Today I took the A Line rapid-transit bus south on Snelling, meaning to get off at University and catch the Green Line train. But I wasn’t paying attention and missed the stop at University. That meant I had to ride the bus all the way down to Marshall Avenue (which is about twice as far as the usual stop distance) before I could get off and walk back.
The reason it’s so far between the stops is that the enormous, hideous trench of Interstate 94 runs between these two major east-west Saint Paul streets, glorying in its eight-lane-wide bridge (on a city street!) plus the two-lane, one-way frontage roads that flank it.
This image shows the north-south Snelling Avenue bridge, part of the highway below it, and the frontage road, which is called Concordia Avenue. From the left, cars are arriving onto Snelling, having exited 94 at highway speed. On the right, cars go east on Concordia to enter the ramp onto I-94.
Note the spot where my green highlighted path jogs a bit to the left and then straightens out. That curving paved area coming from Concordia is called a “slip lane,” and it’s a hard-structured right turn lane that is supposed to be a yield. The concrete triangle that creates the lane is called a “porkchop island.”
You can’t tell in this photo, but the button that I, as a pedestrian, am supposed to push if I want to cross in either of the directions at this intersection is located on the porkchop island, so before I can push it I have to cross the slip lane. So if the traffic coming from the left has a green light, and there are people turning right in the slip lane, there’s no way for me to get to the button to ask for the light to change in my direction.
For me, northbound, there is a crosswalk painted on the street. There is no crosswalk for people who are walking east-west.
Cars and trucks come from the left side of this image at almost highway speed, as I said. They approach the intersection with no intention of stopping because their drivers generally know there is a bit of merge lane ahead, so even if the light is red, there’s no risk of hitting another car. Not one of these drivers stopped or slowed down because there was a pedestrian approaching the intersection.
When I finally got across to the porkchop island (and remember, I am completely able-bodied and nimble) it was because there was a car approaching a ways down the lane and I just hoped they didn’t accelerate toward me.
If there had been a pedestrian walking east on Concordia, they would have been even more endangered by on-coming right-turners because it’s a lot harder to look behind you as you walk and they would have been closer to the approaching cars than I was, closer to Snelling in the crosswalk. Plus those pedestrians don’t even have a crosswalk to signal their possible existence to the drivers in the first place.
This slip lane (like all slip lanes) is very dangerous for pedestrians, and its existence basically tells us that we don’t belong in this area at all. Moving cars as efficiently as possible is prioritized (God forbid drivers should have to wait to turn right! Traffic might back up onto the highway!).
Do the traffic engineers who design this infrastructure and insist it is needed to maintain “level of service” (which only applies to vehicles, not pedestrians) ever walk these streets themselves?
I doubt it.