BRT FAQ #006: The left turn situation

Because of the nature of the beast, many left turns off Broad will no longer be possible. Here’s why, how, and what it’ll look like.

It’s been all bikes all the time around the greater Richmond area for what seems like forever. Now that our streets are no longer clogged with pelotons, it’s time to get back to buses! Remember the BRT? If not, you can refresh your memory by reading the last five entries in this BRT FAQ series. Feel refreshed? Great, let us continue.

The thing that a BRT system has over its regular-type bus cousins, is the whole “rapid” part–it’s right there in the name! There are many, many things you can do to make your BRT even more rapid, but the easiest thing is to remove obstacles from its path. Those obstacles can take the form of stop lights, parked cars, pedestrians, and left-turning vehicles. Eliminate or ameliorate the effects of these things and you get a much more rapid BRT that can get you from here to there in less time.

To help rapidify our BRT, the Pulse, we are getting rid of a lot of left turns onto and off of Broad Street throughout the median-running section of the route. A ton of those random median cut-throughs that have, over time, become your special secret favorite left turn or U-turn spot will be sealed up. Some of the legal left turns at existing traffic signals will no longer be allowed, and a couple of new signals will be installed.

Where left turns are allowed, left turn lanes will be constructed and will eat up one of the parking lanes on Broad Street1. If your head’s swimming trying to picture turning left across two BRT lanes and two traffic lanes plus a parking lane, here’s how it’ll look:


And don’t worry, left turns will take place only at signaled intersections–that way you won’t have to worry about getting T-boned by a BRT coming at you from behind.

The net result of all these things you can see in this kind of confusing map:


So all of these left turns are going away, which does seems panic-inducing if you spend a large portion of your life driving around on Broad Streeet. But lest you think that the left turns have been snatched away with nary a thought as to how it will affect surrounding neighborhoods and businesses, I direct you to the back half of the GRTC’s Traffic Analysis Report (PDF). There you’ll find pages and pages of data about how frequently folks turn left at a given intersection. A quick example:

Left turns onto eastbound Broad from southbound Belvidere will be eliminated. At first, I thought, “Whoa that seems crazy, I turn left there all the time!” But apparently, I’m, like, the only one! Behold, traffic data:

  • During the morning rush hour, only 96 vehicles made that left turn (compared to 120, 320, and 148 at the other lefts in that intersection).
  • During the evening rush hour, only 91 vehicles made that left turn (compared to 186, 417, and 316 at the other lefts in that intersection).

That left turn, which I do use on the semi-regular, accounts for only 2% of the total traffic flow through that super busy intersection! So while I’ll need to find another way into town2, most folks will remain blissfully unaffected.

The left turn situation is definitely a big and not just exaggerated-due-to-grumpiness change. We’ll all need to alter how we think of Broad Street in the future–it may not be a great place to use as a conduit from some point As to some point Bs. Thankfully, the city is made up of many streets!

## More BRT FAQs

* [BRT FAQ #001: So what’s a BRT?](

* [BRT FAQ #002: Where will the BRT go?](

* [BRT FAQ #003: What’s the timeline, and when did it all begin?](

* [BRT FAQ #004: The bus itself](

* [BRT FAQ #005: What’s this dang thing cost to build?](

* [BRT FAQ #007: What does an outside expert think?](

* [BRT FAQ #008: What should I know before attending a public meeting?](

* [BRT FAQ: Holiday status report](

* [BRT FAQ #009: Who even knows about the BRT?](

  1. This is just one of the BRT’s rock-and-hard-place trade offs. By adding more left turns to accommodate more car traffic on and around Broad Street, we’ve eliminated parking to accommodate more car traffic on and around Broad Street. 
  2. It looks like they’re planning to reroute traffic to Marshall Street. 
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Ross Catrow

Founder and publisher of RVANews.

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