing for the LRT could make things worse.

    The area around the intersection of Snelling and University Aves is a good example. There was a study done on various alternatives to manage the traffic in the area (scroll down to "Snelling/University Capacity Study" on http://www.stpaul.gov/depts/publicworks/ ). Anyway, it's my feeling that the one of the options are a slam dunk, and that there are some good ones that haven't yet been considered (I'll post them after I get home from work).
    My questions is, if I manage to figure out where I should be giving my feedback (There are a lot of entities involved, which is confusing to a layperson like myself), what would be the best way to approach the issue? And what kind of corespondence is likely to grab their attention? As planners, do you prefer to be pestered by us proles via email, snail mail, phone, or in person? What special considerations should I, um, consider when it comes to transportation infrastructure issues?

    Thanks for the feedback, dudes and dudettes.
    Snailmail still has the most impact. It tells someone that you felt so strongly about something that you took the time and effort to put it together and send it out. Emails often get lost in the flotsam and phone calls might be missed and/or turn into a neverending game of telephone tag. When writing, I would be as well reasoned and concise as one can be and I would request an appointment for a short personal visit to follow up on anything.

    Good Luck!

    BTW, this might be a smidgeon off topic, perhaps, but University Av between Rice St by the State Capitol in Saint Paul and Central Av in Minneapolis was also part of the the routing of the Yellowstone Trail, an early 20th Century cross-country 'auto trail' (a precursor to modern-day numbered highways) that I am busy doing historical route research on. Very interesting and potentially worth an historical tie-in for this project.

    Mike

  3. #3
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    The "ring road" concept seems like a no-brainer to me. They're all over New Jersey on arterials with twice those AAT numbers. They just call them "jug-handles"
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    I agree the jug-handles ("ring-road" makes me think of European beltways for some reason) is probably the best of the presented ideas. However, it doesn't do much for the notion that Snelling/University should be a destination of itself, which is what has been suggested by the community. If the kind of urban redevelopment occurs that is being wished for, my thinking is that it could become a hindrance having all the left turns routed to side streets that would be critical for access to businesses, and the result might be that through traffic dominates destination/origination traffic and the pedestrian experience.

    But maybe there's no getting around that.


    Anyway, I wonder if it might be useful to consider some other options. I had an idea to do a variation on an ******* interchange using underpasses and limited side-street traffic routing. (Word on the street is that underpasses are back on the table despite expense.)

    or


    Then I went crazy and tried to cram version two into the existing ROW and create the impression of a public pedestrian "square":

    That's mostly kinda to scale - the station should be longer.
    Here's the underpass intersection.


    But that's probably all just pie-in-the-sky I suppose.


    edit - Thanks, mgk920. I'll write a flowery, diplomatic letter I think. Anybody know why ******* is censored? Did I violate a taboo or somebody's Intellectual Property?

    Here's a link with information about the style of interchange to which I'm trying to refer:
    http://attap.umd.edu/uaid_gss.php

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    In my experience, as a driver, pedestrian, and cyclist, eliminating left turns makes it safer for everyone (and the statistics bear that out as well)

    People that live in the neighborhood get used to it and stop driving for shorter trips and for longer trips and begin avoiding those intersections altogether. As long as pedestrians have full use of the grid i don't think it will pose any problems.

    One question i had though, was that in the summary version they said that "despite high transit ridership that traffic will continue to increase"

    How do they know that?
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    I think you're probably right about the main intersection.


    The statement "despite high transit ridership that traffic will continue to increase" may be based on traffic projections that have been done for that area (I'm pretty sure they did some of those when looking at Ayd Mill Road a while back),

    ...or they may just be thinking:

    The Minneapolis / St. Paul region is very car oriented, and low density outside of downtowns.
    The Minneapolis / St. Paul region is experiencing significant, sustained growth.
    The level of density needed to develop along Central Corridor for a significant amount of people to give up their vehicles would create even more traffic
    The large portion of the traffic through the intersection is for north/south trips on Snelling.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian njm's avatar
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    yeah... the problem w/Snelling & University (I used to live ½ mile north of the intersection on Snelling) is that these are not local roads. University is often used as a rush-hour alternative to I-94, and Snelling is... Snelling. One could argue that improvements to MN280 could help Snelling, but I really doubt it--it's just too far away.

    Honestly, the #1 problem in the area is to the north; the two parallel rail lines significantly limit the north-south circulation in Hamline-Midway and thus concentrate all the traffic to a few intersections. Maybe connecting Energy Pk Dr with Transfer Rd/PB Route would help alleviate EB-NB traffic. In my 'pedestrian' analyses, though, I remember that NB-WB always seemed to be the high-demand turn.

    One thing that's seems to be omitted from the report (I read it a few months ago) is the use of the 1-way along 94 (St. Anthony Ave) for WB university interactions with Snelling... there's a lot more space available along 94 than through that already haggard neighborhood.

