Prioritize Pedestrians at Hiawatha Avenue

The City of Minneapolis is asking citizens for input on the signals at major intersections of Hiawatha Avenue. Yesterday evening, when the “smart” pavement sensor recognized my car and gave me a green light, I passed a pedestrian stranded on a porkchop island who should have had a Walk signal as part of that light phase. As I drove past him, I saw him glance up at the signal, confused as to why he still had a Don’t Walk. I glanced up at the thermometer in the console of my warm car. It read seven degrees. For all I know, by the time I rolled in to my garage, he may have still been standing on that porkchop island. It’s time to restore dignity to being a pedestrian in this city. It’s time to make all Walk signals automatic at Hiawatha Avenue. No more applying to cross the street. It’s also time to test Leading Pedestrian Intervals at one or more crosswalks.

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Previous posts of mine have advocated for various improvements, including rethinking Hiawatha Avenue itself as a more urban street. While last summer’s crosswalk improvements were a “step” in the right direction, including restoration of a missing crosswalk at 46th Street, much is still lacking. For starters, Walk signals need to become automatic. Pedestrians needn’t apply to cross the street, especially near light rail stations.

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Oddly enough, while those crosswalks were being improved in summer 2014, there was a period of about one month when the Walk signals were indeed automatic. It was the time between the new curbs and pavement going in and the pedestrian application buttons being turned on. The world did not stop spinning. We have inadvertently proven it works! Now is the time to make the Walk signals automatic.

As a pedestrian who crosses Hiawatha Avenue on foot, I say now is the time to make the Walk signals automatic.

As a cyclist who can’t decide whether it is best to cross Hiawatha in a lane of traffic or in the crosswalk, I say now is the time to make the Walk signals automatic.

As a father trying to raise his children in the city they can explore and enjoy before age 16, I say now is the time to make the Walk signals automatic.

As a Blue Line rider who stands at the 38th Street Station and sees countless pedestrians visibly confused about when and how to cross the street due to existing signals, I say now is the time to make the Walk signals automatic.

As a taxpaying citizen of the City of Minneapolis, whose government rightly says it prioritizes pedestrians, I say now is the time to make the Walk signals automatic.

As a driver willing to wait just a little longer in traffic, I say now is the time to make the Walk signals automatic.

Call 311 or email the City of Minneapolis today at HiawathaSignals@minneapolismn.gov.

This was crossposted at Joe Urban.

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53 Responses to Prioritize Pedestrians at Hiawatha Avenue

  1. Wayne February 12, 2015 at 9:11 am #

    Let’s definitely not limit this to just Hiawatha.

    Kill all beg buttons! Or only use them for audio cues for the visually impaired. But stop requiring extra actions to be taken to cross any street on foot. Make drivers get out of their cars and press the button to request the light if you have to.

    I’m sick of the most basic human mode of transportation being treated like it’s abhorrent and wrong. Make cars go out of their way and take meandering paths to cross pedestrian rights of way. I don’t care if it’s 2 miles down the road to the next crossing, go drive over there to cross.

    • Nick February 12, 2015 at 10:06 am #

      I cross Franklin Ave at Dupont Ave on days I ride the bus to work, as well as for general trips around the neighborhood. There have always been beg buttons to cross Franklin but they weren’t activated for the first several months I lived in the area. It was great!

      Since activation, the light cycle stays green for Franklin ave unless you push the button or a car is stopped at the red light on Dupont. After you activate the beg button, its probably 45 seconds before the light actually changes to give you the walk.

      Guess what happened after they activated the beg button? A lot more jaywalking. No one stands around and waits at the intersection for the light to change because it takes so long. The typical observed pattern is to push the button, wait 10-15 seconds, then cross against the signal because it takes way too long to change. A lot of people simply cross mid block. I personally don’t even bother with the beg button because I have places to go and busses to catch

      It should be noted that this is a relatively busy pedestrian intersection especially during the summer when people descend upon Sebastian Joe’s en masse. It’s a bafflingly stupid setup and I have to assume 0 pedestrian considerations were built into the signal programming despite the intersection serving patrons of Burch Steak, Patina, Sebastian Joe’s, the Lowry, the barber shop, and the dry cleaners.

      • Sam Newberg
        Sam Newberg February 12, 2015 at 10:39 am #

        Interesting. There is no shortage of jaywalking at Hiawatha as well. The most obvious is around the 46th Street Station, where pedestrians cross Hiawatha at the north end of the platform (45th Street) and the south end of the platform (about halfway between 45th and 46th). Hennepin County last fall actually did a pedestrian count at these locations, but I have not seen the results.

