Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

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mplsjaromir
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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby mplsjaromir » December 16th, 2013, 9:54 am

I think people would be very cautious, thus decreasing speed.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby mattaudio » December 16th, 2013, 10:02 am

But you're referring to maximum speed rather than average speed. Currently, people in Minneapolis often travel at 0 MPH for sometimes up to a minute at a time possibly despite no cross traffic. Thus the average speed is likely in the 10-15 MPH range anyways.

This is the same principle that applies to my utter disdain for stoplights in rural areas or the fringes of exurbia. We want people to move at highway speeds, so much so that we spend significant money building bypasses of small towns. Yet DOTs are too eager to install stoplights in those 55+ MPH stretches because development and local traffic have increased. Instead, the strategy should be to define sections as road or street. Route that traffic on a local road network into town, where it can get on the primary road/highway. Accept that a short stretch of 25-30 MPH in a small town, along with 55+ MPH outside of town, is actually not that bad. Due to our sprawl and desire to subsidize low value land uses, we've built a "45 MPH world" complete with stoplights. If the average speed is 45 MPH, and it's also more dangerous, why not change how we view these rural/exurban highways?

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby talindsay » December 16th, 2013, 10:43 am

One data point, I do 100% of my driving on the city street grid and my car calculates (among other statistics) average speed. I reset it every time I fill the tank (about once a month, it's a 10-gallon tank), and usually at the fill-up my average speed is around 13 MPH. The highest I've seen it is 17 and the lowest 11. The averages are lower in winter months and higher in summer months.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby RailBaronYarr » December 16th, 2013, 12:10 pm

To answer David Greene's questions of what may happen to overall traffic, I think it depends entirely on the other factor: street design. Flat out removing stoplights and stop signs with no change to street layout would/could be disastrous in certain areas. As you point out, there are streets where people feel comfortable driving 35 mph, and others (Bryant, for example), where even between controlled intersections people may only ever feel comfortable driving 20 mph - speeds where there would likely be no (or very few, and minor) collisions at intersections as people would be able to safely perceive others' movements and negotiate the intersections. To this point, I think the idea of traffic on neighborhood streets needs to be challenged - if a higher number of cars traveled through a residential zone but at 30-50% slower moving speeds, would that be a negative? Why do people living along arterials deserve higher traffic volumes (and design speeds) moreso than people on side-streets?

Removal of control would need to be accompanied by traffic calming measures on certain arterials and some neighborhood streets, IMO, to assure people could enter/cross said streets easily. Bus lanes, bike lanes, etc could replace thru-lanes, with (potentially) very little reduction in car traffic counts due to removing wasted stop/light wait time.

Just a thought experiment, obviously. I would say this German town already had street designs that calmed traffic (a missing step for us), and wholesale removal of intersection control has been a major positive: http://www.minds.com/blog/view/24821546 ... n-existent

I'm interested to see if this change accompanied lower auto trip generation rates/VMT or if they held relatively constant..

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby Mdcastle » December 16th, 2013, 12:35 pm

I guess I'm about the only one here that really likes stroads, or at least feels they have a place. American and 77th are good places for Stroads because they're good at moving high volumes of traffic short distances, traffic that would otherwise get on I-494 and go one or two exits, gumming up things for the longer distance traffic. Maybe a roadgeek fantasy of 7 lanes or so each direction on I-494 combined with an urbanists fantasy of a 20 mph street on American with cycletracks and whatnot would work but that's not realistic. I've been told the reason traffic is so bad in Atlanta is that although they have a good freeway network they have a poor stroad network forcing local traffic onto the freeways.

The problem with rural stoplights is that interchanges cost a lot of money, and in some places the benefit to cost of building them rather than a stoplight is so low that it's not a priority. That is one improvement that Mn/DOT made around 2000 though, in that they started seeing the error of their ways in just building stoplights on higher volume expressways like MN 36, US 52, US 14, and US 10, and they're now very reluctant to put more up. The one on Lake Elmo Ave was obviously supposed to be temporary only, but it wound up being permanent because there's no funding and consensus on building an overpass, and Mn/DOT and Lake Elmo have radically different visions on what MN 36 should be. Onamia has been asking for a stoplight on US 169 for years and Mn/DOT keeps saying no, it's not warranted much less justified, Byron got a second stoplight built to permanent standards but only when they agreed to closing a number of local accesses, and later on it was clarified that the long term vision is interchanges.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby mattaudio » December 16th, 2013, 12:51 pm

I agree, MnDOT seems to be doing it better than they used to.
I think the question is, on high-priority highways (roads) why do we need more accesses? Why should we have to choose between a rural stoplight or a rural interchange on an expressway? No. Drive to the closest town or existing intersection/interchange and go from there.