    Ultimately, I think it will take a solution that gets traffic more than a couple blocks away to clear up that intersection.

    FYI: I seem to remember that this intersection was for many years (and still may be) the largest source of pollution from idling cars in the entire state of MN. Even worse than the Crosstown, though that may have changed.
    What luck! A random assemblage of words never sounded less intelligent.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian b3nr's avatar
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    Old style mail generally has the best results. Keep you point short and use paragraphs. Having had to summarise an compile consultation responses on this sort of thing before, if you can, try and make a 20 word long summary somewhere ... human nature dictates they will cut and paste anything if they can :p

    For what its worth i like option 2 a it seemed to have a lower impact than the others on the surrounding areas, but without trawling through the AADTs and so on... Have they considered a roundabout i wonder? Although your last option is pretty great!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by njm View post
    Honestly, the #1 problem in the area is to the north; the two parallel rail lines significantly limit the north-south circulation in Hamline-Midway and thus concentrate all the traffic to a few intersections. Maybe connecting Energy Pk Dr with Transfer Rd/PB Route would help alleviate EB-NB traffic. In my 'pedestrian' analyses, though, I remember that NB-WB always seemed to be the high-demand turn.
    Looks like a connection between Randall Avenue (at Commonwealth Avenue) and Fairview Avenue N (at Pierce Butler Route) could also be a workable option.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by b3nr View post
    Have they considered a roundabout i wonder?
    In the full study they throw in a roundabout (I think just for fun), and then throw it out on the basis that there's too much traffic for a roundabout. I don't know if that's true, but I don't think a roundabout would be appropriate, since it's unfriendly to peds and bikes, and takes out a large chunk of land that other people currently own.

    I'm going to mention the connectivity/traffic mitigation issues you folks are bringing up in the letter I'm writing, since I don't believe there has been any talk around here of taking that approach to the problem.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gsys View post
    ...or they may just be thinking:

    The Minneapolis / St. Paul region is very car oriented, and low density outside of downtowns.
    The Minneapolis / St. Paul region is experiencing significant, sustained growth.
    The level of density needed to develop along Central Corridor for a significant amount of people to give up their vehicles would create even more traffic
    The large portion of the traffic through the intersection is for north/south trips on Snelling.
    Nothing against you but i ran into the same inertia during my time at the local MPO and it's frustrating to say the least.

    I'm just thinking that VMT dropped for the first time in 30+ years which most people attribute to rising energy costs and that maybe it's a little too early to be able say whether or not traffic is going to increase over the long or short term.

    At this point i think it's completely irresponsible and bordering on reckless to throw good money after bad planning for a future of sustained VMT or even AADT growth.

    At the very least i'd adopt a wait and see approach. If things continue on pace over the next 2 years then proceed with caution.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian njm's avatar
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    ...Come to think of it, the intersection of Larpenteur/Snelling (way to the north) is normally not a picnic either... the nort-south circulation problem is really exacerbated by the fairgrounds, too.

    Oh, the real reason why I came here:

    Minneapolis Star-Tribune's article from today's paper at:
    http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1098638.html

    ...and somewhat related:

    http://www.startribune.com/535/story/1098985.html

    A big news day for Hamline-Midway.
    What luck! A random assemblage of words never sounded less intelligent.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gsys View post
    I'm going to mention the connectivity/traffic mitigation issues you folks are bringing up in the letter I'm writing, since I don't believe there has been any talk around here of taking that approach to the problem.
    I have found that in both transportation planning and engineering, there is a heavy bias toward expanding existing facilities, instead of building smaller parallel facilities and dispersing the impacts.

    A lot of this has to do with a fear of being stuck in an environmental, social or political quagmire.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gsys View post
    In the full study they throw in a roundabout (I think just for fun), and then throw it out on the basis that there's too much traffic for a roundabout. I don't know if that's true, but I don't think a roundabout would be appropriate, since it's unfriendly to peds and bikes, and takes out a large chunk of land that other people currently own.
    Go to this website...

    http://www.tfhrc.gov/safety/00068.htm

    It is the FHWA Roundabout Guide. Buried somewhere in it are tables that give you a general idea of how much daily and peak hour traffic you can expect a roundabout with X number of lanes to handle. In general this guide will give something to base your argument on.
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  15. #15
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    A roundabout with light rail running through the middle? It would likely need to be signalized, in which case it would no longer be a roundabout but a circular intersection.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello View post
    A roundabout with light rail running through the middle? It would likely need to be signalized, in which case it would no longer be a roundabout but a circular intersection.
    I did not read the report, just offering the info about roundabout capacity...

