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  • The South Grand Driving Test

    Posted on September 18th, 2009 Toby Weiss 8 comments
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    I usually avoid driving through Grand Boulevard between Arsenal and Chippewa because it’s sluggish and congested.  News of the Great Streets Initiative taking it down to 2 lanes with a center turn lane from Arsenal to Utah caused instinctive cringe and a double-down on “must to avoid.”

    Steve Patterson’s thoughts on the Grand Test made sense; why do it for only 6 blocks?  I only use South Grand south of Chippewa, which is 2 lanes all the way with no center turn lane. Then again, it’s an even mix of residential and commercial, so not the same kind of traffic nightmares as in Grand Loop, proper.

    But what’s the point of conjecture when I could just test drive the test lanes?  And so I did on Thursday afternoon, at 4:30-ish.  I exited Hwy 44 at Grand, headed south towards home, and began filming at 4-lane Magnolia Avenue, ending just past Chippewa Street, where it remains 2-lanes until it ends at Carondelet Park:

    I like it! It took only 3:58 minutes (or 1.5 Beatles tunes) to get from Magnolia to Chippewa during the start of rush hour traffic.  The center turn lane in the heart of the South Grand Loop eliminated the obstacles that stop traffic or have us swinging fast, erratic lane changes to avoid stopping.  Other than the one red light I ran, it was my smoothest and most care-free tool down this stretch that I have ever experienced.

    It was actually rather distracting when it resumed 4-lanes past Utah, especially since I knew the wonky change back to 2 lanes at Chippewa was imminent.  If they’re serious about enacting real change, I want them to commit to 2-lanes all the way from Arsenal to where Grand ends at Carondelet Park.

    I took their survey, which has interesting questions, but sometimes seems manipulative to a forgone conclusion.  And they do not allow for comments like, “commit to 2-lanes all the way from Arsenal to where Grand ends at Carondelet Park.”  But I applaud their effort, look forward to the results, and urge you to experiment with it while it lasts.

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    8 Responses to “The South Grand Driving Test”

    1. Great Streets is NOT Complete Streets. Notice how the bike lane abruptly ends? In your video, a whole lane for travel is occupied by only 13 cars or approximately 2 cars per block. This comes at a great cost as this space could be used as a bike lane. Curb parking for cars creates traffic delays and greater risks for all road users as cars must parallel park and open their doors in the space currently used by cyclists.

      This experiment is designed for failure, but so are most progressive changes in the Lou region. If we want to embrace change it requires making alternatives more attractive and not just by reducing space for autos. Commenters at UR state that cyclists can always take alternative routes which is like saying “get in the back of the bus and enjoy it”.

      If a business needs to provide car parking then it should price that into their product (arrange parking off street) and they should not use public right-of-ways at everyone else’s expense to keep their store more attractive to consumers.

    2. Bryan A. Hollerbach

      “[O]r 1.5 Beatles tunes”–ha! I adore you, Toby!

      A few Sundays ago, I lunched at Sameem and idly watched traffic. Some of the kamikaze maneuvers I saw made me shake my head. Whenever I take Grand, I drive VERY defensively–too goddamn many maniacs.

    3. It should be noted that Toby was probably driving this stretch between 4 and 6 p.m., when curbside parking is forbidden. (Those “2 cars per block” probably had tickets on their windshields.) At any other time of day, that lane would have been full of parked cars. Which still doesn’t help cyclists, I know, but I thought the 2-hour parking restriction was worth pointing out.

    4. Couple of notes:

      First, Grand south of Chippewa IS 3 lanes (same as test area, not two) all the way to Holly Hills. I have lived at Grand & Delor for 11 years. The first three or so with four lanes. It was a freeway, accidents all the time, difficult to cross, and scary to park at the curb. The “new” 3 lane configuration made all the difference. It is so much more pleasant and traffic moves much more smoothly.

      Second, Darren, curb parking has never been prohibited at any time during the day along this stretch of Grand. Not sure where you got that. I will look again to see if it has just been ignored all these years but I don’t believe so.

      John, it makes no sense to exclude cars from parking on the street. I am a cyclist and love the street grid because it gives me options. Based on your comments over the years (on URSTL), you would prefer we eliminated cars all together — that’s just silly. The test configuration is the best of all worlds.

      Please refer to my comments on Steve Patterson’s analysis here: http://www.urbanreviewstl.com/?p=7343

    5. The drive seemed smooth. I have never been able to drive down grand that fast so, that was exciting. My facorite part was when you ran the red light.

    6. Honestly, driving on South Grand has never scared me, never caused me problems, and I do it all the time, at all times of day.

      I love anyone who times things with Beatles songs. That’s the coolest, Toby.

    7. As a resident of Tower Grove East, I drive down Grand on a regular basis, usually to go to my second home, Lowe’s. I had NO IDEA that this change had been made, which is proof that Grand was such a cluster-F that no one living in the area would even consider driving down that section of the street when there are more convenient alternatives. I’ll have to drive on it to see what all the fuss is about.

    8. Just catching up on things, and have to say my favorite part of this post is, “Other than the one red light I ran….”

      Thanks for walking (er, driving) the walk with your test, Toby. Your example is as consistently admirable as your passion for intelligent commentary on the BELT!

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