Wash U, Downtown to Introduce Car Sharing Program

A few months ago at a breakfast on employer strategies for the Highway 40/I-64 shutdown, I had the opportunity to hear how Washington University is handling the construction and their general parking woes. Steve Hoffner, Assistant Vice Chancellor at Washington University, began the presentation by highlighting an area that critics like to bring up with Wash U: its big spending. Wash U is building a new student center that includes a 500-car underground parking garage. The cost per parking space? $43,000!

Even for a school with a giant endowment like Wash U, those kind of dollars spent on parking just don’t make a lot of sense. So, what are they doing to handle their parking problems and the Highway 40 construction? Some of it is the usual: flex-scheduling, carpooling, and telecommuting. Wash U is also in their second year of the “U-Pass”, an unlimited pass for Metro buses and trains given to full-time students and staff. This program gave out 17,000 passes in the first year with 1.9 million trips taken on Metro. This cost Wash U $2.2 million, which Mr. Hoffner insisted was not a “special deal” for Wash U.

Most interesting, though was the announcement that Washington University is going to introduce a car sharing program by the end of this calendar year. The two major players in car sharing, Flexcar and Zipcar (who will merge into one company), have thus far missed the St. Louis area in their rollout. Instead, Wash U will be partnering with Enterprise, the locally-based rental car giant. Details so far are sparse — reservations will be online and unlocking the car will be done using a personal computer chip. Rates and car types are thus far unknown. (Zipcar and Flexcar are roughly $8/hour and often have hybrids in their fleet).

Don’t go to Wash U? Don’t worry. According to the Citizens for Modern Transit, the partnership also includes Pyramid Construction and Loftworks, allowing those downtown to car share as well.

Highway 40 History

As the major reconstruction project for Highway 40 alters interchange after interchange, you might appreciate a look back to the highway’s origins.

I’ve mentioned previously the nice photo montage that the Post-Dispatch has posted from the highway’s early days (look for the “Historic Photos of Highway 40″ on the right-hand side of the page).

KETC also had a nice feature on Living St. Louis with historic shots of the highway and a preview of the construction:

Red Light Camera Law

As people avoid the Highway 40 shutdown via alternate routes off the interstates, they should keep an eye out for the increasing number of red light cameras. Legal questions seem to arise with the use of these cameras. Here are a few interesting tidbits from web sites:

  • http://www.highwayrobbery.net/ — A very in-depth site on fighting tickets for red light cameras. However, this site is specific to California state law.
  • City of St. Louis Law for Red Light cameras. A notable difference from California law, which identifies the individual driving, is that St. Louis gives the ticket to the vehicle owner, regardless of the actual driver.
  • How long should a light be yellow? MoDOT says 4-5 seconds. For the gory details, see this page and scroll down to the table.

There have been efforts to standardize the laws for red light cameras at the state level, such as this bill which would, among other things, prohibit third-party companies from setting signal timings. However, I haven’t found any indications that these laws were passed.

What are your thoughts on red light cameras? Of course, these cameras are revenue producers, but do they also help with traffic safety?

Weather, Traffic, SPUIs, and DDIs

It seems that it’s not just thinning-hair computer science majors (i.e. myself) that have an interest in the area’s traffic. It looks like Fox 2’s own thinning-hair weatherman, Chris Higgins, has taken a liking to traffic in addition to the area’s humidity and cold fronts.

Chris posted to his blog recently about the proposed interchange at I-270 and Dorsett Road. One option being considered is a Single Point Urban Interchange (SPUI), used at Olive and I-270 and also planned for the Lindbergh, Hampton, and Kingshighway interchanges on Highway 40. Once considered novel, the SPUI is becoming much more commonplace in the St. Louis area.

The second option is completely unconventional. Called a Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI), this interchange actually has you driving on the “wrong” side of the road under the overpass. Not to mention it’s never been built in the United States. There’s a wikipedia article to explain a DDI, but Chris also has video of MoDOT explaining this very unique intersection. (You can view Chris’s full post here). MoDOT has also posted diagrams of the proposed SPUI and DDI.

This isn’t the first time that MoDOT has been pushing the envelope with traffic designs. Yesterday’s Post-Dispatch highlighted another interesting intersection, the continuous flow interchange, that just opened at Highway 30 and Summit Drive.

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