  2. D Maki February 12, 2015 at 9:45 am #

    My wife and I regularly cross Hiawatha at 42nd Street. We’ve noticed that even if we push the “beg button” we often do not get a walk signal for one or two cycles. This is typically the coldest and windiest segment of our walk, which makes it very frustrating to patiently wait while vehicle traffic is prioritized over pedestrian traffic. We’ve resorted to crossing whenever there is a break in traffic as waiting for unpredictable and unreliable walk signals is impractical.

    • Sam Newberg
      Sam Newberg February 12, 2015 at 10:04 am #

      Good point. I occasionally wait to cross (I don’t apply) and am surprised when a Walk signal appears. Then I look around and can usually identify the person who pushed the button, grew impatient and just crossed without waiting, well on their way down the sidewalk. It’s like “Pay it Forward” without intending to.

  3. Monte Castleman
    Monte Castleman February 12, 2015 at 10:45 am #

    Or we could install pedestrian sensors and not delay cars on every single cycle 24/7 whether or not there is actually a pedestrian around.

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary February 12, 2015 at 11:06 am #

      For a real-world test of the sensors, check out Lyndale and 56th. I believe it’s only activated at night, but it’s pretty nifty. (During the day, I think, there is always a N-S “walk” signal except when the light is about to change. At night, this walk signal only comes on as a pedestrian approaches.)

      In general I’m anti-beg button, but Hiawatha is a quandary, since a.) the signals are already incredibly tedious for Hiawatha traffic and b.) making walk signals automatic could potentially create unnecessary delays for trains.

      The sensors might be a good compromise option. However, I’m not sure they could adequate distinguish between north-south ped traffic and east-west ped traffic in the tight porkchop islands.

      • Sam Newberg
        Sam Newberg February 12, 2015 at 11:22 am #

        Monte and Sean, I understand your perspectives and I guess it comes down to basic priorities and tradeoffs. Yes, yesterday evening there was only one pedestrian present when I passed through in my car. Had he not been there, should cars waiting for a green on Hiawatha have had to wait for the Walk signal on 38th to cycle? I say yes, even as a driver. I’m sure many people disagree, but we need to prioritize access of people using all modes of transportation over the rapid mobility of those in cars.

        Allow me to point out again that there were automatic Walk signals for about one month last summer and the world didn’t stop spinning.

        Also, Sean, I’m not sure how Walk signals would create unnecessary delays for trains. Could you elaborate?

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary February 12, 2015 at 11:29 am #

          That part’s a little obscure. In order for the train to pass, the signals have to go through a cycle to allow cars who have to cross the tracks to turn onto/pass across Hiawatha. You’ve probably noticed this. Say you’re waiting EB at E 38th St. Shortly before the train crosses 38th, 38th St will get a green light and protected left arrow. This is a failsafe so that, even a vehicle did stop on the tracks, they could safely get out of the way before a train crossed their path.

          However, in order to do this, Hiawatha has to get a fairly abrupt red light — which is not timed out, but happens as the train approaches. (You’ve probably noticed this abrupt, out-of-cycle red light, too.) The only time it needs is the time for the yellow light (5 seconds or less) and a brief overlapping red.

          However, if the pedestrian walk signal is on, it must go through the full pedestrian clearance interval (countdown), and have displayed the walk signal for at least seven seconds before starting the countdown. This could mean that a 5-second delay before 38th can get a green could become up to a 25-second delay.

          Obviously, this delay may happen some of the time anyway, since pedestrians are sometimes present and do hit the button. But the less the signal is on, the better for the trains.

          Again, in general, I 100% the walk signal being on, especially for pedestrians following a main through street. But this is unique.

          • Sam Newberg
            Sam Newberg February 12, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

            Now THAT is an interesting point. In all the observations I’ve made of signals on Hiawatha, I’ve never noticed the scenario of which you speak. Typically the train trips the light cycle, but usually with so much time to spare that a Walk signal would naturally cycle before the gate arms lower and lead to a red light.

            In concept I’d be accepting of the gate arms coming down, eastbound light turning red even if the Walk signal is still ticking down. This wouldn’t delay the train, however….

            Worth contacting the city about, or testing in person….

            • Sean Hayford Oleary
              Sean Hayford Oleary February 12, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

              Right, but you can’t leave the walk signal on for N-S pedestrians while E-W traffic has a green (failsafe) light. The north-south cycle (including a walk cycle if there is one) must complete before the failsafe E-W cycle can start. Only after the failsafe E-W cycle has occurred and is done do the gate arms come down.

