Lights | John Ginsburg
Chain | Angela Hamilton
Star | Sheri McCord
My Love Letter
to KISS | Jim Ousley
COVER PRINTED BY
ART DIRECTION BY
Michael R. Allen, Andrea Avery, Aaron Belz, Jack Biggs,
Andrea Day, Piedmont Chris Johnson, Chris King, Jim Klenn, Nina Lägel*,
K. Curtis Lyle, Sarah Raischel, April Seager, Mike Steinberg, Kerry
Traffic Lights |
by John Ginsburg
According to the traffic division of the City of St. Louis
Streets Department, there are
650 signalized intersections within the city limits. This number
may be inaccurate, as the
website for the division has not been updated since 1999, but
the question nonetheless remains: how many of the signals at these
intersections make ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE?
I think I was spoiled growing up in Albuquerque. All of the major
intersections there follow the same pattern. First comes the
left-turn arrow. At the same time, the cross traffic gets a
right-turn arrow (yep, all intersections have those, too), so there
are 4 directions turning simultaneously. Then, you get the regular
green. After that, you get the right-turn arrow. And so on. But, not
only that – these intersections are also pressure-plated, so if
there is no car in the left-turn lane, the left-turn arrow
doesn’t come on for that direction. Truly brilliant.
Apparently, the mission of the City traffic division is "to
facilitate the safe and efficient movement of people, vehicles, and
goods". Let’s focus on the word efficient, shall we? How many times
have you been at a red light in the City when there is no cross
traffic whatsoever? Or the light seems to go on forever and you are
in the only car at the intersection? Wouldn’t you think that someone
would have noticed how useless these lights are? Until I see an
opening for Traffic Light Signalization Timing and Synchronizing
Dude, I offer a sampling of my least-favorite intersections in the
City of St. Louis.
Roads to Nowhere
- Spring at Forest Park Parkway. Travel either east or west on
Forest Park Parkway. Get caught at the light at Spring. Look left
and right. To the north, Spring goes one block and then ends at
Laclede. To the south, besides some old industrial nothingness,
there is a bridge that no longer exists. So, basically, this light
exists, for what? The 5 people drinking at Humphrey’s who happen
to be parked on Spring? As if Forest Park Parkway is so damn busy
they could not turn with merely a stop sign? The worst part of
this light, adding insult to injury, is that the left turn lanes
on Forest Park get their own left arrow. There’s nowhere to go,
- Olive at Leffingwell. Similar to the above, this light is
always on, and never has any north-south traffic. Why? Because to
the south is an apartment complex, and to the north, Leffingwell
continues for a few blocks before ending. Where no one lives and
just a few people work. And, thus, no cars. Same goes for the
stupid-ass parking garage to the south of this location on Market
St. across from AG Edwards. Why?! It ain’t the 1950’s anymore. We
don’t have 800,000 people in the City. Neither Olive nor Market
are so busy that an apartment complex or a parking garage needs
its own damn light. See also 7th at Lebanon.
- 14th at Lafayette. Every now and then, a car or two heading
southbound on 14th Street is going to turn onto Lafayette. Sure.
But, does this warrant a traffic light? Of course not. Plenty of
opportunities to turn. It is not that busy on Lafayette. But, the
thing that is the most preposterous, the fist-clencher, the
hair-puller: southbound and northbound 14th street each get their
own separate time with a green light. There is NOTHING on 14th St.
south of Lafayette except 2 blocks of empty lots! The houses near
the corner of Tucker and Lafayette are east of 13th St., so they
have no need of 14th St. to access Lafayette. This separate green
for northbound 14th St. may qualify as the most stupid light
synchronization in town.
To Turn Left or Not Turn Left
- Forest Park Parkway at Euclid, eastbound. This is the
subcategory of “left only on left arrow.” Come on. Like we can’t
see whether there is on-coming traffic on westbound Forest Park.
Why are we forced to sit here while people behind us honk, either
ignorant of the sign telling us we can’t turn yet, or knowing how
pointless it is? Eliminate this nonsense. Also see Grand at
- Hampton at Lloyd. Another subcategory in which the left-turn
arrow (and only the left-turn arrow) comes on regardless of
whether or not anyone is in the left turn lane. Hello. Noone wants
to go to McDonald’s right now. Please don’t make me sit here, by
myself at this intersection, waiting for the light to change.
Install a pressure plate.
- Hampton at West Park. This is the final subcategory when it
comes to left turns, called “taking your life in your own hands,
because little did you know that the on-coming traffic STAYS GREEN
when your light turns red.” It may not be the most legal thing in
the world, but many drivers who are wanting to turn left on a busy
street sneak out into the intersection, and then wait for the
light to turn yellow so they can turn left at the end of the
cycle. Of course, the cycle is not over for the people coming
straight at you. This is the epitome of asking for an accident.
Traffic engineers should know better.
- The stretch of Manchester between Kingshighway and McCausland.
Count the lights and note the streets. The major thoroughfares of
Sulfur, Sublette, Knox, and Prather are among the streets that
cross good-ole Missouri Route 100. None of these are necessary.
Even Macklind doesn’t have that much cross-traffic, and besides,
what traffic is clogging Manchester? The M.P. O’Reilly’s and
Nick’s Pub crowds are travelling at different times than rush
hour. None of us are fighting our way to the St. Louis
Marketplace. The most bizarre thing about this 2-mile piece of
roadway is that within the last year, ALL of these intersections
received brand-new signals and street signs. For what? They’re
blinking red most of the time anyway. Best case of “somebody’s
brother owns a sign company” in town.
- Saving the best for last: Skinker/Clayton/McCausland/Oakland/Forest.
In front of the big-ass Amoco sign, no matter how the lights are
sequenced at this grouping of intersections, it never makes sense.
There is trying to figure out what to do when you come out of
Dogtown from Clayton Ave. and spend 20 boring feet on Forest.
There is the murderous timing of the signals where the I-64
westbound exit lets out (see the 3rd subcategory about turning
left, above). And, there is the mysteriously long left-turn arrow
for southbound traffic to turn at the Hi-Pointe onto either
Oakland or Clayton, which nobody gets to use because they are
waiting at the previous light. Even before the Traffic Division
gets around to updating their website, they should spend some time
observing the near-misses every few minutes.
I am sure there are many other stupid intersections within our
fair City. I acknowledge the lack of North City traffic lights
mentioned above. While I am not on those streets as frequently as
those in the central corridor, I can assure you that I have driven
around north of Delmar at all hours of day and night, and wondered
why a signal was operating the way it was, or why on earth it was
operating at all.
Imagine if I had talked about stop signs.
John Ginsburg is the Director of the University Center and
Student Activities at Webster University, where he is also an
adjunct faculty member teaching Urban Issues, St. Louis Politics,
and next year will teach a study abroad course in Namibia. He also
has his J.D. from Saint Louis University School of Law and lives in