Let me preface this post by saying – I love the Cultural Trail. I use it a minimum of 4 times a week and, more typically, about a dozen times taking my daughters to school, picking up groceries at Marsh, getting frozen yogurt at one of the many shops along the trail, and just going out for a leisurely stroll.
Now, since I’m on the trail so much, I’ve gotten to know a few sniggles that have bothered me so I thought I would share them here on Urban Indy. Each item will come with a little list of concerning the severity of the problem and how fixable it is.
Side street turn radius
There is one main area where this is a problem – the Virginia Ave corridor. Basically, each time a cross street hits Virginia, the approach is at a 135 degree angle which makes for very high speed turns. The scariest place that I’ve encountered this is where southeast bound Virginia turns onto southbound New Jersey. If there was anywhere a bicycle rider or pedestrian was going to get badly hurt on the entire trail, this would be the place.
Here is the current turn radius:
There should have been a curb installed to make a 90 degree approach to Virginia Ave. The trail and the curb should have had visual and tactile differentiation so cars would be more likely to slow down:
The only real solution is to tear out the concrete and pavers and redo it with the above recommended fixes. I don’t see this happening soon.
Virginia Ave rail viaduct and Banker’s Life parking garage
Fixability very low
This is easily the most depressing portion of the Cultural Trail. You can’t plant trees down there and there is no sunlight. It is typically about 10 degrees cooler here and feels slightly damp all the time. While that might be ideal as a respite in the hot summer weather, for 95% of the year, it is very uninviting.
While there has been an attempt to make this space something unique with the Acconci light sculpture, so far it has been a bust. Fortunately, there may be an end in sight as Nuvo is reporting that it should be finished by September assuming that electronic testing goes well in June.
The obvious fix is to remove the rail viaduct and garage. Of the two, I see the Fieldhouse garage as being the more sticky of the two. CSX already has a bypass around downtown although they probably won’t be leaving anytime soon. The Fieldhouse garage is fairly new and I don’t see it going away until many more surface lots in the area have been developed. And honestly, I would be shocked if that happens in the next 50 years.
The Cultural Trail essentially ends at Pennsylvania and North St on the east side of Legion Mall and picks back up at Meridian and Walnut St on the west side. According to Chris Barnett on Skyscraper City, the Mall is considered a historical district and no accommodations could be made for the Cultural Trail.
It seems very unfortunate that the connectivity is lost in the section which is adjacent to the recently revamped Central Library, a Scottish Rite Cathedral in the midst of being refurbished, and some of the most impressive war monuments outside of Washington, DC.
The fix for this would be to head north on Pennsylvania, cross in front of the Central Library, and connect up where the trail ends at Meridian and St Clair St.
Over on the Gateway Arch post on Urban Indy, there was a good discussion in the comments about walk signal buttons. This included inaccessible ones (at Raymond and Meridian, where the button is off the sidewalk and over a curb), placebo ones not connected to the light cycle, and required-press buttons. While the Cultural Trail does not have any of the first, it abounds with the latter two. Here is a video of the light cycle at Michigan and Blackford St.
This is just a poor decision given that the IUPUI campus is one of the most walked areas. Students are walking this area very regularly and shouldn’t be required to press the button. I had to wait through 2 cycles to take that video because people DID want to cross and kept pressing the button.
While it is annoying to have to press the button and wait as a walker, it is even worse as a jogger. You might arrive at a light, press the button while the green is your direction, but then the walk signal doesn’t show up till the next green. The joggers I saw disregarded the walk/don’t walk signal altogether, which is unfortunate because it puts them in unnecessary danger.
As for the placebo buttons, these aren’t as bad, but still give you a false sense of being in control of the light cycle. If the button doesn’t ACTUALLY control the cycle, why put it in?
The fix is to get rid of all buttons on the trail and have a pedestrian walk signal with every light cycle. This is super easy to fix.
Fixability: Extremely high
It also came up in the Gateway Arch post that there are some light cycles on the Cultural Trail that just don’t make sense. The first is the light crossing Ohio along Alabama. There is about 30 seconds of dead time between the end of the pedestrian crossing and the left turn arrow. This is compounded when going northbound on the trail since you can’t even see that the left turn has a red light and a safe jaywalk could be attempted.
Another example that is solely about cars over any other mode of transportation is the pedestrian crossing light to cross Pennsylvanian westbound to the Legion Mall. There, southbound traffic gets an 80 second light, which is, on its own, ridiculous. Then couple that with a walk signal that doesn’t change until after Fort Wayne traffic gets the signal and you get about 30 seconds out of a nearly 3 minute cycle that is dedicated to pedestrians.
The fix is to retime the lights to consider all modes of transportation but, considering that I informed the Mayor’s Action Center about a month ago about the Ohio light, it could be harder than it seems.
The Conrad valet parking
We’ve talked about this numerous times here, on Twitter, and elsewhere around the web. The Conrad uses the Cultural Trail in front of the hotel as a parking lot. They claim it is for short-term drop-off and check-in, but it is very obvious that cars stay there for hours. The pictures below were taken on a Wednesday which is a slow day and there were 5 cars parked. None were idling or being unloaded. On a busy day, I’ve counted 16 cars parked on the trail.
The reason I gave this a high severity is not for any personal danger to pedestrians, but because we have a world-class piece of infrastructure that has been written about around the world. People from Chicago, London, and other far off, cosmopolitan locales are jealous of what we have. Parking cars on it is a slap in the face of everything it represents and makes the whole thing feel cheap. Imagine building a world class health and fitness facility and then putting a McDonald’s in the lobby.
The fix is an easy suggestion: move the valet area elsewhere. However, in practice it could be difficult to fix since there are likely deals and agreements that have existed before the trail was even around as to how the Conrad can use that space.
That about covers it. Be sure to share you comments on what I’ve listed here or if you have your own changes or fixes you would like to see. And finally, thanks to Urban Indy for letting me post!