              This is, I believe, why 28th St does have an automatic walk signal for N-S traffic, while none of the other lights do — because that location the light rail is overhead, and there is no need for that failsafe cycle before a train crosses.

          • wayne February 12, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

            And here are great examples of why you should GRADE SEPARATE YOUR RAIL. Come on, Minneapolis. Bury Hiawatha or the light rail, but don’t let them run next to each other because all you get is a mess.

          • Mike February 12, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

            Will the signal actually stop (or slow) the train in this scenario? I have seen the cycle interrupted by a train as you describe, but I have never seen the train stop or slow down for one of those cross-streets. (what is this, St. Paul…)

            • Sean Hayford Oleary
              Sean Hayford Oleary February 12, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

              It would depend on how quickly it gets the signal that the train is approaching (and can accurately know how quickly it’s approaching). I suppose if it gets it 30 seconds before the crossing, and they can know reliably what that is, then there’d be no issue.

              I have seen trains slowing/stopped when the signal isn’t ready, but you’re right, that in general the signal priority works very well for trains within the Hiawatha corridor.

              And Wayne — you won’t get any arguments from me. Grade separation would have saved lives, improved the speed of transit, and avoided the signal mess we have today. However, I suspect the only way it would happen now is if frequency of trains became too great for the signals to handle, or if TH 55 Hiawatha were upgraded to a freeway — in which case, train and cars might alike be put into a trench.

  4. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell February 12, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    I think we really need to take a look at how we do junctions in general. We seem to have about 5 times as many signals and probably 10 times as many stop signs as other countries. Neither are safe or efficient for anyone.

    We should start with underpasses for people walking, riding bicycles, or disabled. No reason these should be delayed and endangered because motor traffic can’t safely negotiate its way through a junction.

    As well, most of our junctions should be proper roundabouts (NOT traffic circles, etc.). These are safer and more efficient for everyone.

    Where signals are required we need much shorter signal cycles than current. Over numerous days of tracking I wasted an average of 17 minutes per day at red lights with no cross traffic. I think my worst day was about 28 minutes wasted. And traffic engineers want to add gobs of lanes to save drivers 22 seconds?

    We should consider simultaneous green at many intersections for people walking, riding, or disabled. And, we should have adverse weather prioritization for these folks when it’s extremely cold, raining, or other inclement weather.

    OK, off my soapbox now. 🙂

  5. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell February 12, 2015 at 11:38 am #

    Back on my soapbox…

    We need much more stringent requirements for when lanes are added in order to reduce delay at junctions. Most of these projects seem to be predicated on reducing delay for drivers by a few seconds for a very brief period of congestion each week. This results in much longer crossing distances and often with crossing times appropriate only for the young and fast. These projects produce junctions that are significantly more dangerous all of the time to benefit a very few by a very small amount for a very brief time each day.

    We need to eliminate right-on-red. That we make a maneuver legal where a driver is encouraged to drive in one direction while looking in the opposite direction is asinine. I think we’re the only developed nation that still allows this.

    Off soapbox again.

    • wayne February 12, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

      Re: right on red, PLEASE let’s get rid of this. Most of the times I’ve been almost hit and halfof the time’s I’ve been actually hit by cars it’s been people turning right and not looking. But we value the lives of people on foot less than the time of people in cars as a society, so I guess I’ll just die and have no recourse because people are impatient and can’t leave earlier to get somewhere on time.

      • Rosa February 12, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

        AMEN

  6. Rosa February 12, 2015 at 8:32 pm #

    So, how can we give our input? Because I have a LOT to say about the intersections I use on Hiawatha (26th, 28th, Lake, 32nd, and 38th streets, mostly.)

    Mostly about why do they have those terrible right-turn cuts, just to cause cars to always be blocking the crosswalks?

  7. Froggie February 12, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

    Plenty of locations where this should be done, but there’s a very glaring reason why it won’t work along Hiawatha: the LRT. Sean already mentioned this….but it’s the haphazardness of clear phases prior to a train passage are why automatic ped phases on the streets crossing Hiawatha can’t be implemented.

    • Rosa February 13, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

      We could at least get some ability to cross the side streets parallel to a train that’s already blocking cars from going, if we took out the right-turn cuts where cars always stop across the crosswalk if they have to wait for a train.

      Or it seems like there should be some way to make it so both cars and pedestrians can cross Hiawatha at the same time, by restricting turns for cars, and time it to the train stops for people getting on and off the light rail.

