Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

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Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby streets.mn » December 11th, 2013, 9:04 pm


talindsay
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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby talindsay » December 12th, 2013, 10:30 am

The quick answer is "yes, obviously". It's a nice article though. I'd like to see more medium-capacity intersections switched to roundabouts, and lower-capacity signalized intersections switched to four-way stops. I also wonder how many places currently using stop signs would be better served by yield signs. Unfortunately, the explosion of stop signs means that most people don't know how to properly process a yield intersection, but a lot of very-low traffic intersections would be better with yields than stops.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby Mdcastle » December 12th, 2013, 10:35 am

I know there's a lot of crossover, so I'm just letting people know I'm staying away from Streets.Mn from now on. I was trying to be helpful with my extensive knowledge of traffic control equipment but my comment got misinterpreted as being against the particular article when I'm not and my pro-car stance stirred up an even bigger hornets nest over there than it does here.

But since I'm not commenting there any more, a few of my thoughts.
Obviously getting rid of uneeded signals is the best, but it's hard to do, this is more of an issue in Detroit where most of the population has disappeared and there's no money to maintain them, but there's usually reverse NIMBYism "won't they think of the children" because neighbors are afraid it will become unsafe.

An option is going back to late night flash, but Mn/DOT stopped that because it's less safe than leaving them on, (just like all those protected only arrows are more safe). I think this is excessive nannying, other areas get by with late night flash and less protected movements, although the new flashing arrows are improvments.

A lot of the old signals being scrapped are collectable, and Minneapolis could get double to triple their scrap value if auctioned off. The 3M pedestrian signals could have fetched about ten times the scap value.

Some signals are still needed during the day, but during off peak periods the only options right now are 1) beg buttons, or 2) just giving periodic greens and walks to cross traffic, even if there are none.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby mattaudio » December 12th, 2013, 10:46 am

Keep posting, Monte. Woofner's question on the blog might have seemed antagonistic over there, but I think he probably meant it genuinely. People are obviously arriving at these issues from different backgrounds, assumptions, etc so the dialog has value. It's better than people dismissing positions entirely. We obviously disagree on some things, but I think we have found common ground a few times (how Strong Towns thinking can be pro-roads-for-cars just as it is pro-streets-for-people) and I find value in that. Hope you stick around!

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby mulad » December 12th, 2013, 10:48 am

It's unfortunate that yield signs have been on the outs with city transportation departments for so long. It was probably a bad idea for them to ditch them to such an extent. There's also the option to remove signs entirely, even without going to shared-space -- my dad made sure to point out a few intersections like that in Rochester when I had my learner's permit. I've noticed that in a few small towns (here's one in Perham), and there must be some hiding around the Twin Cities somewhere...

Mini-roundabouts and roundels should be considered too. Mini-roundabouts still have a curb for the center circle, while a roundel doesn't have a curb to the center circle, so large vehicles can just do normal left turns (and wide right turns). I think the roundel is usually a bit conical, so you'd feel a bump if you went straight over it, but I think it's just painted on in some cases -- the roundel itself is usually made with a contrasting color to the surrounding pavement.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby twincitizen » December 12th, 2013, 10:51 am

Mdcastle:

You shouldn't be too surprised at the negative reaction to your Streets.MN = "anti-car" assertion.

You accusing people of being "anti-car" reminds me of how some people will call pro-choice folks "pro-abortion". It is a defamation tactic. Words matter.

Streets.MN writers and urbanists on this forum are not "anti-car", we are "pro transportation choice". Over the last 60 years, the entire country has been remade around the automobile. We are arguing not to get rid of cars, but to bring some balance to the car vs. walk/bike/transit equation, which is grossly out of whack in this country. People should be able to choose whether they want to own a car or not, this is a free country after all. Right now, in the overwhelming majority of the US, outside of our densest city centers, car ownership is not a choice but a requirement.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby eazydp » December 12th, 2013, 11:59 am

I wonder if the anecdotes are actually true. I feel like even East River Rd and Franklin Bridge mess (the 5-way intersection) had less congestion when it was a 5-way stop. Obviously a roundabout would be better there, but it "feels" like the signal has increased congestion. That said, it could have been folks simply avoiding the intersection while the light was being replaced, or other down stream impacts.

