Saturday, November 23, 2013

I just want to make a left turn

I'm out with the family, running a couple of errands. It's close to noon on a Saturday, and I'm just pulling out of the Taylorsville Harmon's to head southbound on Redwood, cut across three lanes empty of traffic and get into a left turn late at 5600 S to make a U turn. This way I can skip the freeway or making a long detour just to get to the northbound side of Redwood from there.

The line seems short with 5 or 6 cars in front of me so there should be no problem making the turn on the first signal. Boy, was I wrong. I waited 3 signals to make my turn. The light was super short, affording time for only 2 or 3 cars at most. Must be a fluke, right?

Same day, finished a little walk in the mall because it's really chilly outside and my wife Alice, wants to check out the indoor playground at the Southtown Mall. Normally, I'm pretty good at exiting from the mall to the freeway by getting in the right turn lane on the south side of the mall and taking 10600 S to the freeway. But tonight, around 6pm, I made a mistake and wound up having to made a left turn to go to State Street and from there, made another left turn.

At State Street, I waited 2 signals to make my left turn. Maybe I'm a little impatient by this point, and Alice suggests that I go to 9000 S to make a left turn there. No worries, right?

As we arrive at 9000 S to make a left turn, the line is long. Once there, behind all those cars, I think that maybe the signal will be long to let us all through. No dice. I wait one signal. I wait two signals. Baby gets impatient and starts to complain. I wait three signals. I'm singing songs to my baby to help her relax as she likes the car when it's moving. I wait one more signal. Now I'm impatient and ready to write a letter to the city hall.

By the fourth signal, I see that several cars blow the red light in frustration to get through. By the fifth signal we finally get through and I remember the last time I complained about this. I was referred to UDOT since traffic management on State Street and Redwood is beyond the city jurisdiction. Fun.

So, this blog post is for you, UDOT. It's Saturday night. You just added 10 minutes to my trip, and forever burned into my memory that I will always, always, always take 10600 S to the west to the to freeway and to avoid making any left turns on State Street and Redwood.

As I was driving home this evening, I was wondering, what could possibly be the purpose of these long left-turn signals? Could it be safety? Not with people honking their horns and blowing the red light at the end of the turn signal. That's a safety and compliance issue. I can't see any other safety related reason to set the signal to 11-seconds for people running north bound on State Street to make a left turn on westbound 9000 S. Yeah, I had time to count the seconds for the signal.

The most likely reason, in my mind anyway, is to discourage traffic from exiting State Street. I mean, hey, if we're going to raise revenue for the city, first we need people to notice the enticing restaurants and shops in the neighborhood. The best way to do that? Keep them stuck in a left turn signal so that other people will see the long line and just keep going straight on State Street. Seems plausible, right?

What is the deal here? You must have some very important merchants along State Street and Redwood who are desperate for traffic diversion to their shops and food joints. Whatever the reason for your ridiculously short left turn signals, I have already made plans to avoid getting stuck like that again.

For Redwood, if I'm leaving Harmon's, I'm just going to go straight, get on the freeway and head north to get back home. Sure, it's the long way around and it uses more gas, but at least I won't be stuck simmering about the short signals. For Southtown, I'm going to make sure that I am in the right turn late on the south exit of the parking lot to be sure that I can just get right back on the freeway.

For the hapless traveler who gets snared in these intersections, beware and take notes to avoid the left turn signals on Redwood or State Street. But if you have to use them, I don't think that UDOT will be sympathetic to your plight. This blog is written and directed at UDOT to perhaps elicit their concern, but at the very least, I get to vent.
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