LEO’s Bardstown Road Rush Hour Plan

There is a proposal to take away rush-hour lanes on Bardstown Road and allow on-street parking all day long.

I have a better idea.

If we’re trying to make Bardstown Road safer, then take away the parking lanes during rush hour… and make all lanes one-way — inbound in the morning, and outbound in the afternoon. With the smoother traffic flow and extra lanes, we could even give a full lane to the cyclists!

And remember, this would be for only two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.

If the businesses think the loss of parking would cost them money, then take away parking only in the mornings, between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., when most businesses are closed anyway.

Think that’s too radical?

Iterations of these traffic-efficiency strategies are commonplace in other large cities. Washington, D.C., for instance, transforms several major thoroughfares into one-way roads for nearly three hours every workday.

Think this isn’t a progressive concept?

More-efficient traffic means less car congestion, which is great for the environment.

Is any of this going to happen?

Of course not.

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Louisville likes to think it is progressive, but we like our city officials to be moderate and centrist, and this is way too radical.

Still, the proposal to eliminate rush hour times and lanes on Bardstown Road is real. And while I’m strongly in favor of listening to creative ideas, scientific data or the advise of experts, this proposal isn’t convincing me. It sounds like the solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, or at least a plan that might create more problems than it solves.

My biggest objection to this plan is that anything that slows down or creates car congestion on Bardstown Road will result in more traffic and congestion on side streets. Longer commutes on Bardstown will lead more cars to Cherokee Road, and Baxter and Barret avenues — it already does.

Another objection is to the argument that underlies the proposal: Get rid of the existing system because it is too confusing — that green arrows and red Xs are too complicated for drivers, or that it makes them feel like they’re in a video game. First of all, confusion and ignorance are not good reasons to change good public policy.

More should be expected of us, not less.

The concern over signal and sign clarity does have merit. A 2008 National Highway Traffic Administration report to Congress cited “recognition errors” as one of the leading causes of car accidents (41 percent). I will concede that the arrows and Xs are not the easiest to recognize and, at times, difficult to see. However, if the rush hour system was a good idea before, the solution shouldn’t be to eliminate it, but instead to make it easier to read and understand.

The signs could use an update, too.

The other problem is that illegally parked cars, which create much of the rush hour problems, aren’t being towed. The clever, “Big Lebowski”-themed education plan that Councilman Brandon Coan spent time and money on should yield results. According to a report done in conjunction with Coan’s year-long education plan, only 11 percent of citations issued during rush hour on that stretch of Bardstown Road were to repeat offenders. This means people can learn.

If the problem persists, it’s time for the stick — tow cars.

Maybe cars aren’t being towed because of overcrowding in the city’s impound lot. If the city doesn’t have room to tow any more cars, maybe it should consider imposing higher citation fees for illegal parking during rush hour. This is what Washington, D.C., does. Unfortunately, I know from experience.

Until the city gets serious about keeping pedestrians on crosswalks and enforcing traffic rules, any plan would be ineffective. But any traffic plan should be to make traffic flow more efficiently, even if it sounds radical. Unless, of course, slower traffic keeps Mitch McConnell from coming to lunch in The Highlands. Then, I’m all for it.

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