Monday, April 18, 2011

open letter to ellen vanderslice


i enjoyed talking with you the other day at the open house for the northeast williams traffic safety project. you guys put on a very good presentation, and i think you provided a good opportunity for meaningful public feedback.

i actually like what you are proposing for segment 1, not that i myself have ever had any difficulty passing a bus on the left where appropriate and letting the bus overtake me safely where appropriate. but i acknowledge that certain formal treatments such as the cycletrack with the boarding islands to the left can actually facilitate a rational interaction between modes. and i said as much to adrian when i spoke with him.

much of what michelle and alta and PBoT have put forward is reasonably well thought through. but as i mentioned to you, and to michelle, and to adrian on saturday, i do have problems with your plans for segment 4.

if you cannot persuade the merchants to give up onstreet parking, and you choose to yield to them on the issue, then you should give up the second travel lane, simple as that. the existing configuration is unacceptable, because a narrow bike lane is squeezed between a narrow travel lane and a not very wide parking strip.

i simply will not use the existing bike lane, and an overtaking motorist can just move over to the left lane as far as i am concerned, 814.420 be damned. what PBoT should do is reinforce this reality by removing the stripe and putting in sharrows. the proposed dashed "advisory" bike lane is unacceptable, because it continues to suggest to both cyclists and motorists that it is somehow safe for the cyclist to ride that far to the right.

on a somewhat different note, let me reiterate something i suggested to you on saturday, for which there really was not time for any lengthy discussion.

by saying they cannot do without the onstreet parking, the merchants are acknowledging that they are burdening the transportation infrastructure. this is just a tautology.

PBoT is trying to address a situation here that involves a heck of a lot of traffic -- motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians --, and that has potential effects throughout the neighborhoods, not just on williams, if any substantial diversion results from anything you are doing.

to me, this almost cries out for a transportation system development charge overlay. suddenly, we are talking serious money. you can actually signalize all these intersections and put in some curb extensions, boarding islands, and so on. and you can actually deal with some of the side issues on cook or fremont or wherever, maybe build out the rodney greenway.

it is not too late to start thinking on a larger scale here. let's do it right.


stray thoughts on williams

[slightly edited from something i posted to the AROW discussion boards the other day]

in segments 2 and 5 (that is, from the I-5 onramp to russell, and from skidmore to killingsworth), they are talking about taking it down to one travel lane, but that lane would be 13 or 14 feet wide. apparently emergency vehicles need this if there will be only one travel lane.

so speed reduction in these segments is to be accomplished not through narrowing of lanes, but only through the mechanism of preventing anyone from passing the slowest motorist.

the details of managing bus/bike interaction in segment 1 (weidler to the I-5 onramp) and i guess segment 2, to russell, have not really been fleshed out, but the emerging concept seems to be keeping the bus to the left of a through cycletrack, with passengers crossing the cycletrack to board and de-board on some ADA-compliant island.

the idea of creating a shared bus/bike lane is almost off the table. in rolling this out at the SAC meeting last week, adrian witte of alta literally said, quote, "shared [use] is a downgrade." i told him this was my takeaway quote for the day, and that i strongly disagreed.

last tuesday night at the BAC meeting rob sadowsky raised the shared lane as a possibility he thought ought to be considered. it works in other cities, he said, it is a matter of socialization. i thanked him by e-mail afterward.

note also, witte acknowledged to me that they have not yet thought through how to manage conflicts at intersections if the cycletrack model is selected.

the eight hundred pound gorilla is of course segment 4, cook to skidmore, where all the street level retail is coming in. the plan thus far is pretty much to do nothing. not the "enhanced do nothing" that i think would actually be a good solution on the 12th avenue overcrossing, but literally nothing. except maybe put in some signals to bring the speeds down. give the place a "main street" feel, which i actually think would be a good idea, but not as a standalone treatment.

we are looking at parking on both sides, two ten-foot travel lanes, and a narrow bike lane in the door zone. the merchants are coming forward with the story that we need all the onstreet parking. why we need two travel lanes is less clear.

i asked witte whether they had done any utilization counts for onstreet parking on side streets. it didn't seem like they had. also whether maybe some of these street level retailers, at least on the west side, could put some parking in the alleyways behind.

at the very first SAC meeting, and again last tuesday when dan layden was presenting this to the BAC, i pointed out that williams is designated a neighborhood collector, not an arterial, and that PBoT maybe should think about diverting some of the through traffic off to MLK and interstate, maybe by way of fremont.

layden made the interesting claim that fremont is also technically a neighborhood collector, but i am looking at counts of over 12k, so this would appear to be a more completely lost cause than williams.

someone might remind PBoT that when they go to salem and ask for authority to control speeds only on roads with counts below 3k and existing speed profiles below 35 mph they should think of trying to keep some roads under these numbers, otherwise they cede control to ODoT.

at the first SAC meeting, i also commented that we might think about whether we want more "destination"-type development here, bringing in outsiders for a couple of hours at a time to just park, drink, throw their trash on the ground, and leave. or maybe instead some stuff that actually serves the neighborhood.

something that has not been addressed yet at all in the material presented by alta and PBoT to the SAC is pedestrian crossings. and not just in segment 4, though this is critical. the story, apparently, is that they want to get the "floor plan" down first.

i actually have no problem with separated facilities, where they are appropriate. depending what exactly they do here and there in segments 2 and 3, a buffered bike lane or a cycletrack could be workable. but in segment 4, i would like to see an enhancement to the "do nothing" option, specifically, take out the door zone lane and put in sharrows.