Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Most Dangerous Intersection in Albany County

Often, a report comes out and a year later, everyone has forgotten about it.  But it kind of sticks with you, and you can't stop thinking about it when you encounter some significant part of the findings.  This happens to me quite often, anytime I cross Washington Avenue to catch a bus uptown from the Armory bus stop.  To put this in perspective, the Armory bus stop takes me from home to two of my most visited grocery stores, the gym, Target, one of the two malls, the hardware store, a frequent professional errand and a host of other random locations, such as the GRE last fall.  (I may revisit the trip to take the GRE sometime, simply because it so easily illustrates the horrors of Suburbia for anyone outside of a 2,000 pound metal capsule.)

Taken from inside the bus.  The Armory Building is across the street.  Washington and Lark, Albany, NY.

The report that I mention is one from May of 2010 that lists the most dangerous intersections in Albany County, all of which are in the City of Albany itself, which, arguably, has beaten all of the region's other cities in the contest to see who can rip itself apart most effectively to appease the wishes of automobiles.  (Actually, this intrigues me.  Expect a map at some point in the future showing all of the parking lots in Albany. At least the big ones.  And the highways.  Oh man, could you imagine adding up all the places devoted to cars in your city or suburb?  That's a good idea.  Maybe in 2012 after I go around the ENTIRE FUCKING CITY and map that out I can give you a sample.)  One intersection came out on top as the most dangerous in the county, the one 3 blocks from my house, which contains one of the city's most prominent and important transit stations.  Additionally, it abuts the Center Square and Arbor Hill neighborhoods, which are both, for better or worse (better CS's case, worse in AH's case) pedestrian-oriented places. 

What the hell.

That's just not okay.  The MOST DANGEROUS INTERSECTION for PEDESTRIANS AND BICYCLISTS is at the intersection of two neighborhoods ideal for PEDESTRIANS AND BICYCLISTS.  The one place in the entire city that is least ideal for the car contains the intersection least ideal for everyone else.

Not okay, Albany.

I can attest personally, and I can also attest that I high-ranking member of CDTA who lives up the block has attested to me that the main survival technique at this intersection is to stare down the drivers making left-hand turns in front of you.  I would  also add that this means doing the same to those making a right-hand turn behind you.  As for the people running red lights, well, do your best.

A Google Map view of the intersection detailing the traffic light rotation.  Click on the picture for a larger (legible) view.
At the edge of one of the most popular pedestrian neighborhoods in the city, should pedestrians have to do this every time they cross the the neighborhood's major bus stop?  I would say no, that this system is a completely idiotic and runs counter to the city's commitment to sustainability, as well as to CDTA's proposed restructuring of the Albany County bus system and the millions of dollars they have invested in the region's first rapid transit system, BusPlus.

The new Armory Station - CDTA's BusPlus.
I am speaking from no experience beyond a hunch that installing a pedestrian light at this intersection would not be particularly detrimental to traffic flow.  It might even increase it, when those making left turns no longer have to wait patiently for pedestrians who are giving them the evil eye in an attempt at survival.  When you add in the cost of emergency response and, most importantly, the resolved loss of human life, the savings increase exponentially.

In October of last year, for example, a 13-year-old boy was hit by a CDTA bus (CDTA is our quite-awesome transit provider in the Albany area; they will likely be featured often here).  The story is too old to find a news article, but one of the Times Union Blogs mentions it in a post.

I may revisit this subject, as it's started to become such a simple fix in my opinion that it may become something of a crusade.  With the people in my neighborhood being the kindhearted, community-centered folks they are, I may even find a well of support, a group of ordinary people who have been waiting for the opportunity to do *something*.  I suspect they're out there.

I chose this are of Albany to begin with because it is the one I am most intimately familiar with.  Expect a post about Pine Hills/Saint Rose soon, as well as Downtown, Arbor Hill and the South End and more of Center Square.  Even Empire State Plaza and the suburbs will be here within a few months.  Promise. :)

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