Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nodes and segments

A minor dust-up in Lincoln occurred this week when a local used car dealer, Todd Carpenter, put up a sign in front of his business blaming our Mayor for the fact that he’s going out of business. Mr. Carpenter asserts that the City’s action in redesigning the traffic flow on the streets adjacent to his car lot back in 2002 is the root cause of his business difficulties.

Disregarding the fact that Mayor Beutler was still four years away from being elected to City office at the time the change was made, and ignoring the fact that Mr. Carpenter was compensated to the tune of $375,000 for the loss of his right of way and reduction of his frontage access, I was still curious. My curiosity concerned the efficacy of the traffic flow redesign—Lincoln’s most recent use of one-way pairs. I’ve blogged about some of the impacts of these traffic engineering projects before.

This one, however, wasn’t quite as easy as 9th & Van Dorn, or 33rd & Sheridan. The area effected actually encompasses O Street, 56th Street, N and P Streets, and Cotner Boulevard. Counting the accidents requires including each of the adjacent intersections and each of the street segments between those nodes. On the map below, the intersections are yellow dots, and the segments and the magenta lines.

The task is also complicated by the fact that there was a considerable amount of construction and periods of street closures in the affected area during the early part of the decade. So, just to avoid that impact, I simply counted the number of crashes on these segments and at these nodes for a before-and-after period of 1998 and 2008. In 1998, the total was 97. In 2008 the total was 58. That’s a 40% reduction. Chalk up another one to the engineers.


Herb said...

Having dealt with this company, and in particular the owner, in a business to business environment (he was MY customer), I can tell you that I wasn't at all surprised when he made this seagull type move.

In fact, at the time that I tried to work with him (I made a business decision to refuse to deal with him anymore) I was frequently reminded of a certain recurring character on Saturday Night Live.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the fewer crashes are a result of the PITA this area became after re-design.

If I have business in the area, I approach from the north or south rather than get tied up in the one ways! (Try and swing a truck and trailer or a plow truck around a U turn or go into a mall area JUST to go back west is a silly idea!)

I will still take O Street east or west, but I haven't been to Carpenters since the construction - it is more difficult in my opinion.

I think he is probably right, but he was also very fairly compensated. There are plenty of other commercial lots available in Lincoln!! (It would be interesting to see his gross sales for years prior and following.)

Anonymous said...

It is easy to play the "victim" role and blame someone else for your failure, happens all the time.

We have become a society of "victims" riding the "entitlement" bus.

Anonymous said...

Oh, gosh...don't start bringing facts into this discussion. Of course he's going out of business because of the city's actions several years ago (with compensation to him). It has NOTHING to do with the lack of availability of car loans or rapidly dropping used car values in the current economy...

Mr. Wilson said...

Can somebody help me clarify the options for getting to the business?

West-bound O Street traffic can turn directly into the business.

North-bound Cotner traffic can turn directly into the business via O Street.

Can east-bound O Street traffic do a U-turn at Cotner, or is that forbidden by the "no left turn" signage? It isn't clear to me from Lincoln's rules of the road (PDF) if the signage prohibits both left turns and u-turns, or just left turns. (A specific sign is available [R3-18] to clearly ban both.) If a u-turn is legal, then see above. If not, then vehicles have to turn right at 56th and come back around on Cotner.

South-bound 56th Street traffic is the most inconvenienced.

Whatever the inconvenience to drivers, I wonder just how many car buyers avoid the business just because they have to drive three extra blocks to get there. Then again, Americans are weird. It wouldn't shock me to find out people are more willing to drive across town to the Interstate or Yankee Hill Road, but they won't put up with the inconvenience on O Street.

Tom Casady said...

Mr. Wilson:

Excellent point. The sign for eastbound O Street at Cotner prohibits left turns, but not U-turns. I drive this area a lot, and I've never seen anyone make a U-turn, but it probably needs to be replaced with the R3-18.

Greg said...

The hardest one to navigate is coming East on O Street. I imagine the development and growth of the 27th and I-80 car lots and the lots South of Southpointe also had somehting to do with the decline in their sales. Customers don't want to drive all over town to find cars to look at. It is so much easier to visit these two sites and still hit 80% of the cars new/used out there. I'm sure the economy had something to do with it as well!

Anonymous said...

I have a few friends who continue to complain about the one-ways in this area but to me, it's a huge improvement and I don't see why it's such a challenge for these folks. You do it once, and you have it figured out.

Tom Casady said...