    However, there are several examples of roundabouts with rail going through them.... One is in Revira Beach, Fl, and another is in Australia, and there are others. You do not need a signal, but you do need a RR crossing with gates. I believe they found that these recover better than signalized intersections after being preempted by a train. I could be mistaken...
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  17. #17
    Cyburbian iamme's avatar
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    In Germany I saw a few roundabouts that had light rail circle around. It seemed to work quite well and didn't require signalization.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian njm's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by iamme View post
    In Germany I saw a few roundabouts that had light rail circle around. It seemed to work quite well and didn't require signalization.
    Korsvägen in Gothenburg Sweden is an unsignaled* roundabout with a pretty messy tram & bus station in the middle, a very odd shape, a lot of traffic, and a high proportion of drivers unfamiliar to the area (the convention center "Svenskamässan" is at the northeast corner.)

    I'm not saying it works great... but it does work.

    *there are signals for a couple of the crosswalks. Unless actuated, they always remain green for traffic.

    PS, for the curious, there is a really funky half-roundabout to the east (on the other side of the motorway) at Skt. Sigfrieds Plan.
    What luck! A random assemblage of words never sounded less intelligent.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by njm View post
    I'm not saying it works great... but it does work.
    *there are signals for a couple of the crosswalks. Unless actuated, they always remain green for traffic.
    I am sure there are quite a few examples of roundabouts with rail in Europe. However, we all know how well citing European traffic engineering goes in the U.S. I just don't think it would fly with our engineers and bureaucracies.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    Well I wrote and hand-delivered my letter. Maybe I should write a letter to the editor too, or attend some community meetings. If I can get more people on board, then maybe some good things will happen.

    As for the roundabout, I don't think they're appropriate for urban TOD. A roundabout would displace too many businesses and serve as a barrier for foot traffic in this instance.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian iamme's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello View post
    I am sure there are quite a few examples of roundabouts with rail in Europe. However, we all know how well citing European traffic engineering goes in the U.S. I just don't think it would fly with our engineers and bureaucracies.
    I know many people are reflexively against any use of european precedent, but it really wasn't that complicated. Here's a picture, it's in Hannover, Germany - The interior was a park-like setting although I only saw it occasionally used. It really looked much better from street level.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=e...04989&t=h&om=1

  22. #22
    Cyburbian njm's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gsys View post

    As for the roundabout, I don't think they're appropriate for urban TOD. A roundabout would displace too many businesses and serve as a barrier for foot traffic in this instance.
    Oh... I wasn't suggesting a roundabout foe Midway... The Spruce Tree Center would not allow it (space-wise). Plus if the bookstore on the NE corner were taken out, there'd be political hell to pay. They've have anti-LRT signs in the window since 1999.

    Then again, my impression of that store is that those folks are a bit... off.

    I was just proving that it could be done. I could imagine someplace like Boston pulling it off. Just because that's the only place in the US where I've seen a significant number of roundabouts already in use.

    Quote Originally posted by iamme View post
    I know many people are reflexively against any use of european precedent, but it really wasn't that complicated. Here's a picture, it's in Hannover, Germany - The interior was a park-like setting although I only saw it occasionally used. It really looked much better from street level.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=e...04989&t=h&om=1
    Come to think of it, the same design is somewhat common in Munich.
    What luck! A random assemblage of words never sounded less intelligent.

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    Salt Lake City has a roundabout with lightrail tracks through it on the campus of the University of Utah.

    As far as the assumption of increasing traffic goes, it may be based on the amount of redevelopment they are hoping to see in the corridor. Even if overall VMT in the region decreases, you will still have localized instances of increasing traffic where the land use in corridors or activity centers is significantly increased. Putting more people on a given acre in the urban area means more traffic on that acre, even with significant transit service.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Not a roundabout but it's how high volume gets handled at the intersections of Rts. 73 & 70 aka the Marlton Circle, in Marlton, NJ. It's clear to see which higway has a higher volume. (it's actually been reconfigured since this picture)


    From the traffic counts you're talking about it sounds like a roundabout would not be sufficient to handle the volume. I disagree though, that roundabouts are less safe than traditional intersections. Pedestrians are simply steered away from the cirlce itself and cross on the straightaways, much as it's done in the L'Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona.


    Quote Originally posted by aporitic View post
    Salt Lake City has a roundabout with lightrail tracks through it on the campus of the University of Utah.

    As far as the assumption of increasing traffic goes, it may be based on the amount of redevelopment they are hoping to see in the corridor. Even if overall VMT in the region decreases, you will still have localized instances of increasing traffic where the land use in corridors or activity centers is significantly increased. Putting more people on a given acre in the urban area means more traffic on that acre, even with significant transit service.

    Well put. I guess i'm just of the mind that, in an urban environment with a stable or growing population, it doesn't matter how much space you turn over to cars. They'll find a way to take up every inch of it. The crowded sidewalks of Times Square carry far more people than Broadway yet 90% of the space remains dedicated to cars even after plastic bollards were installed to cede a little more space to pedestrians.

    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

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