A good follow-up article would be the top ten "worst" traffic lights. Very poorly timed, very low volume intersections, etc.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby UptownSport » December 12th, 2013, 1:32 pm

twincitizen wrote:Mdcastle:
...
You accusing people of being anti-car reminds me of how some people will call pro-choice folks "pro-abortion". Everyone knows that it isn't true, but it is a defamation tactic.
...
Yep! How could anyone accuse people, here, of being anti car? It is so like abortion. Total defame.

More soon, I need to do some posts in "Dismantling Downtown Freeway's" :lol:

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby mulad » December 12th, 2013, 1:38 pm

I strongly agree that the River Road/Franklin/27th intersection was better with stop signs, though I did go through on my bicycle one time and was pretty much ignored by the cars who apparently weren't expecting me at all. There is a certain advantage to lights when there's non-automotive traffic in the mix, but that advantage can be blown away when you add in the problem of turning traffic.

I'll defend technology a bit by saying that I was amazed at how well the stop lights worked in Folsom, California when I visited my brother there last month. It's suburban, with population densities in the 2,000-5,000/mi^2 range, and a very stroady landscape with arterials having speed limits of 40-50 mph, but the timing was generally good and we didn't spend long waiting in most cases. Access from the side roads wasn't as good, but seemed at least on par with what's typical around here. People really did stomp on the accelerators as the lights turned green, though, and there were very few pedestrians around (some of whom were wearing high-visibility jackets).

I think the signal timing of what we have here can get a lot better, but the way people drive in our region is different than out in California (presumably because we have real seasons to deal with). Traffic lights around here do get tuned somewhat for their location, but it feels like it's been a fire-and-forget process by traffic departments. To work really well, signals need to keep track of the amount of traffic moving through on a regular, perhaps constant basis and get retimed accordingly. Things can work great until a new business opens, an old one closes, a nearby road goes under construction, a school begins/ends session, or even as storms move through.

I see all of the gadgets hanging off of the lights along University Avenue for the Green Line and worry a lot about future maintainability and compatibility. Are there sufficient standards for keeping that hardware operating indefinitely? How many pieces will be obsolete a decade from now? Smarter lights can have big advantages, but it'll be hard to get cities/counties/states to properly plan for future expenses if the guts of those systems will need to be ripped out and replaced because a particular manufacturer went under or whatever.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby mister.shoes » December 12th, 2013, 2:11 pm

UptownSport wrote:
twincitizen wrote:Mdcastle:
...
You accusing people of being anti-car reminds me of how some people will call pro-choice folks "pro-abortion". Everyone knows that it isn't true, but it is a defamation tactic.
...
Yep! How could anyone accuse people, here, of being anti car? It is so like abortion. Total defame.

More soon, I need to do some posts in "Dismantling Downtown Freeway's" :lol:
There's a difference between being "anti-car" and wanting the transportation facilities to be as positive as possible within their surroundings.
The problem with being an introvert online is that no one knows you're just hanging out and listening.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby nordeast homer » December 12th, 2013, 2:44 pm

If someone questions whether we have too many lights, they just need to travel on Lake St., Broadway, Nicollet, any major road. When you have street lights at every intersection, or even every other it's too many. Then, when you factor in that they don't regulate or adjust the timing of the lights, it turns into the mess that we currently have.
Even if they changed the type of signal at some of these intersectoins it would make better sense. We have an intersection by my house on Johnson St. It's at a park, so it's warranted; however, the light should not be on a timer. As it is now, the light changes automatically and there may be a car one out of every 20 -30 times through the cycle. This intersection should only change as a car approaches or a pedestrian uses the help button.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby mattaudio » December 12th, 2013, 5:31 pm

I'll be honest, I've lobbied for a stoplight near my house. There's a long stretch of Cedar Avenue, four blocks without a stoplight. Most of the day, it's a steady stream of cars in both directions with no regard for people trying to walk across the street for things like the bus stop. I've pushed for a stoplight because that's the language the county speaks.

