Three different ideas emerged this past week for how to make Broadway a better road to travel, along with three ideas for how to fix the cockamamie intersection at its western end.
Those ideas appeared in enlarged-sketch form in the basement of the New Haven Free Public Library. The consulting firm Fuss & O’Neill brought the sketches there to show the public plans it has put together for converting downtown New Haven streets from one-way to two-way and making them better for cyclists, pedestrians—and, yes, even drivers.
The sketches on display were from the second phase of a two-part, two-year $250,000 study aimed at a fundamental rethinking of how people travel downtown. The goal is to break away from the suburban auto-centered design of the mid-20th century, aimed at shuttling drivers out of town as fast as possible; toward a walkable, bikeable, safe, bustling city environment with slower-moving but also more sensible traffic patterns.
The study’s first phase, unveiled this past October, led to the proposed redesign of 10 downtown streets. Click here to read about that and view the images.
Those first 10 were the easiest to carry out. In phase 2, Fuss & O’Neill tackled more challenging blocks to reconfigure, with a menu of choices. Now New Haven will digest those choices, make some of them, then pursue the money to convert them to reality. (Click here to view all the Phase 2 slides.)
Some of the more interesting choices concern Broadway and its maddening, dangerous, confusing, heptagonal intersection (pictured) where Tower Parkway, Dixwell Avenue, Goffe Street, Whalley Avenue, Howe Street, and Elm Street converge. Fuss & O’Neill came up with three possible redesigns. Read on to see which, if any, you think works best.
The three designs all share the following characteristics: • Painted-green bike lanes. They’re next to, but not physically separated from, car traffic. A physical barrier (which some cyclists believe true bike lanes need) would have prevented the designs’ second common element, namely ... • Angled-in curbside parking. Drivers would back into angled spots. That would make room for more curbside parking and make it easier for drivers to pull out of the spaces. Drivers would pay at meters in the spaces instead of parking and paying at the current lot dividing eastbound and westbound traffic. • Grove Street and Tower Parkway, leading up to the intersection, become two-way. • The connection to Goffe Street moves a half-block away from the intersection. • Broadway and Elm become two-way streets.
The “Concept 1” vision (pictured) combines the eastbound (toward the Green) and westbound (toward Hamden and Whalley) Broadway lanes in one spot. It eliminates that central lot (which New Haven sold to Yale to plug a one-time budget hole).
That would free up land where Broadway now runs into downtown from Whalley and Hamden. That land could be used for new development, adding to the tax rolls and to downtown housing or retail or entertainment.
Concept 1 also eliminates the Broadway/Howe intersection. Drivers northbound on Howe would need to turn right onto Elm to travel downtown.
Concept 2 keeps Broadway split. It still gets rid of the central parking lot; it turns it into a central greenspace instead, with angled parking at the perimeters. This is known as the “keep it simple” option.
Concept 3 envisions a roundabout at the monster, former heptagonal intersection. The traffic signal would be gone. The goal would be to slow down traffic, but keep it running more smoothly. (Drivers would obviously still need to stop somewhat regularly for pedestrians.)
In this design, more space opens up between the angled curbside parking and the existing storefronts on Broadway’s north side. That could become a pedestrian mall or greenway.
“We pulled our hair out” coming up with solutions for the monster intersection, said Fuss & O’Neill’s Mark Vertucci. “It’s a tough intersection to figure out.”
Fuss & O’Neill presents its final report to the city in June. The next steps: City officials decide what they think. They draw up proposals. Local boards and commissions consider them; the public speaks up about them. Meanwhile, officials seek federal and state money to carry them out.
The South Central Regional Council of Governments (not the city) paid for the Fuss & O’Neill study. The group would also play a key role in seeking state and federal transportation dollars to carry out any plan.
Stephen Dudley of COG said it’s way to early to anticipate how much money the project will cost—because so much depends on which choices New Haven makes.
The city seems to have reached a consensus about the need to turn many one-way streets into two-way streets, observed New Haven’s transportation tsar, Doug Hausladen. The tricky part comes in making block-by-block decisions—which streets to convert, and how.
Take Temple Street, where it bisects the Green. Fuss & O’Neill came up with three choices for that block, too: Make it two-way but limit it to buses (pictured); make it two-way for all vehicles; eliminate the road and fuse the two halves of the Green.