I agree, it's tough to get there if you're eastbound on O, unless you plan ahead and take the 56th/N/O route. You've got similar situations in lots of places in Lincoln, where medians make it tougher to land on the object of your affection. Generally, I think people eventually get used to this, though, and figure out how to get their Starbucks. All-time worst one for me has always been trying to get a Schlotsky's at 27th and Superior!

My whole point in this post was to answer the question of whether it was worth the change, strictly from a traffic safety standpoint. Looks to me that it most certainly was. On a related note, my in-laws live on the one-way stretch of S. Cotner. They hated it when the change happened, but quickly adapted. I think it is just so much easier and safer to get in and out of their driveway now. There's been a large reduction in crashes along that stretch of S. Cotner, too. I haven't looked at the one-way stretch of S. 56th, but I'd bet that it's dropped down significantly, too.

I'm not sure how much traffic safety should trump convenience, but personally, this one works for me. It is, nonetheless, probably one of the more confusing spots in the City for those unfamiliar with the route.

Anonymous said...

What was the average total property damage and also the average injury level (on the 5 scale), for the post-road-rework and the pre-road-rework? You might understandably not want to find all that data, but it's worth thinking about.

Grundle King said...


It's clear to me how it's hurt his business. People would get into accidents at that corner, and would need a new car...boom, he's right there! Now with fewer accidents, that's fewer potential clients!

Anonymous said...

Don't you have to turn left in order to make a u turn. I think that covers it pretty well. If you can't turn left then you can't make a left turn u turn as well.

Anonymous said...

Is location really that important to a car dealership? I always base my vehicle buying decisions on past experiences with a dealership or recommendations from friends that have had a positive experience with a dealer.

Are there really people out there that would buy a car just because it was easy to get into the lot?

Gun Nut

Tom Casady said...

Gun Nut:

I'm with you, if there's something I'm interested in, I'll find a way in. I've been having regular visitation with a black Chrysler Crossfire.

Anonymous said...

They might have gone out of business because of the speed trap I always put out by that business.
Lot's of good bushes and signs to hide behind.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it illegal to make a U-turn at a "controlled" intersection?

Tom Casady said...


Nope, only if a sign prohibits it. This changed more than three years ago. You can follow Mr. Wilson's link to the ordinances. It's taking Lincoln a long time to catch on to the U-turn habit, though. It still makes me do a double take.

Anonymous said...

For any one who has never driven a F250 (or any other long wheel base vehicle) and tried to do a U turn at the mentioned intersection - just try it.

You will curb check the NW corner of the intersection!

And that is only if you are able to dodge the traffic coming south OUT of the mall - not stopping before making a right hand turn.

Tom Casady said...


You should get a smart car. You could carry that puppy around in your F250 just for such cirumstances--sort of like a spare. Or not.

Anonymous said...

Those Smart Cars sure are small, which gives them some unique applications. For instance, you can haul one around in the back of a cushy motor home. After all, you need something smaller than a bus for sight-seeing and shopping, after you hook up at the campground.

Tom Casady said...

Mr. Wilson:

On the way, 32 minutes after your original post! Thank you.

Thanks Tom. We agree that we should change the "fixed" signs on the medians to the R3-18. We will likely leave the L.E.D. signs, which are mounted on the traffic signal mast arms, as they are currently (a lighted "No Left Turn"
sign). Let me know if you have questions or concerns.

Scott Opfer, Manager
Street & Traffic Operations

-----Original Message-----
From: Thomas K. Casady []
Sent: Thursday, February 26, 2009 9:38 AM
To: Scott A. Opfer
Subject: O St. @ 56th and @ Cotner


A citizen brought this to my attention:

The signage prohibits a left turn, but not a U-Turn. Should these be replaced with R3-18?

Tom Casady

Steve said...

Nice job on the signage replacement, Chief. I have actually seen people make u-turns at 56th and O a couple of times. At least, they didn't hold up any traffic as there were no oncoming vehicles. I wouldn't mind the electronic no-left-turn sign going away, as some people seem to think it's a red light for straight traffic in that lane. On a related note, I've seen people (including my daughter) misinterpret the large white arrow sign for southbound traffic on 9th Street at Q or P (can't remember). They think it means you can go straight even if the actual traffic light is red. Man, was I surprised when my daughter blew through that one with me in the passenger seat! She lives on the east coast now, and it was the first she'd seen that light while driving in Lincoln again.

Anonymous said...

Glad she's drives on the east coast now Steve. I feel safer.

Anonymous said...

I think he is closing because of his slimy business practices; if people are seriously considering buying a car, they will find a way to get there regardless of the one-way streets.