I am a great fan of the Love Park redesign. Final plans were presented in a public meeting at the Free Library on Monday, October 26. I do have one improvement opportunity. It relates to the park's footprint.
At the meeting, Deputy Parks Commissioner Mark Focht related that, in addition to the removal of the slip lane at the southwest corner of the park, the southern sidewalk has been extended approximately eight feet to the south. This is a wonderful thing.
On the west side of the park, however, the treatment of the street remains as it currently is, with a total of five traffic lanes jostling northward. Removing one lane would not increase congestion, but it would calm traffic, particularly at the northwest corner of the park, where 16th street intersects with Arch and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This is probably the park's gnarliest street corner, which is saying a lot.
It's worth remembering that, up to Chestnut street, 16th has only two traffic lanes. It then bulges out over the next two blocks, eventually reaching five lanes as it passes by the park. Then, in the next block, up by the Cret Cafe, it's back to three lanes.
On 16th street adjacent to the park, the right-hand lane of the five is a turn-only lane that feeds the entrance to the Love Park garage, on the north side of the park. Because of the configuration of Arch Street, the only other thing you can do if you turn right at that corner is go back down 15th street. Why would someone going up 16th street want to go back down 15th street? Maybe you left your cell phone at home.
Finally, removing a traffic lane would allow the park to expand. Love Park is not a large place, and the extra space would be useful.
On the evening of Thursday, October 29, I went out and observed the right-turn only lane on 16th street, as it intersects with Arch. I watched for 15 minutes, from 5:08 to 5:23 p.m.
Seven cars and one SugarHouse Casino bus turned right during those 15 minutes. Multiplying by four gives a rate of 32 vehicles per hour, during the evening rush. Much of the time I watched, the lane was completely empty.
There are times -- for instance, the morning rush -- when we could expect more traffic in this lane. But of course there would be less traffic in the other lanes. 16th street is basically a get outta town street.
We really can live without that right-turn only lane. Time to extend Love Park to the west.