Why are traffic lights still flashing red in downtown Grand Rapids?

Anyone who’s been to downtown Grand Rapids recently has probably noticed what appears to be an aftermath of the pandemic, darkened pedestrian signals and flashing traffic lights.

Why are there flashing red lights in Grand Rapids?

Back in the peak days (is it okay to say about the pandemic?) in Covid, downtown Grand Rapids saw itself almost deserted overnight as thousands of travelers per day dwindled to hundreds.

Ken Evans / TSM

Ken Evans / TSM

Presumably, around that time, the city decided to switch many of its downtown signs to “overnight” mode, flashing red lights indicating a four-stop vehicle and out-of-service pedestrian crossing lights that are supposed to give pedestrians the right of way at the intersection.

Why were pedestrian lights closed in downtown Grand Rapids?

With downtown car and pedestrian traffic declining for most of 2020 and 2021, the city will likely simply convert most of its intersections to 4 stops. In fact, when I returned to work in Downtown Grand Rapids in April 2021, the only traffic I saw in DeVos Place was during the initial vaccination clinics.

Ken Evans / TSM

Ken Evans / TSM

But now on weekends and event nights, you can find traffic jams around Van Andel Square and pedestrians not sure when to ‘go’ without police help or confidence that the multi-ton driver knows you have the right of way.

Ken Evans / TSM

Ken Evans / TSM

Just outside our office we found two flashing reds and no crossing lights on Lewis Street both on Ionia and Ottawa Streets, a block from the track.

Does Grand Rapids maintain four-way stops downtown?

While you may have had a flashing red light or had trouble crossing without a pedestrian light lately, it doesn’t seem like a permanent change from Grand Rapids.

GR Transportation / Facebook

GR Transportation / Facebook

In a recent social media post, they even reminded residents to report the flashing-light intersections of the city’s 311 system:

Our traffic lights do a great job every day (thanks to great work from the City of Grand Rapids staff!) but no signal is perfect, if you notice a traffic light isn’t working report it…

How do you report a blinking or out of service traffic light in Grand Rapids?

Here are the steps from Grand Rapids Transportation:

  1. Note the location of the traffic light. We will ask you for the location of the traffic light. It helps to get an address close to the traffic light.
  2. Give us a connection. Call 311 or 616-456-3000. Is this a red, yellow or green traffic light problem? Call us immediately – this is an emergency. If you’re calling after 5:00 PM, we still want to know right away.
  3. Listen to the prompts. If you’re calling during business hours Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., stay on the line with the next agent. If you are calling outside of business hours, press 2. Wait until you hear the lights, signs and emergency signals and press 2 again.
  4. Report an outage. Tell us about the outage and the location of the traffic light.

A Peek at Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

I had the pleasure of going to Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience when it came to Detroit. Now, it’s available to try at Grand Rapids, and I highly recommend it. It was an unparalleled experience. It allowed you to feel as if you were in Van Gogh’s paintings. You are widely surrounded by them. And if you haven’t seen much of his work before, this is an excellent opportunity to do so. Check out a bit of what you can expect from this experience in the gallery below.

10 unclaimed Michigan license plates

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