  8. Monte Castleman
    Monte Castleman February 12, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

    One idea I kind of had was building a tight diamond at 46th. This would clear up one of the worst bottlenecks for cars and pedestrians would only have to cross a pair of two lane ramps instead of a wide suburban-style road with turn lanes. Hiawatha could probably be sunk down without too much extra ROW, maybe even keeping the Burger King and Walgreens, and with the Hiawatha mainline traffic no longer crossing 46th, then 46th could be reduced down to three lanes (with maybe a short conventional right turn lane at the ramps).

    • Matt Brillhart February 13, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

      I’m sure you’re not the only one who has pondered grade separation at 46th. I wonder if you could get away with a partial diamond (missing one or more of the ramps) due to the existence of right-in/right-out access at 44th, 45th and next to Burger King (~46 1/2 Street?), though the latter would be wiped out if Hiawatha were depressed under 46th.

      I don’t think anyone would bat an eye at wiping out the BK, Walgreens, or gas station to make this happen, as all of those properties (and the old freight rail ROW behind them) need to be redeveloped into mixed-use anyways. If building an interchange here was the impetus for dispossessing those properties (and later selling the remnant land), that could be a desirable outcome for the neighborhood. Of course, nobody wants a freeway interchange to be built in their urban neighborhood, so the design would have to be very, very sensitive to pedestrian, bicyclist, and transit user concerns.

      I vote for someone to make a fantasy map of a (very) tight diamond interchange at Hiawatha & 46th. The smallest diamond interchange I’m aware of is MN-7/Woodale in St. Louis Park. Anyone with Photoshop skills want to give it a spin?

      • Froggie February 13, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

        For the record, a light rail grade separation at 46th was proposed in the 1985 Environmental Impact Statement that recommended LRT along the Hiawatha corridor. And probably could be done more easily than grade separating Hiawatha Ave.

        • Matt Steele February 14, 2015 at 11:17 am #

          There’s a reason why the bridge built at 46th Street and Hiawatha stood for decades without being used… it’s an urban corner, not a freeway dump. Think about how much of a fail 46th Street and 35W is. Why would we want to replicate that fail on Hiawatha, especially when anyone taking longer trips can go much faster via 62 and 35W?

          The only rational response to the Hiawatha situation is calming the traffic to build bonds between the east and west sides. Maybe a multiway boulevard. Maybe just some pedestrian improvements that aren’t a ruse to increase car throughput. Whatever. Just not an interchange.

          • Sam Newberg
            Sam Newberg February 14, 2015 at 11:34 am #

            Jeez – I don’t remember that bridge. Anyone got a photo of it? Or know when/for how long it stood? Sounds like a job for Roper.

            • Matt Steele February 14, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

              it shows up in 1979 aerials and disappears by 1991. http://historicaerials.com?layer=1980&zoom=18&lat=44.91953717915981&lon=-93.21940183639526 via @historicaerials

              • Sam Newberg
                Sam Newberg February 14, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

                Wow. Cool.

              • Sean Hayford Oleary
                Sean Hayford Oleary February 14, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

                I don’t follow. What I see in that looks like a culvert or very minor bridge over low land or a creek. That’s a very different function than a bridge over the roadway.

                I agree that the best argument against an interchange at 46th is the existing interchange at Lake St. However, I’m not sure it’s an unreasonable suggestion to think that Hiawatha might still be upgraded to a freeway all the way from Crosstown to 26th (existing freeway border).

                Although 35W and Crosstown *might* be faster, they really serve different travelsheds. It’s about 5 miles between 35W and Hiawatha on the Crosstown. That’s about the same distance as 35W and TH 100 to the west, so the spacing seems reasonable (even if they in fact both end up downtown).

                • Monte Castleman
                  Monte Castleman February 14, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

                  The big difference would be that a tight diamond with Hiawatha sunk would have pedestrians on 46th cross two two lane ramps in the daylight, rather than a huge SPUI underneath an overpass.

                • Sam Newberg
                  Sam Newberg February 16, 2015 at 9:55 am #

                  The aerial shows what looks like a shadow along the north side of 46th Street for maybe 100 feet west of Hiawatha, as if the street was graded up in anticipation of the eventual construction of a bridge over a future Highway 55 freeway.

                  I’ll ask around and see if I can’t find a street level photo from back then – Google StreeView didn’t exist in 1980, right?