City planners during the urban renewal period believed New Haven’s future economic survival depended on making it as easy as possible for the tens of thousands of people who had fled to the suburbs to drive in and out of the city for work during the day. That notion has been consigned to the dust bin of urban planning history. Now cities seek to become 24-hour “live, work and play” places. Planners want more people to be able to walk around safely, interact with other people, bike around, stick around after work to eat or see a show or visit a gallery or socialize with friends.
It turns out all those one-way streets, designed to move motorists out of town faster, actually made it harder to drive around, too. It’s confusing to know where to turn. Sometimes yo have to go four or five blocks out of your way to reach a destination just a block away.
Fuss & O’Neill’s Vertucci (pictured) recalled how “we had to take this ridiculous” route to drive to a downtown meeting during the planning process. That highlighted the need for the project they had undertaken, the real-world consequences of the maps they were staring at. On to new maps!
What a disaster and waste of $250K. While the general idea of turning one way streets back into two way streets is absolutely correct, these proposals look like they came out of a 1950s traffic engineering school in Michigan, not a modern, progressive city like New Haven.
I realize the proposals are conceptual, but they do a disservice to transit riders, incorporate virtually zero usable bicycling facilities that would meet the current national guidelines from http://www.peopleforbikes.org/green-lane-project (look at the map - it’s all sharrows, except for a single new bike lane on Church Street), and lack appropriate pedestrian facilities such as crosswalks and short crossing distances in many places.
Can we get a real city planning firm to take a look at these issues? Solving these issues doesn’t require pulling out hair, it just requires copying what virtually every city in the world is already doing.
The cities that thrive in the next century are going to be the ones that really put people first, not cars above everything else. Every other major city in the United States seems to be moving in the right direction, but somehow New Haven is being passed by.
posted by: Shaggybob on May 19, 2014 3:49pm
“aimed at shuttling drivers out of town as fast as possible;”
Try driving down College Street from Chapel to get an example of how this DOESN’T WORK.
Every light turns red in front of you- great for not allowing traffic to travel above 5 mph.
15 minutes to travel 5 blocks to get out of Town !
posted by: Bill Saunders on May 19, 2014 3:49pm
Since first moving here in 1990, I have always known this traffic nightmare as “The Circle of Death”.
In the second to last image, is that a bike lane icon on the left? There seems to be some kind of bike lane icon on the pavement near the girl on the bike, but further down the road behind her there are cars? And there is a bike lane between thru traffic and parking spaces on the right? I’m open minded, but I look at that picture and don’t even understand it. It looks more like a bicycle obstacle course than a street.
posted by: markcbm on May 19, 2014 5:33pm
“Circle of Death” is apt. However, I fear it robs the roundabout in Concept 3 of some potential nickname thunder.
I challenge you to come up with a name for Concept 3, which seems like it would send all the cars from Whalley, Dixwell, Tower, and Broadway - with no traffic light - into a whirl(d) of chaos. Spiral of Doom, maybe?
“Circle of Death” is just so perfect to describe Concept 3…
The NHI notes that under Concept 3 “Drivers would obviously still need to stop somewhat regularly for pedestrians.” ...Frogger 360?
posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on May 19, 2014 5:57pm
OH NOT AGAIN.
This intersection was redesigned what, ten years ago? (OK, maybe it was 15—I’m getting old.) It functions reasonably well giving its intrinsically ridiculous shape—a long bird’s-foot triangle.
Tearing it up to “fix” it will cost a lot of money and mess with traffic flow for YEARS while the work is being done.
Why is this a top priority when there is so very much else in this city that needs fixing, and that will not create a Black Hole of Construction Death in the middle of an area of high traffic flow—pedestrian, cycle, transit and cars?
Why make the “perfect” (as if!) the enemy of the Good Enough?
posted by: Anderson Scooper on May 19, 2014 6:51pm
The easiest way to simply that mess of an intersection would be to turn Howe Street around, and let it be a one-way street heading south.
Let Dwight Street then carry two lanes of traffic north and then things get much, much simpler.
The gravy would be to make Tower Parkway/Grove be two-way, and then you’d end up with two opposing pairs. Whalley-Grove and Broadway-Dixwell.
PS—you could even let Howe be 2-way up to Elm.
posted by: Stylo on May 19, 2014 8:32pm
I don’t understand why Chapel wouldn’t be converted into a 2-way street? It’s arguably the city’s most major commercial thoroughfare.
