Wednesday, June 17, 2015

In Which I Discuss Traffic Issues With the City of Saskatoon: A One-Way Conversation

Edited, to add the City's response and my own response to that, down at the bottom.

I've written a couple of letters to the city's Contact Us website. Here's the first one:

On June 16 just after 7pm it took me 15 minutes to drive from the Lawson Civic Centre to the SW corner of the mall at Primrose and Warman. The traffic was horribly backed up, and the surprise came at the end when I reached Warman and found that the right lane was closed just before the corner, forcing those vehicles to merge into the left lane. The only reason for this was to keep people from turning right onto Warman, which was already blocked off and therefore there was no way to turn right. As soon as we got onto Warman southbound, it was two lanes again. So my question is, why not just put up signs advising drivers that they won't be able to turn right at Warman, instead of blocking traffic? Are Saskatoon drivers illiterate? No, scratch that, I've seen how Saskatoon drivers behave, and this is entirely possible. However, I think your construction and engineering teams are giving us short shrift. If someone is already on Primrose with the intention of turning right on Warman, and if they don't pay attention to signage, they won't be turning right whether or not your Traffic Flow Incoveniencing Device is in place or not. In the meantime, the rest of us - already weary from the closure of the University Bridge, the closure of Warman Road, the decrepitude and soon-to-be death of the Traffic Bridge, non-stop potholes and who knows what other road construction - would appreciate the chance to be treated like adults who can sometimes make intelligent decisions and not have to deal with seemingly-deliberate attempts to stopper traffic flow for no better reason than "we have this neat electronic sign that we paid for and therefore should use it as often as possible." I thank you for your attention to this matter, as well as your patience with my rambling.

And here's a second:

Well, after yesterday's email to you folks (unanswered, by the way, but I accept that it has only been 24 hours: an eternity in this digital, everybody-hooked-up world of ours, but barely an eye blink for a governmental bureaucracy), it turns out that the electronic sign on Primrose was indeed moved. Good news! Sadly, though, the sign was only moved about 5 meters or so. This time (about 6:15pm), Warman Road north from the SW corner of Lawson Heights Mall was open so that people turning right could do so, but since one can also turn left from the right lane, there are many cars in that lane anticipating they might be able to do so. And again, since there are no signs anywhere between the Lawson Civic Centre and the corner, this comes as a surprise to those drivers. Although today allow me to offer kudos to Saskatoon drivers, who did a much better job of handling the surprise zipper merge. I can't speak, however, to how those drivers handled their dismay or even anger on finding there was again no apparent reason for this traffic blockage. Warman Road going south has no construction at this moment, tonight the road going north was also open, so again it seems the only reason this electronic traffic sign and accompanying pylons are in place are to a) aggravate local drivers, and/or b) get some usage out of an expensive sign that was just going to be sitting around anyhow. For your benefit, I have taken a picture and tweeted it to @cityofsaskatoon via my @derrylm account. You can see it here: I will be back in that area tomorrow, and do so look forward to seeing where the sign has been moved to then. Perhaps in the middle of the intersection? 

Then today I heard from Chris, with City of Saskatoon Transportation:

Good Morning Mr. Murphy,

Thanks for the emails and your sense of humour.

Warman Road is being re-surfaced so that is the reason for the lane closure. I know it can be confusing when a lane is closed down and you see no personnel around but it could be the crew contracted to do the work isn't at that specific location at the moment you drive by. The lane restrictions have to remain as the condition of the road is unlikely in a safe driveable condition.

The sign should be in the same place today unless, due to your picture showing it's [sic] awesomeness, someone has come and stole it.

 Thanks for your patience as the City tries to get as much road work done as they possibly can over our short construction season.

Have a good day,

To which I responded:

Hello Chris, and thank you for your reply.

The electronic sign was gone today. While it is possible the sign was moved by someone human, I worry that it may have arrived at some form of self-awareness, and respectfully request you have someone check the manufacturer's label to make sure it doesn't say Cyberdyne Systems. If it does, then I know a fellow with a nice facial scar who might be able to send me back in time to last autumn in order to try and stop this asphaltocalypse.

In the meantime, while the City was good enough to place signs up in advance telling drivers to get into the right lane this time (as opposed to the right lane being closed without signage the past two nights), there were no signs telling approaching drivers that, even though there was one lane open going southbound, we fools coming off of Primrose would not be allowed to turn left onto Warman. It was like the people in charge of signage felt it would do us all some good to receive a surprise, today's surprise being that in order to go left you had to turn right and then drive a very long distance in order to double back.

I suppose, though, this made as much sense as the electronic sign (Cyberdyne Systems T-300) blocking the road when there was no actual construction going on at the time. I understand the need to do the road and bridge construction now (8 months of winter, 4 months of construction are the two seasons, I know), but, at the risk of sounding like the classic definition of insanity (yet another side bar: Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result), I only ask that the drivers be warned so that we can make decisions about how to get where we're going in advance of arriving at the point of no return.

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