                  • Sam Newberg
                    Sam Newberg February 16, 2015 at 11:39 am #

                    According to Charlie Casserly on the Standish-Ericsson E-Democracy Forum:

                    “After they cleared the houses & businesses from the west side of Hiawatha Ave.,
                    they built a 4-lane bridge for 46th St. at grade, over big hole which was to
                    be the freeway trench for Hiawatha. It was an empty weed patch under the bridge
                    for years, and a great place for kids to ride bikes. It had railings similar
                    to the ones on the Ford Bridge. The road was narrowed to 2 lanes for cars,
                    then the bridge was eventually torn down for Hiawatha Ave. reconstruction.
                    It was a bridge over nowhere.”

                    Interesting. I’d love to find a photo of the grade-separated Hiawatha that never was.

      • Monte Castleman
        Monte Castleman February 15, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

        Here’s my fantasy map. Woodale and MN 7 is the closest thing to what I imagine, but even that is wider than need be, so I edited it a bit. Pedestrians now have 4 lanes to cross instead of 5 on 46th east of the interchange, or 3 lanes instead of 6 to cross Hiawatha. Looks like the suburban style buildings will have to go, which is just as well because it woudl provide a place to put a bypass while the Hiawatha trench is built up. I copypasted the Woodale bridge, but it could of course be built wider with bicycle lanes, cycletracks, or wider sidewalks. I don’t know if the ramps could be shorter, you wouldn’t need the acceleration distance as on MN 7 but there would still be a maximum grade.

        https://www.flickr.com/photos/26956281@N02/16353775848/sizes/o/

        I didn’t get into modifying 46th east to add bicycle lanes, cycletracks, or wider sidewalks although that would seem to be possible, nor what the redevelopement might look like at the intersection, but one other idea I had would be taking out the strip mall, and instead building housing there and over Hiawatha as an extension of the Minnehaha Park lid; the housing would have views of the park in two directions.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary February 15, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

          I don’t hate it. In the details, however:

          1. I think you would want to lose the channelized right-turn lanes and pull back the crosswalks. These are unpopular as it is today, and combining it with freeway-style exit/entrance ramps could make it even more ped-unfriendly.

          2. A guess here, but I assume 46th could probably go to a single lane (plus left turn lanes for Hiawatha). Part of the need for 4 lanes today is so that cars can stack in both lanes to get through a relatively short light at Hiawatha. With mainline Hiawatha traffic out of the equation, the lights can be a lot more favorable to 46th.

          3. If you wanted urban/neighborhood buy-in, I think you’d want to see something compelling about an overpass, like space for business in one of those mini-freeway caps (one in Columbus, OH gets shown a lot). This would make a night-and-day difference compared to the subterranean SPUI at Lake St.

          • Monte Castleman
            Monte Castleman February 15, 2015 at 3:03 pm #

            I kept the free rights due to the skew of the intersection as you mentioned below, One thing would be to add signals to the rights like Illinois does so cars would have to stop if pedestrian sensors detected a pedestrian wanting to cross.

            I agree that the right turn lanes from 46th might not be necessary, I went back on that and forth but opted ultimately opted to leave them in.

            I didn’t think of a cap right at 46th because I was trying to minimize spacing beween the ramps which wouldn’t leave room for much. Besides my idea of extending the MInnehaha cap as housing, you could continue the trenched section of Hiawatha and build on north of the interchange, or else instead of putting the east ramps as close to Hiawatha as possible, putting them as far away as possible and then building a cap at 46th.

            I also wonder about converting the Lake Street interchange from a SPUI to a tight diamond, and adding 24 hour lighting under the overpass. Putting the highway over the street was a bad idea, but I think it could be somewhat mitigated by these.

            • Sean Hayford Oleary
              Sean Hayford Oleary February 15, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

              Daylight-colored light during the day (like modern LEDs) would make a big difference at Lake St. I’m not sure you’d necessarily *have* to convert it away from a SPUI, were you to signalize the free right turns as you described for 46th. Although certainly, if I could snap my fingers and fix it, I’d rather it be a diamond.

              The lack of lighted underpasses during the day is a problem throughout the area — I’ve been trying to get Lyndale and Crosstown lighted all day. This is not an especially ped-heavy area, but it’s really bad — clearance under the bridge is low, and 14 lanes pass overhead (plus 10 wide, modern shoulder areas), so it’s really more like a tunnel than an underpass. But even shorter underpasses like 35W/Lake would benefit from daytime lighting.