I agree with the other comments. These maps look like 4th grade art class projects. Have these guys heard that there are many planning and mapping software programs available. Instead of pulling hair out why not start with improving traffic flow with our existing traffic setup. And not just downtown. Here are some ideas. 1: Eliminate all the unnecessary stand along left turn arrows and replace them with the ones that change to a green light so cars stop waiting forever to turn left when there is no oncoming traffic. 2:Pedestrian Walk Lights. There are so, so many intersections in this city that do not need to have all traffic stopped in all directions for a walk light. In most major cities (including New York) crossing signals work the same as traffic signals. Pedestrians cross with a walk signal and a green light, with the flow of traffic. These cities have much more pedestrian traffic than New Haven. 3: Synchronize the traffic signals. The signals are so out of whack on most streets. Drive a block red light, drive a block red light, drive 2 blocks red light, drive a block red light and on and on. These 3 simple ideas would be very easy to implement, have a substantial impact on improving traffic flow and probably cost about the same as what the “expert” consultants have been paid so far.
posted by: LookOut on May 19, 2014 9:56pm
It is truly incredible how much time and money New Haven wastes trying to be modern only to appear archaic.
Only a few years ago, we spent millions on high tech traffic lights that were supposed to be synched to create efficient traffic flow. The money got spent. The results…..is anyone seeing a faster commute?
How about the 3 year project to design and install signage to direct folks to various points of interest in the city. (Another one that will be measured in millions of dollars). This would be a very nice idea if we were in the 1970s but WE’RE NOT. I challenge anyone to find 3 visitors to our city each month who do not have GPS in their car or on their phone or tablet.
Come on. Spend the money on safety…or art…or education (but not more vice-principals). The city spends over a million dollars a day but so much is wasted that we can barely keep our heads above water.
posted by: Bill Saunders on May 19, 2014 10:40pm
Maybe Chapel Street should be made two-way for bikers only, since I already see that happen everyday, and have never heard of an injury reported—How ‘bout that for a real time traffic study…...
In Connecticut we call them Rotarys. Roundabout is much more Massachusettes. Can I have some Jimmies with my Pop now, or do I still need to come up with that new nickname???
posted by: meta on May 19, 2014 10:42pm
Is all of the proposed angled parking back-in (reverse angle)? V progressive, but is the city and her drivers ready for such a shift?
posted by: Threefifths on May 19, 2014 10:50pm
With all these so call projects.Here is my question.Who will be able to afford to live here.
posted by: Stylo on May 19, 2014 10:55pm
Also, don’t all those Broadway designs involve destroying the parking lot that Yale owns? Did someone not do their homework?
I do like diagonal parking though. I could see it used on the perimeters of the green, and perhaps along Chapel where it’s now one-way.
Now THAT would encourage more people to park and explore downtown and the green, and open up more parking and revenue for the city.
posted by: Esbey on May 19, 2014 11:07pm
I like the new buildings in Concept 1. Currently, the two sides of Broadway are too separated by the parking lot to hold the retail district together. Putting another retail building or two in the middle would tie the area together. Could the new building on the left be apartments (I don’t understand its size or potential)? More buildings also mean more tax revenue with lower tax rates.
The other Broadway concepts create new “green space,” which is the opposite of what is needed here, it leaves the two sides of the street too far apart.
The only thing I will say for Concept 3 is that folks always hate traffic circles before they are introduced, but in fact modern traffic circles almost always work well.
posted by: Bill Saunders on May 19, 2014 11:22pm
How ‘bout ‘The Crash-O-Matic’????
(inspiration ain’t always instantaneous—maybe my brain should hire some outside consultants…..)
posted by: Bradley on May 20, 2014 7:06am
Anonymous, can you provide a reference to a U.S. traffic design manual from the 50s that included any accommodation for bikes (I would be pleasantly surprised if there was even a reference to bikes in the early editions of the UMTCD back then)? Bike lanes started to become common here in the 70s. Bike tracks are still rare in this country (although they are more common elsewhere). Even in Montreal, which has been developing its bike system for years, bike tracks are limited to a relatively small number of arterials.
