Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Crossing 15th Street

It is forbidden to cross 15th street on the south side of Arch. There are two little men who say so. They're stick figures, caught in the act of walking, and they each have a red line drawn through them.

It doesn't matter. People cross here with great regularity. All kinds of people, not just distracted people talking on cell phones. That's because everything about this intersection - except for the little men - tells people that this is an ordinary intersection with four functioning crosswalks.

I understand that the traffic engineers are trying to cope with traffic coming off the Vine Street Expressway, the Ben Franklin Parkway, and even westbound Arch street. But they really should throw in the towel, paint zebra stripes on the south side of Arch, and take down the little men.

I know this will slow the cars down, particularly the ones that are trying to turn onto 15th street. So be it.

See also Love Park Garage: Close the 15th Street Exit.

Monday, December 14, 2015

My New Favorite Alley

It's the 800 block of Pemberton street. I don't know that it's Isaiah Zagar's masterwork, but it's the piece that speaks most directly to me. And I know why. It's a complete environment. There are a few spots on this block where Isaiah's murals give way, but to my mind that simply provides a pleasing counterpoint.

This is basically a trash alley. No houses front on it. But look at what they've done. The art is one thing. But there's also the fact that a whole little community came together, with the artist, to make this happen.

When I first walked onto this street a few weeks ago, I had a feeling that I don't often get. I felt I was being embraced by a slightly different world. One that Isaiah - and his patrons - had created. I know they didn't create it just for me. But at that moment, that's what it felt like.

This is the feeling that I want to have when I walk onto the 1400 block of Moravian, by the Union League and Banana Republic. I know it wouldn't look the same. But these alleys are small, almost womb-like, and they have a way of speaking to us that the Vine Street Expressway will never have. If only we will let them.

The 800 Pemberton block is only about two blocks from the Whole Foods market on South Street, at 9th. But it can be a bit tricky to find. On South, walk east past 9th, then south on Schell. At Bainbridge, do a little dog-leg and continue on Schell. Pemberton will show up on the left before you hit Fitzwater. It only extends from Schell to Mildred, so you can't actually get there from 9th or 8th.

Enjoy your walk. Isaiah has been doing a bunch of new work in this neighborhood. And enjoy 800 Pemberton. A fully realized environment.

And here's the neighboring block of Kenilworth street. Note the person sitting outside in a chair. She's kind of small, but she's there. This is what a city can do when it's not drowning in cars.

See also Alleys.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Love Park Garage: Close the 15th Street Exit

The traffic on 15th street at Love Park is a mess. One of the reasons is the 15th street exit from the Love Park garage. The exit ramp curves onto the street in something of a slip lane, which rapidly becomes a right-turn only lane. So people who want to keep going south on 15th need to change lanes quickly. And they do.

Meanwhile, there is no pedestrian crosswalk between Love Park and the Municipal Services Building. You're not supposed to cross 15th on the south side of Arch. And yet people do, with great regularity. It's quite dangerous, and one of the contributing factors to that danger is the garage exit, which adds complexity to an already complicated intersection.

So let's all rummage in our closets and find the hat that says Human Factors Engineer. Now put it on. The crossing is dangerous for pedestrians. We've forbidden them to cross, and still they cross. What should we do? Maybe make the crossing safer?

At this point a lot of people are probably thinking that West is crazy. After all, you can't close the exit. How will the cars get out of the garage?

Well, there's another exit, which actually lets out onto Cherry street, near the Friends Center. This exit has the advantage of keeping motorists off 15th street and out of the scrum on the west side of City Hall.

It's actually a better exit for people headed to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway or the Vine Street Expressway. If they come out the 15th street exit, they have to turn right on to JFK Boulevard, right again 16th, and then negotiate the rather gnarly intersection at 16th and Arch.

Another advantage of closing the 15th street exit is that it would facilitate installation of a bike lane on 15th street. It's my understanding that 15th street is supposed to be the southbound complement to the northbound bike lane on 13th street, joining South Philly to Temple University and other points in North Philly.

By the way, the 13th street lane seems to be working pretty well these days. The Parker Hotel construction site at Spruce is a mess, but one that is easily fixed with a few Jersey barriers. And the police have, bless their hearts, apparently come to the conclusion that the bike lane near the Criminal Justice Center is indeed a bike lane, and not their personal parking lot.

Over on 15th street things are a lot more problematic. I'm thinking you're down to Spruce before there's much hospitality for bicyclists. The crucial blocks run from Vine down to Market, and the only way to provide safe transit for bicycles here is to install a protected bike lane, which would have the added advantage of linking to the proposed bike lanes on JFK and Market.

By the way, people do ride bikes down this part of 15th street, even with the current conditions. As I watch them, my hair stands on end.

I hope this is the last installment of what I would like to call my Love Park Traffic Trilogy. The other two are Love Park Redesign: Why Are There Still Five Traffic Lanes on 16th Street? and Fixing Arch Street at Love Park.