  9. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary February 13, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

    Just one note, because several people have written about the free right turns on Hiawatha (or “Bloomington rights”). As a general statement, I agree that these make crossing the street more difficult and makes drivers less apt to stop for you (versus a normal right turn).

    However, I want to emphasize that they reason they exist on Hiawatha is largely because of the skew of the street — that’s why they’re generally on two of the four corners, for the two very sharp angles. You don’t have to have Bloomington rights because of that, but if you don’t have them, you either have to set the crosswalks quite a long ways back (meaning you’d have to walk a ways out of your way), or you’d have to make the mainline crossing distance quite a bit longer. Theoretically you could also tighten up the corner quite a bit, but that’s not likely going to be well-received, as this a trunk highway, principal arterial, and Minneapolis truck route.

    For examples: 28th and Hiawatha has no Bloomington right, but keeps the crosswalk in-line with the sidewalk, and so it’s a much longer crossing distance than the other intersections. France Ave in Southdale District removed a bunch of Bloomington rights, and took the other approach — they pulled the crosswalks back quite a ways.

    • Rosa February 15, 2015 at 4:15 pm #

      Aside from 28th, they’d be fine if they didn’t allow right on red. It’s not so much the cuts and islands, it’s the general fact that cars barely slow down to use them and never stop – even when there is a train – until they are fully in the crosswalk. Where they would have just killed a person, if a person were trying to cross. Drivers here typically don’t stop til they’re fully in the crosswalk anyway, for turning on red they often don’t even pause.

      Especially since that sidewalk is commonly used by cyclists (i actually have no idea if that’s officially the south end of the light rail trail or not), who are faster and less likely to be seen than pedestrians, it’s a big danger. And that’s for people going along Hiawatha, not trying to cross all those lanes of traffic.

      • Sean Hayford Oleary
        Sean Hayford Oleary February 15, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

        The trouble is, with those channelized right turns, they’re technically separate from the signal. So right turn on red is built in by nature, unless there’s special, additional signal equipment to manage the right turns.

        The only example that comes to mind in the area is Lindau Lane and Ikea Way outside the Mall of America. This is obviously not done for pedestrians’ benefit, as they’re actually legally barred from crossing here. Another theoretical option would be using a stop sign rather than a yield sign. This is done at Cedar and Riverside, but I’d think that’d be a hard sell for Mn/DOT.

        More likely on Hiawatha would be just pulling back the crosswalk farther back and eliminating the island (like the France Ave example above). Although this would probably make the street-crossing experience less stressful, it might still not be great for bicyclists, as there’s still a possibility of right hooks from cars on SB Hiawatha turning westbound. (And yes, the wide west-side sidewalk is the “trail” continuation between Minnehaha Park and the Sabo Bridge.)

        • Sam Newberg
          Sam Newberg February 16, 2015 at 9:22 am #

          One more simple solution could be painting thick stop bars short of the crosswalks. Drivers tended to respect the stop bars last summer when new, thick white paint was applied.

          Also, for the record, I (and the Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association) officially requested that last years crosswalk improvements include reconfigured porkchop islands to discourage fast turns. (shown in the diagram in this post – http://joe-urban.com/archive/we-must-do-more-to-improve-hiawatha-avenue-pedestrian-crossings/). Alas, the issue of truck turning radius prevented changes.

  10. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg February 14, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    I’m a little alarmed at the notion that 46th Street might benefit from a diamond interchange. That’s the opposite of what I’ve argued for – converting Hiawatha in to a multiway boulevard, possibly even selling excess right of way to developers and putting it back in the tax base.

    Yes, some of the auto-oriented uses at 46th should go away, be developed as higher-density, but they should also front on a more sane and pedestrian-friendly street, not a grade separated highway. Besides, I think that battle was fought for the last time and put to rest in the 80s.

    Just look at the Lake Street and Hiawatha interchange and the problems grade separation has caused there. The sidewalks underneath the roadway are often dark and hostile to pedestrians. Planning for TOD at Hiawatha and Lake includes what exactly should face the wall formed by transportation infrastructure.

    Making it easier to drive on Hiawatha will only result in more traffic. Besides, when light rail opened, traffic actually declined on Hiawatha, and this may be hard to believe, but traffic counts on Hiawatha are pretty low relative to its design.

    • Matt Steele February 14, 2015 at 11:23 am #

      An incremental conversion to a multiway boulevard. Yes.

      I have no idea how urbanists are pushing for an interchange (!!!) with a straight face. Have you seen Lake and Hiawatha? Franklin/Cedar and Hiawatha? Those are un-places. We can’t afford more of those.

