Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bad Intersections of DFW: A Series

There will be blood.

Well, hopefully not.  I mentioned on twitter that I've been meaning to get this ball rolling for a while now, so here goes.  Rather than idle kvetching, but rather identifications of the problems and then potential solutions.  Also, I'm opening the forum to suggestions via twitter and email for bad intersections around the metroplex.  There are many.  I haven't been on every intersection in the city, but all of us have.  Typically, I'll just have the one most recently on the mind.

For example, due to some health issues in the WalkableDFW household I've become the
chauffeurdriver in the house.  What would life be without its ironies?  And as such, living in downtown, working in uptown, and our various destinations in and around about a 2-mile radius, I'm most often making the most difficult drives in Dallas.  That's right.  It is far easier to hop on the highway and drive straight for twenty miles than it is to navigate the roads not funneling you onto the highway.  And we wonder wha- wha- wha happened to downtown?  Well, we opened the trap door and everybody fell out.

One of those typical convoluted routes I must take is the very Left-Right-Right-Right-Left just to make a right.  One way streets.  Gotta love'm.

Here is Federal Street at Akard.  It's a ten-second photoshop drawing.  I'm not getting paid for this, so no autoCAD drawing for you.  Suck it up.

Federal east of Akard was recently one of the very minor roads in downtown to undergo two-way conversion.  Unfortunately, because the planning profession is under the spell that all interventions must be "quick wins!"  Apparently quick wins means just doing anything.  And to make a one-way to two-way conversion in downtown Dallas could very well mean doing it on the streets that matter least, the small service alleys to minimize disruption.  So in the end we get all of the problems of a two-way conversion with very little if any of the benefits.  Woo!  Copy/Paste planning!

Ok.  So let's get into why this intersection is problematic:

You'll see there are three crosswalks.  Crossing Federal on both sides of Akard and crossing Akard in between the bisected and non-linear Federal.  Federal is one-way approaching Akard from the west and two-way on the East as I mentioned.  Akard is two-way north to south.  Problems occur with drivers on Akard turning left onto Federal and cutting the corner where drivers are now approaching Akard.  Conflict point 1.

There are also problems if you are on Federal approaching Akard from the west and wish to continue on Federal eastward.  Doing so, you have to make a quick right-quick left S-curving action.  Because Akard is one-way, the drivers are leaning out and only looking left, meanwhile pedestrians are to the right.  In other words, they're not looking where the pedestrians are.  Conflict 2.

The driver making the S-curve then waits in the middle of the street while the pedestrian crosses.  Then that pedestrian often makes a right to cross Federal, at which point the vehicle S-turning onto Federal eastbound is waiting for the pedestrian again.  Conflict 3.

Instead, what if we ditched the middle crosswalk and treated the two Federals like one big intersection:

There doesn't have to be a boat load of money for fancy paving patterns in the center square (TEXAS STAR!) or textured brick(-ish) pavers for the crosswalks providing a bit of traffic calming rumble to the cars passing as if to say, "look buddy time to slow down a bit, pedestrians be lurking and ready to jump into your grill and ruin your day."  GEICO on line 2.

I understand the desire lines of pedestrians can often compel them to make the shortest distance angle, but the new crosswalks would provide a bit more clarity for where they should be as well as where drivers should expect them, while providing a bit more room to swivel head, see them, and slow down if necessary.
Send me your "Bad Intersections of DFW" and if they make the cut for suitable BEFORE/AFTER analysis and recommendations, I'll include them in this on-going series.