This also solves the second problem you mention, which is where more access points induce more demand for our regional highway system because the highway system supplants local networks for local trips. Rochester just screwed this up by building an interchange this fall at 65th St NW, one mile north of 55th and one mile south of 75th. This will reduce level of service on US 52, at great expense.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby David Greene » December 16th, 2013, 12:52 pm

RailBaronYarr wrote:To this point, I think the idea of traffic on neighborhood streets needs to be challenged - if a higher number of cars traveled through a residential zone but at 30-50% slower moving speeds, would that be a negative? Why do people living along arterials deserve higher traffic volumes (and design speeds) moreso than people on side-streets?
Completely agree that this should be on the discussion table.
RailBaronYarr wrote:Removal of control would need to be accompanied by traffic calming measures on certain arterials and some neighborhood streets, IMO, to assure people could enter/cross said streets easily. Bus lanes, bike lanes, etc could replace thru-lanes, with (potentially) very little reduction in car traffic counts due to removing wasted stop/light wait time.
Absolutely. I've also been thinking about the return of 26th and 28th to one-way operation. I would argue they primarily serve Minneapolis residents and with the Midtown Corridor, their function of moving residents across South Minneapolis is reduced. I would love to see two-way operation combined with parking on both sides of the street and widening of sidewalks and boulevards through Phillips.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby RailBaronYarr » December 16th, 2013, 1:48 pm

Mdcastle wrote:I guess I'm about the only one here that really likes stroads, or at least feels they have a place. American and 77th are good places for Stroads because they're good at moving high volumes of traffic short distances, traffic that would otherwise get on I-494 and go one or two exits, gumming up things for the longer distance traffic. Maybe a roadgeek fantasy of 7 lanes or so each direction on I-494 combined with an urbanists fantasy of a 20 mph street on American with cycletracks and whatnot would work but that's not realistic. I've been told the reason traffic is so bad in Atlanta is that although they have a good freeway network they have a poor stroad network forcing local traffic onto the freeways.
One could challenge the assumption that they are actually great at moving high volumes of traffic short distances, from a couple angles:

- Your definition is that they're great at moving cars short distances. Stroads are as much defined by the surrounding land use as the design of the street/road itself. Getting around a stroad by foot, bike, or transit is difficult and usafe, and the number of destinations are limited. Therefore by a metric of moving people their efficiency is far lower.
- Even from a moving car perspective, stroads are oftentimes no better per width foot than alternatives. For example, American Blvd is ~110' wide near 77 (sidewalk outer edge to edge, some places wider) and handles 13,700 AADT (and further west handles 26k AADT but mostly 13-16k throughout the corridor. Compare that to boulevards in Paris such as Ave Victor Hugo - 80' wide and 15,200 AADT, Ave Montaigne - 105' wide and 9,300 AADT.

I don't mean this as a flame war of car vs non-car, just challenging the assumption that stroads like American Blvd handle traffic better

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby danie123182 » December 24th, 2013, 3:35 am

mulad wrote: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.
As someone from Bakersfield, CA who lived in Minneapolis for 5 years I can definitely say that the traffic signals in MPLS seem like they were timed by a 5 year old compared to here.

It seems to me that there is no priority given to major arteries in MPLS as opposed to side streets with regards to timing.

Here there are sensors at every signaled intersection. There are also sensors half way between intersections. Timings change on the fly. If I come up on a red light in the middle of the night and there is no one coming the other way it will turn green before I get to it. It knows I'm coming. All of the pedestrian crossings with the exception of downtown are on call buttons. If 30 cars are approaching a light and there are 5 waiting the other direction it will give priority to the 30. Etc. It's all done by a central computer that organizes traffic flow into groups of up to 20-30 cars that can be managed throughout the city. It works relatively efficiently. Basically the central computer knows exactly how many cars are on each major artery at all times and it also knows where they are.

It's not uncommon when I'm coming home at midnight or so to hit 20 green lights in a row. I'm serious.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby Mdcastle » December 24th, 2013, 7:54 am

Things are better out in the suburbs, the lights are all actuated, at least for side streets and when they're also timed, as on 98th street in Bloomington, you can make a bunch of them at once. I lived in the area long before they were timed, and the difference is staggering. Before while exiting the freeway I could never once make all the lights between the southbound ramp and my turn onto Pleasant.