    • Froggie February 17, 2015 at 9:33 pm #

      Hiawatha’s right-of-way isn’t wide enough for a multiway boulevard and have excess land to sell back. You can have one or the other, but not both.

      Regarding Hiawatha’s traffic counts, they’re middle-of-the-road (pun intended) for its design. Also, while traffic has declined noticeably on most of Hiawatha, that’s not the case corridor wide. From Lake to 35th is only 1,000 vpd off its peak travel.

      • Sam Newberg
        Sam Newberg February 23, 2015 at 8:56 am #

        But you can have a half multiway boulevard with the slip lane only on the east side where development can occur. There’s enough ROW to do that. It could be tried near the 46th or 38th Street initially. Buildings like Longfellow Station apartments would benefit immensely from a slip lane in front that allowed parking and drop-offs, etc.

  11. Rosa February 18, 2015 at 12:26 am #

    So here’s my question, after a few weeks of getting off and on the 22 at various parts of Cedar Avenue at various times of day:

    If the terrible long waits for walk lights to cross Hiawatha are somehow because of the train and the fact it’s a highway…why is Cedar just as bad? This morning at 7:30 am at 34th & Cedar there were 9 people waiting to cross, from various corners. Every single one of us had to jaywalk, even though the car spacing was 5 or 6 seconds between individual cars and even though every single beg button (four of them!) had been pressed. The southbound 22 waited while 3 young women walked against the light.

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary February 18, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

      The only beg button along Hiawatha I’ve used with regularity is at 50th St, and it’s been moderately responsive, although the APS audio does make it somehow more tedious. “WAIT… WAIT… WAIT… WAIT… WAIT… WAIT… WAIT… WAIT… WAIT… WAIT… WAIT…………… WALK SIGN IS NOW ON TO CROSS… HI-UH-WAH-THUH AVENUE”

      Anyway, the basic reason it’s so slow is that all the signals work in concert with each other. The idea is to get a car flowing smoothly through as many green lights as possible. This kind of signal timing works terrifically well on uncomplicated one-way streets like 26th/28th, but not very well in Hiawatha. So when you press the beg button, you’re note telling it to change to a walk signal — all you’re saying is, “the next time you’re going to give my street a green light anyway, please also give me a walk signal.” Even then, the signal is programmed to prioritize protected movements (left turn arrow) ahead of a walk signal. And if I recall correctly, I believe Hiawatha will only give a walk signal for E-W streets during their normal cycle — not their quick “failsafe” that happens before a train comes.

      All this leads to some pretty crappy wait times.

      • Rosa February 22, 2015 at 11:01 pm #

        I just don’t get why there’s not automatically a walk signal every time there’s a green light for cars – what makes it safe for car through traffic and not pedestrians? It’s downright insulting to have to cross against the signal when there’s 100% no reason for it to say don’t walk.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary February 22, 2015 at 11:16 pm #

          So there are two issues. One, just as a general rule, you often don’t get a walk signal automatically when following the path of a more minor street across a much busier street (especially if that busy street is very wide). Like on Lake Street you’ll note that you don’t ever have to hit a button east-west, but you often do to cross it north-south. The reason for this difference is that accessibility standards require quite long pedestrian crossing periods — on Lake St, generally at least 20 seconds. If the signal is only aware of a vehicle, it knows it doesn’t need to give a full 20 seconds, because the vehicle (bike or car) can clear it much faster. However, the lights for Lake St are much longer, so pedestrians walking along Lake get walk signals automatically.

          However, as I tried to explain above, Hiawatha is more complicated than Lake St because of the presence of the light rail, and the special song and dance it does each time a train comes. It actually needs to halt traffic along Hiawatha, give a green light to the cross street, then stop the cross street, then allow the train through and resume Hiawatha traffic. If a pedestrian signal is always on, it potentially delays the first part of that cycle, because it still needs to give pedestrians the full amount of time they’re allotted (around 10-20 seconds).

          That said, this is all a balancing act. It doesn’t necessarily mean they made the right choice — maybe it is worth a slight delay to the trains to make Hiawatha more pedestrian-friendly. Maybe (as Sam has suggested) it’s worth a more significant delay to Hiawatha traffic to have an automatic walk signal in all directions. But so far, this is why we’ve landed where we’re at today.

  12. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg March 6, 2015 at 9:45 am #

    On Wednesday (March 3) the Minneapolis Pedestrian Advisory Committee voted on language that instructs the city to make walk signals at Hiawatha Avenue automatic with each phase. I believe this goes to City Council next, so it remains to be seen whether this can actually become reality. If I can get exact language of the resolution, I will post here.

