[Source: Arizona Republic editorial board] — The reversible lanes on Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue in downtown Phoenix can create safety hazards when rude or inattentive drivers use them. That’s true of any city street. But the reversible lanes do something a standard street design cannot: They move traffic efficiently during weekday peak hours, easing congestion and reducing pollution. This outweighs hazards, real or perceived.
For that reason, Phoenix should keep the reversible lanes but make improvements to lower the risks. It’s a decision the City Council should have made last week instead of passing it off to a committee. The key points now are:
- Better signage: Most commuters grasp the concept of reversible lanes: Use the center turn lane as a southbound lane during morning peak hours and as a northbound lane during evening peak hours. But current signs are easy to overlook. The city should add overhead electronic signals that flash a green arrow or a red “X,” depending on the time of day.
- Other remedies: More left-turn opportunities are necessary. This would please residents and merchants who say reversible lanes cause accidents and limit access to their homes or businesses.
- Traffic: A struggling economy and light rail give the appearance that traffic is improving on these streets, reducing the need for reversible lanes. But once the economy picks up, traffic will pick up, too.
- Cost: The citizens committee created by the City Council will study the problem, identifying a funding source and presenting recommendations by the end of the year.
Those who oppose the lanes, which have been in use for three decades, could be tempted to use the budget crunch to scrap them. Yes, any changes to improve reversible lanes will require money. But scrapping the lanes would be a disservice to Phoenix. Reversible lanes serve the greater good. They must be retained and tweaked to accommodate a vibrant downtown. [Note: To read the full article and online comments, click here.]
[Source: Eric English, ABC Channel 15] — The Phoenix City Council voted Tuesday evening to put off a move to alter the traffic patterns of 7th Avenue and 7th Street. The council will seek to study the often confusing ‘reverse traffic lanes’ for another six months. City leaders want to see what impacts the light rail system will have on the downtown traffic flow. The city will, however, move forward with additional signs and lighting for pedestrians at Glenrosa Avenue and 7th Avenue.
[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — For almost 30 years, commuters have relied on Phoenix’s reversible lanes to ease their morning and afternoon drives. That could change this week, when the Phoenix City Council meets to consider eliminating them. The council will hear the issue Tuesday, more than a year after receiving complaints from people who live and own businesses along Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue. The lanes operate on weekdays during peak travel times, from McDowell Road to Northern Avenue on Seventh Avenue and from McDowell to Dunlap Avenue on Seventh Street. In the morning, the center lane is used by motorists traveling south. In the afternoon, the lane reverses for use by motorists traveling north.
Phoenix’s streets staff said the lanes improve commute times, reduce air pollution, and discourage fed-up motorists from cutting through neighborhoods in search of faster routes. If the lanes are eliminated, morning commutes to downtown Phoenix are expected to nearly double: from 15 minutes to 29 minutes on Seventh Avenue, and 25 minutes to 44 minutes on Seventh Street.
But residents and business owners blast the lanes as a dangerous anachronism installed before Phoenix had Arizona 51 or Interstate 17. They say the lanes hurt business and diminish the quality of life between Camelback Road and downtown Phoenix. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
To voice your opinion:
- What: The City Council meeting at which members will discuss eliminating reversible lanes
- When: 2 p.m. Tuesday, October 7
- Where: City Council Chambers, 200 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix
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.
INCREASED COMMUTE TIMES
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.
INCREASED CUT-THROUGH TRAFFIC
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.
The City of Phoenix Street Transportation Department and Arizona State University will present their findings on Reverse Lanes on 7th Ave. and 7th St. study at two public meetings:
- 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 27, Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 N. Central Ave.
- 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 10, Acacia Library, 750 E. Townley Ave.
The Street Transportation Department studied the reverse lanes to consider the impact that the lanes have on neighborhoods and local businesses. The lanes provide north/south traffic flow and reduce congestion, but limit left turns during peak hours in the morning and afternoon. The department studied crash rates, lane utilization, capacity analyses, cut-through traffic, and operational alternatives. The city contracted with ASU College of Design – Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory to conduct a quality of life analysis of the reverse lanes.
The Seventh Avenue reverse lane, which spans six miles from McDowell Road to Northern Avenue, was implemented in 1979. The Seventh Street reverse lane, which spans seven miles from McDowell Road to Dunlap Avenue, was implemented in 1982. For more information, click here.
[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — Phoenix should improve signage along its twin reversible-lane corridors or else eliminate them entirely, according to a new study from researchers at Arizona State University. The report, which was commissioned last year by the City Council, will help decide the fate of reversible lanes on Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street. The council will discuss the issue in September.
For more than 25 years, the lanes have eased the way for commuters coming downtown in the morning and returning home at night. But residents and some merchants complain that the lanes confuse motorists and make the corridor unfriendly to pedestrians. Surveys of more than 200 people by researchers at ASU’s Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory found widespread dissatisfaction with the lanes as they exist today. The lack of left turns along the corridors causes cut-through traffic in neighborhoods and parking lots, erratic U-turns, and additional travel as drivers are forced to make a series of right turns, the authors found. Some drivers simply avoid the streets altogether. “Either an upgrading of the lanes or a return to normal operation is in order,” the authors wrote. “If there were an inability to upgrade the signage, we feel that a most popular option would be to return the lanes to normal operation rather than keep them as is.”
Councilman Tom Simplot, whose district includes part of the study area, said the findings confirm that the lanes are a detriment to the area. “I support the conclusion that the lanes should be eliminated,” he said. But eliminating them would greatly increase commute times — doubling them on Seventh Avenue, a separate analysis by Phoenix’s streets department found.