Gretchen, I’ve watched the State Street bridge project drag on for what seems to be decades and understand how disruptive construction can be. Fortunately, some of the common elements of the plans (e.g., bike lanes) would not require construction. In addition, Q-Bridge’s proposals could be implemented whether or not any of these plans go forward.
posted by: budman on May 20, 2014 7:28am
My first observation, didn’t we sell that parking lot on Broadway a few years ago? How are you proposing a plan on land that the city does not even own. How did we go from such a great plan to convert other downtown streets a year ago, to this trash? Take it back to the drawing table people.
posted by: absolutmakes on May 20, 2014 9:29am
At first glance, I think I most like Concept 1. I’ve worked just off the Circle of Death for over 5 years and am incredibly frustrated by it’s design. The COD is a nightmare for all modes of traffic. I’ve long believed that Goffe St. cannot intersect here, so I’m happy to see its curled onto Dixwell (though I believe it should just be a dead end street to force through traffic onto Whalley or Dixwell).
Similarly, I believe the parking lot needs to be scrapped and converted into retail space. All of the existing buildings can be accessed from the rear on Elm St.
Yes, Yale owns the Broadway parking lot, and it owns most (all?) of the properties along this strip so it will be heavily involved in the project, but that shouldn’t prevent all of this from being on the drawing board.
As much as I love roundabouts, I’d be hesitant to insert one at this location. Roundabouts need more saturation in the NE before they’ll be accepted in a heavily trafficked downtown area. However, long-term, this may appear to be the best sln. I strongly believe that Tower Pkwy should be a 2-way street, no matter which concept is selected.
Onto the Whitney/Trumbull intersection - I avoid this spot as much as possible and don’t have strong feelings about it, although I do recognize it as a planning nightmare.
I attended one of the charrettes on the 1-way to 2-way conversions, and strongly support the ideas. However, I feel the scope is too limited right now. Chapel St needs to be 2-way all the way through West Chapel, along with Edgewood.
Q-Bridge - I brought up your 2nd point at the charrette and the mod said that ‘concurrent’ walk signals were largely a byproduct of the 1-way streets, and that they would be phased out with the conversion.
For your 1st point, I totally agree. Don’t tell anonymous, but in Michigan they utilize a system in which the left-turn arrow starts off as a blinking red, and turns green at the end. This allows for a much more efficient flow of traffic.
posted by: markcbm on May 20, 2014 10:33am
Crash-o-matic ain’t bad. You may have your Jimmies and pop whenever you please.
I picked up ‘roundabout’ from the British use. Now that I know the term is also used in Mass I shall strip it from my vocabulary. Please forgive me.
The important part is that no matter what plan the City comes up with, the NHI commenters will call them a bunch of morons who can’t do anything right.
The way people talk, nobody’s ever heard of a traffic circle before. Do you really think New Haven is the first place in the world to use a traffic circle in a busy intersection? Have you ever left Connecticut?
I’m torn between Concept 1 and 3. I think 1 is simpler and probably easier to pull off, but I am a fan of traffic circles and studies show they do help ease traffic as well as slow it down.
But either way, I fully expect the NHI commenters to have a field day and accuse every involved politician to have severe brain damage.
posted by: dwightst on May 20, 2014 3:49pm
I think the Elm St. design is an improvement, but it still looks like an unpleasant place to walk. A green, tree lines median would be a nice way to break up the concrete and asphalt everywhere.
posted by: anonymous on May 20, 2014 3:55pm
Shades of Zero: Traffic circles are a fantastic idea - they reduce crashes by 95%. I’m confident that the city could educate drivers on how to use them, given a few months.
However, paying lip service to the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders, in a city where the vast majority of adults and children don’t hop in a car and drive to work every day, is inexcusable. The concept plans need a lot more work to ensure that they meet basic standards of safety and mobility needed by people who don’t drive.
posted by: Scot on May 20, 2014 3:58pm
How about making Goffe St end at Bristol St. Carry Bristol St over another block to meet Goffe. (so if you were traveling down Goffe towards downtown, when you got to Bristol, you would have to take a left onto Bristol, then a right onto Dixwell). That would be one less street funneling into the huge intersection. Leave Broadway as is with the parking lot in the center (I think that works fine). Make Elm two-way between York and State. Make Tower/Grove two-way. Make the crosswalks at York and Elm raised.
Take the space created by ending Goffe at Bristol and broker a deal to replace the gas station and UPS store properties (between Whalley and Dixwell, no longer divided by Goffe) and build a 4-6 story apartment building with retail on the ground floor and parking below.