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary March 6, 2015 at 11:55 am #

      Interesting. Did they specify they want the walk signals automatic in all directions, or only for pedestrians walking along Hiawatha? (That’s generally easier to accommodate, but in this particular case has the LRT complication I mentioned.)

      If they’re in fact pursuing walk signals in all directions, I’m impressed, but I think there’s much lower-hanging fruit — for example, no signals along S Lyndale Ave (south of Lake St) have automatic walk signals for east-west traffic, even at the commercial center at 54th St. I was also told by an engineer that the City and County plan to eliminate most of the existing automatic (east-west) walk signals along Minnehaha Ave as part of this year’s reconstruction.

      • Sam Newberg
        Sam Newberg March 9, 2015 at 11:41 am #

        Here is the resolution:

        To: Minneapolis City Council and Council Staff
        From: Minneapolis Pedestrian Advisory Committee
        Re: Resolution regarding Hiawatha Ave pedestrian signals
        Date: March 4, 2015

        Background:
        In anticipation of additional traffic volume on and crossing Hiawatha Ave during reconstruction of Minnehaha Ave between 46th Street and Lake Street (April 2015 through fall 2016), the City of Minneapolis is reexamining traffic signal operation on Hiawatha Ave to see if further improvements can be made. The PAC, having studied and commented on the Hiawatha Ave reconstruction project, provides the following further background and recommended action regarding pedestrian WALK signals at Hiawatha Ave intersections.
        Pedestrians seeking access to neighborhood amenities, businesses, and transit services along Hiawatha Ave currently face long wait times to cross Hiawatha Ave. Pedestrian signals along Hiawatha Ave are currently programmed to only provide a WALK signal when a pedestrian pushes a button (an actuator). Push buttons can malfunction and can be difficult to locate or inaccessible due to poor placement, snow piles, or other conditions. Further, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), even when pedestrians are aware of the need to use a push button to get a WALK signal, the delay between when the push button is pressed and the WALK signal appears can be long enough that some pedestrians think that the system is malfunctioning. As a result the FHWA reports that only half or fewer of all pedestrians will actually use pushbutton actuators where the buttons are provided.
        Requiring push button use to trigger a WALK signal exacerbates the time required for a pedestrian to lawfully cross the street because a pedestrian who does not push the button or who pushes the button too late in a signal phase to trigger the WALK signal will face a DON’T WALK signal even though parallel vehicle traffic has a green light. Under these circumstances, confused or frustrated pedestrians will often disregard state law and cross against DON’T WALK signals or cross at mid-block locations without marked crosswalks creating dangerous situations for both pedestrians and vehicular traffic. Members of the PAC directly observed this cause and effect relationship when conducting a site visit to Hiawatha Ave prior to its reconstruction. For the above reasons, the requirement to push a button to get a WALK light results in lower compliance with state traffic safety laws, discourages pedestrian activity, can foster dangerous traffic situations, and, as a result, is a practice disfavored by knowledgeable traffic engineers.
        There are several pedestrian signal-timing schemes available to traffic engineers. The most common is standard (also called concurrent or pedestrian recall) timing, in which the WALK signal is automatically displayed at the same time as the green light for parallel vehicular traffic. In fact, during the reconstruction of Hiawatha Ave, this standard timing was in place along Hiawatha Ave. Subsequent to completion of the reconstruction, the standard timing was reprogrammed to instead require a pedestrian to push a button to get (or “call”) a WALK light.

        Recommendation of the PAC:
        • Vehicles at intersections are automatically detected, and pedestrians should be provided the same courtesy of an automated WALK signal without having to push a button. Since 2012, the PAC has urged that all traffic signals be set on this standard setting so that the WALK signal is automatically displayed at the same time as the green indication for parallel vehicular traffic.
        • Specifically, the non-standard programming of the signals along Hiawatha Ave currently in place should be reprogrammed to the standard setting so that a pedestrian automatically is given a WALK signal to cross Hiawatha Ave at the same time as the green signal for parallel vehicular traffic.

      • Sam Newberg
        Sam Newberg March 9, 2015 at 11:48 am #

        Sean, it includes automatic, or standard, walk signals for all crosswalks across Hiawatha, although it appears crosswalks along Hiawatha are not included. Not sure why, but could have something to do with your reasoning.

        I sure hope automatic walks east/west across Minnehaha remain after construction. I better get in touch with the city/county on this one in case we need to right that wrong.

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