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.

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