To allow Bristol to cut over to Goffe, you would just need to purchase part of the parking lot from United House of Prayer, as well as a small parking area on Goffe from whatever business that is. Arrange for the gas station to move a few blocks down Whalley and find a new home for UPS. (UPS property owned by Yale).
posted by: TheMadcap on May 20, 2014 4:33pm
Close Temple St completely(or baring that to everyone but buses and move the Chapel St bus stop at the south end of the green to Temple. It will make that segment of Chapel more kind to both cars and cyclists without so many buses coming in and out of one lane) and make Church st two way so it’s not too much of a headache for people going east to west to get around the green(assuming Elm stays one way currently).
Also, and I’m probably going to get flak for this from both motorists and cyclists, but I kind of like of Broadway is currently. Wait! Let me explain. I like the lower end of the island between Broadway/Elm that’s not a parking lot, it’s a nice place to sit and watch all the activity going on around you as well as hosting random events.
posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on May 20, 2014 7:44pm
“Roundabout” is British, although the word “Circus” is used in actually naming them, as in “Piccadilly Circus” and “Oxford Circus” in London.
The Massachusetts term is “rotary.”
The rest of the US, I think, just says “traffic circle,” and in Washington, where (as in London) they have names, they are “Dupont Circle” and “Chevy Chase Circle” and so on.
And they work very well. Having learned to drive in the DC area, I’ve never understood why people who aren’t used to them find them so scary.
Absolutmakes: I don’t follow your response on the walk lights. Does concurrent mean “walk lights that work together with green lights”? What system of walk lights is being phased out? You also mentioned that you brought this up at the “charrette”. What is the charrette? Another thing that should be addressed is all the No Turn On Red signs that are not needed.
posted by: robn on May 20, 2014 8:25pm
Scheme 2 is lame. (Sound of eraser hitting the table)
Schemes 1 and 3 are essentially the same except for the traffic circle.
Notably absent is Scheme 1/3 mirrored on itself so the main axis is Whalley-Elm vs Dixwell-Elm.
BTW… Why are we trying to solve THE most complicated area in the city when we could be plucking low hanging fruit and converting all other streets to 2 way?
posted by: Stephen Harris on May 20, 2014 8:31pm
Concept three looks best to me. Traffic circles are a time-tested method of slowing and taming traffic.
posted by: absolutmakes on May 21, 2014 9:31am
@ Q-Bridge: Does concurrent mean “walk lights that work together with green lights”? - Yes, exactly. Here’s a report from Greenwich that supports Concurrent Signals vs Exclusive Pedestrian Signals (NH’s system), http://www.greenwichct.org/upload/medialibrary/73f/Exclusive_vs_Concurrent_Ped_Phase_Final.pdf. Interesting to note that “Per the Federal Highway Administration, there are no known studies that show that implementing Exclusive Pedestrian Phasing actually improves public safety.”
What system of walk lights is being phased out? - A Fuss & O’Neill project mgr said that New Haven would be implementing a Concurrent Signal system as 1-way streets are converted to 2-ways (I haven’t seen this mentioned anywhere else, fwiw)
Another thing that should be addressed is all the No Turn On Red signs that are not needed. - I think the No Turn on Red signals are a byproduct of the Exclusive Pedestrian Signals (in order to prevent car vs pedestrian conflicts). I hope that they will go away if our current signal system changes.
From the Greenwich report, a few other interesting notes re: concurrent signals: - Creates a much more efficient signal operations by increasing green time, reducing the number of cycles which reduces congestion. - This phase is the standard in most municipalities throughout the United States including the heavy pedestrian areas of Manhattan and most most of our neighboring communities.
(This from pedbikesafe.org) “When pedestrians are required to wait a long time for a pedestrian interval, many will simply choose to ignore the signal and cross during a gap in traffic,negating the potential safety benefits of the exclusive signal
The traffic circle won’t work. Pedestrians will constantly be stopping traffic with walk signals. Better off with an intersection with walk signals that do not stop traffic in all directions.
posted by: TheMadcap on May 21, 2014 1:50pm
The crosswalks for the traffic rotary are set back from it for a reason, if someone is crossing at one, it won’t have to stop the entire circle. Cars in the circle may not be able to turn onto whichever specific street someone is crossing, but if there are two lanes in the circle(as appears above), then one lane keeps moving for everyone, keeping a steady flow of traffic going.