Wednesday, September 15, 2010

the law of unintended consequences

so i went to this open house a couple of weeks ago for the davis street improvements project. ellen vanderslice was there to explain the storyboards, field questions, and listen to feedback from whoever stopped by.

during the time i was there, at least, the event was thinly attended. of the handful of people who showed, two or three were business owners there in the neighborhood, which i would describe as a sort of warehouse/industrial district.

one of these, whose name escapes me, was teasing ellen that "maintain truck circulation" should be moved from third to first in the list of project goals. ellen insisted gamely that there was no priority among the three listed goals, but she tried to accommodate him by writing "improve" on a post-it note and sticking it next to the word "maintain" on the first storyboard.

i think the larger point the guy was trying to make was that the project has been framed largely in terms of bike traffic.

i talked with this guy for a few minutes, and asked him to elaborate his concerns. has truck access already been adversely affected by the changes to burnside and couch, i asked, and is he worried that the proposed changes to davis -- speed bumps east of 12th, removing the center stripe, putting down sharrows -- will somehow make things worse, that kind of thing. yes, he said, and yes. and subtracting some small number of onstreet parking spaces on couch has made it more difficult for customers trying to get to his business.

and those g*dd*mned bikers blow right through the red lights. of course, i am standing there with the messenger bag and the fingerless gloves.

i asked him whether the trucks that were making deliveries to his business, or picking up or whatever, were coming in off sandy or down 12th from I-84 or from where. he didn't know.

i was curious about the parking issue, because (a) the businesses in this district are for the most part not retail, so we are talking primarily employee parking, and (b) the aerial photos seem to show a lot of offstreet surface parking alongside many of the businesses. and i pointed out (commiserating) that when the streetcar comes through there will be even less parking on couch. he knew, he knew.

somewhat interestingly, he claimed that the onstreet parking on davis is largely park and ride -- in other words, roof rackers from gresham who park in this district for free and bike the rest of the way in to their jobs downtown (and inflate the numbers on the bridge counts). i suggested that this problem could be addressed by limiting onstreet parking to two hours. but he and i agreed that lack of enforcement would probably undermine this approach.

also, i am wondering why these people don't just bike to the MAX. possibly this guy is overstating the problem, but it is certainly the case that we need to come to grips with onstreet parking as part of any comprehensive transportation strategy.

anyway, to get to the point.

the impetus for the project, according to the storyboards, is that the burnside/couch couplet has pushed some bicyclists onto davis, but also some motorists, quite a number of whom are speeding. the speed bumps are already scheduled to go in, pretty much right away. removing the center stripe and putting down sharrows are still awaiting approval.

the feedback PBoT was actually looking for from this open house has mostly to do with intersection treatments at 12th and at sandy. nothing in particular has yet been proposed, and in fact the third storyboard says pretty much straight out that they are not looking at signalizing the intersection with 12th or extending the curbs there, because this would impede the flow of truck traffic. they are looking for "creative" solutions. got any? i don't.

the situation at sandy for cyclists heading east is complicated by the fact that the approach is at such an oblique angle -- and midblock, halfway between 15th and 16th. there really is nothing you can do there, apart from a signal, but i scribbled out some post-it notes and stuck them here and there on the map to suggest that they divert eastbound bike traffic to 14th and then put a much larger cut through the island they have constructed there to allow cyclists to continue east on couch. of course this would require an additional signal phase specific to bike traffic, and possibly some alteration of the curb extension they have already built to prevent motorists from connecting across on westbound couch.

off in a corner of the third storyboard was a summary description of something called the "burnside bridgehead framework plan," which is a project of the portland development commission. among other things, that plan would connect davis down to 2nd and from there up to the burnside bridge. but there is a great deal more to it than that.

the plan would completely redevelop a four-block area north of the burnside bridge to davis, from 2nd to MLK, as a sort of catalyst to redevelopment throughout the district. all kinds of mixed use, etc. might have the effect of slowing traffic on MLK itself.

not sure what kind of feedback, if any, ellen is expecting on the bridgehead framework plan.

1 comment:

  1. they should have left well enough alone. the burnside couch couplet was not necessary in the first place, and now they are putting band aids on the band aids to try and fix the new problems the couplet created. PBOT is a completely dysfunctional organization.