Reversible lanes divide Phoenix Council Members

In a previous blog entry, it was noted that Phoenix Council Member Tom Simplot wants Phoenix’s reversible lanes on 7th Avenue and 7th Street to be removed (Council Member Michael Nowakowski also supports this view).  Two other Council Members have taken the opposite position, and their rationale is highlighted below.

The Arizona Republic ran the following article written by Council Members Greg Stanton and Maria Baier.  The Phoenix City Council will be discussing and possibly voting on the reverse lanes issue at the October 7 Work Study Session at 2 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 200 W. Jefferson St.  You are encouraged to attend the work study session and express your views on this issue.

The truth about reverse lanes

We recently learned from the editorial pages of The Arizona Republic that one of the three real fears Phoenicians have of “becoming LA” is increased traffic congestion.  We are concerned that eliminating the reverse lanes on Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street could lead us closer to that fate.  We offer the following with the hope that, as a community, we will base our decisions about the destiny of reverse lanes on the factual information obtained through intensive studies conducted by ASU and the City of Phoenix.

First, the studies found that the roads with reverse lanes are not more dangerous than most other roads in the City of Phoenix.  It turns out that traffic crash rates on Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street are similar to other arterial streets.  This is true for all kinds of crashes, including head-ons, pedestrians, and rearend collisions.

Second, there would be a substantial increase in peak hour commute times if the reverse lanes were to be eliminated.  This only makes sense. We would see the same amount of cars traveling on two fewer lanes each day.  This equates to a loss of road capacity of 33 percent in the morning, and 25 percent in the afternoon.

What this means time wise is that, for those traveling during peak rush hour on Seventh Street from Dunlap Avenue to McDowell Road, the commute time would be increased from an average of 25 minutes to 44 minutes in the morning, and from 20 minutes to 30 minutes in the afternoon.  Likewise, for those who use Seventh Avenue during rush hour, the increase in morning drive time would rise from 15 minutes to 29 minutes, and in the afternoon from 11 minutes to 19 minutes.  The result is a tremendous “time tax” on those living and working in our city.

Finally, it’s important to be truthful about how the elimination of reverse lanes would affect cut-through traffic.  Some residents along the reverse lane portions of Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street have complained that cars that cannot turn left at the arterial intersections instead turn left into nearby neighborhoods.

The analysis of the city’s professional traffic engineers is that if the reverse lanes are eliminated, much more cut through traffic will be generated in our neighborhoods –- the likely result of greater congestion.  Importantly, it may involve increased left and right turn maneuvers into neighborhoods as drivers look for faster routes through signals.

First, we must take steps to make the reverse lanes more user friendly.  Second, we must continue to explore ways to “calm” traffic for area residents and businesses in ways that do not impede the normal flow of an arterial street at rush hours.  Third, we must continue to monitor the need for reverse lanes.

If and when there is some actual evidence that the Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street reversible lanes are no longer needed, we can take steps to eliminate them at that time.  But not now.  Right now, we need them.

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