Optimal timing usually requires lead/lag operation, and thus for protected/permissive phasing preferably a flashing yellow arrow to eliminate the resultant yellow trap. It was fun watching people here when lagging arrows were first implemented. They'd see the yellow for the cross street and start out and then slam on the breaks when they didn't see the expected lead arrow, and then not notice it when it did come on until the car behind them honked.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby seanrichardryan » February 19th, 2014, 9:54 am

Not quite the right thread, but it will do. Has anyone noticed quite a few stoplights out at some major intersections this week? Elliot & Lake, Lyn-Lake, 25th & Hennepin etc. They've been out for days...
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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby MNdible » February 19th, 2014, 10:06 am

I did notice the Lake and Lyndale intersection was out yesterday morning, blinking red. Big back ups, and then when I was actually at the light, it suddenly started working again, causing even more confusion.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby mattaudio » February 19th, 2014, 10:35 am

35th and Nicollet was out this morning too.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby seanrichardryan » February 19th, 2014, 10:47 am

I've been reminded how awful drivers are at 4 way stops. erg.
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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby seanrichardryan » February 19th, 2014, 10:51 am

Q. What, what? A. In da butt.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby MNdible » February 19th, 2014, 11:04 am

So, will the traffic signals become sentient as part of this upgrade?

Less importantly, will they be able to respond to real time conditions?

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby seanrichardryan » February 19th, 2014, 12:01 pm

I emailed the project manager of the signal upgrade project. Response:
We retimed these signals back in December and for the most part drivers should have seen improvements. We did recently lose communications to these signals so we can’t check the status of the operations from our office at this time. It might be possible that these signals are not running correctly. Can you give me more information on what you are observing at these signals? Any observations you can provide would be helpful in identifying potential issues.
I guess unless you 311, the communication center has no idea they're down?

Observations can be sent to nickolas.vangunst@minneapolismn.gov
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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby Realstreets » February 20th, 2014, 9:53 am

So did the traffic signal upgrade project also include actuated upgrades?! I thought it did but after checking out the website I'm not sure. We need these in the worst way. All anyone needs to do is drive down E 38th St from Hiawatha to Lyndale. It's maddening. Arterials and collector road lights should all be actuated. I think someone on here mentioned the timing of lights in California and why I don't think we should aspire to be like them in land use, they have traffic signals down. And it's not at the expense of pedestrians, either. Even in suburban Sacramento then have sidewalks everywhere, activated pedestrian crosswalks, etc.

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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby seanrichardryan » February 20th, 2014, 10:40 am

It appears water is still our enemy even in the new signals. Response from Traffic HQ:
Sean,

Thank you for your input. I did some checking with our maintenance group and we did have someone respond to the outages at 25th/Hennepin and Lyn/Lake yesterday. It appears we were unaware that Lake/Elliot was in flash; however we have dispatched our signal repair person to fix the issue. I am not sure as to what causes these signals to go into flash. My guess it is due to the melting snow and water getting into the bases of the signal poles. We typically have signals go into flash when there is a pile of snow around a traffic signal pole and the snow starts to melt. As the snow melts, water tends to drain into our signal pole base which houses the copper wires used to illuminate the different signal indications. The water will carry just enough electrical current from one signal indication that is on to another that should be dark. This creates a conflict, which trips our conflict monitor and puts the signal into flash. We do our best to respond to signals on flash in a timely matter, however if we lose communications from our office to the signals then we don’t know if they are in flash or not until someone reports it. If you see any other signals in flash please report it to 311. They will send the information directly to our signal maintenance group

Why aren't traffic signals on a slightly raised footing?
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Re: Does Minneapolis have too many stoplights?

Postby kiliff75 » February 20th, 2014, 2:11 pm

Realstreets wrote: All anyone needs to do is drive down E 38th St from Hiawatha to Lyndale. It's maddening. Arterials and collector road lights should all be actuated. I think someone on here mentioned the timing of lights in California and why I don't think we should aspire to be like them in land use, they have traffic signals down. And it's not at the expense of pedestrians, either. Even in suburban Sacramento then have sidewalks everywhere, activated pedestrian crosswalks, etc.
I second that, I live near 38th and Cedar and driving along 38th in either direction is maddening. Going to Lyn-Lake (less than 4 miles) can take 15-20 minutes outside of rush hour if you have bad luck with lights. At least Portland/Park and 26th/28th are both timed...but none of the other streets appear to be.


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