I think a 10' refuge island, painted crosswalks and signs would be just as effective as a stoplight for people walking and biking across Cedar. But county engineers say they won't even paint crosswalks or install signs, since it's not a signalized intersection... that speaks to the bias we have towards signals and ROW control as the answer to all problems.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby mulad » December 12th, 2013, 5:42 pm

Yeah, the rules that restrict crosswalk markings to signalized intersections should be changed -- that's often where they're least necessary.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby twincitizen » December 12th, 2013, 6:36 pm

Matt,

4 (long-side) blocks without a stoplight does seem strange on a busier arterial. Can you imagine that on Lyndale or Hennepin? Every 2-3 blocks on our busiest N-S arterials seems necessary just to keep cars from excessive speeding, and yes, to give peds a dedicate phase to cross. Even Lyndale Avenue S, 31st to the Creek, for all its lovely bumpouts, traffic calming, and landscaped medians, still has/needs stoplights every few blocks. Even with all that traffic calming, it's still pretty easy to hit 38-40MPH and maintain it if you ride the "green wave".

I got stuck at Grand & 34th again tonight. That one might take the cake in the entire city. It's abhorrent that it isn't changed to all flashing red outside of school hours.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby mattaudio » December 12th, 2013, 7:49 pm

It's the only residential stretch of Cedar between 94 and 62 that has a half mile between lights. Most are spaced every 2 long blocks.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby RailBaronYarr » December 13th, 2013, 10:10 am

twincitizen wrote:Even Lyndale Avenue S, 31st to the Creek, for all its lovely bumpouts, traffic calming, and landscaped medians, still has/needs stoplights every few blocks. Even with all that traffic calming, it's still pretty easy to hit 38-40MPH and maintain it if you ride the "green wave".
Just to confirm this, I was just at 32nd and Lyndale on Wednesday morning (8:15 AM) trying to cross. Traffic volume was light but clearly a little on the fast side (especially given the non-perfect conditions), about 25-30+ mph. My pregnant wife and I waited for 1-2 minutes, hanging out in the street by about a stride and a half to make it clear "we're trying to cross." I think this is what bugs me about traffic calming on somewhat wide arterials where there is no commercial activity (ie drivers expect pedestrians because, well, there are simply more of them there, more often). When the lanes are still 11' with a good clear zone between them and the parked cars (another 3-4'), when people start hitting those greens they become less attentive to their surroundings.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby mattaudio » December 13th, 2013, 10:19 am

I'm not arguing for longer stretches on our collector/arterial streets where people can drive without slowing.
@twincitizen, I'd like to reframe what you said and see if you agree. Lyndale Ave S, 31st to the Creek... still has/needs *cars to stop* every few blocks. This can be done with four way stops rather than stoplights.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby David Greene » December 16th, 2013, 7:39 am

I'm really intrigued by this discussion. Here's a thought experiment. What would happen if we removed every stop light and stop sign in Minneapolis?

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby mplsjaromir » December 16th, 2013, 8:38 am

Slower but safer.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby David Greene » December 16th, 2013, 8:52 am

Would it be slower? The actual motion would be slower but for the most part traffic would keep moving steadily. The claim above is that stop signs would spread out traffic and speed it up. A completely uncontrolled intersection would allow traffic to flow if there is no conflicting traffic. I can anticipate any number of interesting things happening:

- We make more efficient use of our grid since there is less reason to prefer any one street over another
- We get an undesirable increase in traffic on residential streets
- We get fewer and less severe accidents
- Our transit system runs more efficiently
- Our transit system gets bottled up
- We get more transit riders, peds and bikes

Probably what we would see would be very context-dependent. Thinking about more than just cars, would it improve overall mobility in the city? Has anyone ever modeled such a thing?

I started thinking about this after seeing yet another car racing down 27th St. in the Wedge. 27th is interesting in that area because we have almost completely useless stoplights on 26th and 28th at Dupont and Emerson (owing to their previous life as secondary arterials, though there is a school at 26th and Emerson). The lack of stop signs on Colfax and 27th means that a lot of people cut over to 27th from 26th via Colfax because they have a completely unimpeded route to Hennepin. The stop signs on crossing streets actually encourage speeding through the area. If everything was uncontrolled I would think cars would move more slowly, but steadily.


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