Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Downtown Mobility Study Scorecard, Round 2

So how'd the Downtown Mobility Study do in round 2?

Study Area with Streets under Consideration
Here is one set of recommendations from round 1 with the results and a rough grade from round 2:

full and partial credit in green; one fail and one deletion in red
Church Street is probably the biggest missed opportunity. With connections from Bush Park, South Salem High School, McKinley Elementary School, the entire Church Street corridor, including the spine through downtown, should be upgraded to a complete family-friendly bikeway.

There are two alternatives for Church in the latest: Alt 1 - One-Way with Bike Lane, and Alt 2 - Two-Way with Bike Lanes.  The one-way, Alternative 1, would use a buffered bike lane, and Alt 2 would use 1980s standard bike lanes with door zone hazards.  Making left-hand turns from the one-way would be difficult.  It's hard to be excited about either of these.

Church Street Alternatives
The 12th Street proposal was deleted, unsurprisingly, actually.  It was almost too good to be true, and the problems with turns and queuing and the railroads are real.  So it doesn't really qualify as a missed opportunity.  It was an overly optimistic bonus that didn't quite pan out.  That's ok. 

Proposals for High Street and Court Street get half credit.  They are both more and less than the recommendations here.  Making High and Court Street two-way + sharrows only makes sense with Church and State Streets having high quality cycle tracks.  Church doesn't look to get them, and sentiment seems to be moving towards an incremental approach on State Street, which means a cycle track won't go there, either.  Given this, the project team looked at bike lanes on High and Court.  That's the more - but it's still probably not enough.

One part of the analysis that I don't understand is a product of the atomic nature of analysis.  As I see it, you have to treat Church and High as a pair:  They both go two-way together, or they both remain one-way together. Though it may be possible, it's not obvious how you can change one and not the other.

So High Street has the same options as Church:  Alt 1 - One-Way with Bike Lane, and Alt 2 - Two-Way with Bike Lanes.  Except there's 15 foot travel lanes in the one-way! There's no way we need lanes that wide. ( I'm not sure the project team always eliminated unnecessary car lanes or unnecessarily wide car lanes.)  It's also hard to be excited about these.

Court Street, Alt 2 - With 1980s style bike lanes
I don't know why they didn't show sharrows on Court Street' two-way Alt 1.  Maybe that deserves full marks, but again, if State Street doesn't get a full cycle track, then Court Street should have stronger facilities than sharrows for people on bike.  Alternative 2, Two-way with bike lanes moves a little in that direction, but again uses that 1980s standard bike lane.

Cottage and Union with traffic diverter - Round 1 Concept
The team showed more looks for Union Street, including one-way cycle tracks on both sides of the street, but the revisions appear to use no traffic divertors, as they showed in round 1. My own preference was to see much less carspace on Union - less parking, more diverters - and not have to go to a cycle track.

On the other hand, most people I have spoken to are instead in favor of using Union as a pilot location for a robust cycle track in hopes that a successful installation will pave the way for a more rapid roll-out of cycle tracks in other locations.  And there's real merit to that argument. 

In general across all the alternatives on every street, there's too much angle parking and still a general preference for carspace rather than people space. Many of the bike lane treatments are old-school - and it would be nice to be new-school! In some cases the newly installed curb extensions (bulb-outs) at corners will need to be pared back in order to create room for bike lanes.  It's possible that the City will need to rethink its strategy on curb extensions.

But, you know, almost all of the alternatives represent incremental improvement.  They might not be optimal - but as has been often invoked lately:  Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Several of the solutions won't get more families or new bicyclists downtown by bike, but for people who bike regularly, they'll be a significant improvement.  It may be that making that robust menu of real choices for mobility downtown may yet take a few iterations of improvement, evolution more than revolution. 

The full set of posters and presentations can be seen here. What did you think?

It looks like the project team will try to distill things into one set of recommendations, take it out for an open house in April, and then "stress test" it in the model to see how it operates as a full network.  


Curt said...

Standard bike lanes might not be so bad on Church. I really think that about 30% of the traffic on Church will shift to High St. when they go two way. Given that Church St. is a ghost street much of the day as it is, the extra protection of a cycle track might not be necessary.

B+ said...

I think Curt's analysis has a lot of merit. I am also not surprised about the 12th street idea going up in smoke. Winter has become a main way for me to get north in town, using it via Myrtle to get to Cherry and points north from there. I like the idea of Winter receiving attention. The crossing of what turns into Portland Road is a bit tricky, but otherwise, it works very nicely.

Doug's Transportation Ramblings said...

I'm with you on making Church St a two-way family friendly bikeway. It is not heavily used by cars. A few pieces of street furniture would make it a very comfortable place for virtually everybody to ride--and far more comfortable than squeezing bike lanes into door zones. Finally, it would connect nicely with Chemeketa and Union if the city had the vision to install traffic calming on those streets.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Here's some car traffic counts. Church street gets 6,500 - 8,000 daily car trips. Union Street about 3,500 trips. Other streets that have traffic volumes similar to Union are 14th Street near State Street, and Hoyt and Rural near South High (between Commercial and 12th). Chemeketa downtown has closer to 5,000 car trips.By comparison, Center Street and Marion Street each get around 20,000 daily trips.

In the numbers, you see one reason why I have thought a cycle track would be more useful on Church Street than on Union Street. Do you think streets like 14th, Hoyt, and Rural also need cycle tracks? If not, then you might agree a cycle track on Union could represent an overbuilt facility.

I would prefer traffic calming and diverters on Union - but, again, I guess we have to pilot a cycletrack somewhere, and maybe this is politically the best place for that purpose.

With bus traffic on Church Street, I still think additional separation would be useful if the goal is to make downtown fully accessible to families on bike. If the goal is simply to serve better those of us who are already biking, ordinary bike lanes would certainly be helpful - but I'm not at all confident they will attract families and new riders.

The high level goal should be to give people more transportation choices downtown and not just to shift trips for a net increase of zero, but to increase trips for a net gain in downtown people. By this measure, many of the proposals, including the ones for Church street, yet remain too timid.

Interestingly, I have just come across an academic study of low-stress bicycle networks in San Jose:

"We propose a set of criteria by which road segments can be classified into four levels of traffic stress (LTS). LTS 1 is suitable for children; LTS 2, based on Dutch bikeway design criteria, represents the traffic stress that most adults will tolerate; LTS 3 and 4 represent greater levels of stress.

As a case study, every street in San Jose, California, was classified by LTS. Maps in which only bicycle-friendly links are displayed reveal a city divided into islands within which low-stress bicycling is possible, but separated from one another by barriers that can be crossed only by using high-stress links....

[T]he fraction of work trips up to six miles long that are connected at LTS 2 is 4.7%, providing a plausible explanation for the city’s low bicycling share. We show that this figure would almost triple if a proposed slate of improvements, totaling 32 miles in length but with strategically placed segments that provide low-stress connectivity across barriers, were implemented."

What I don't see in the downtown mobility study is strategic thinking about what connections are necessary for people on bike. Instead I see tactical thinking about what facilities we can squeeze in that the car-parking and car-storage faction won't object to. The current proposals for Church Street will not, I think, meet the LTS 2 standard.