Sunday, November 4, 2012

12th and Mill: Not Getting Better?

In negotiations, the railroad has all the power. This is starkly demonstrated by the Quiet Zone "improvements" at 12th and Mill. As the work is going in, it increasingly looks a little like bubble wrap - protective and isolating overkill that will make the area less useful for everyone (except freight rail).

I was by recently at night, and the ways that bicycling users of the promenade will have to use narrow sidewalks, make tight 90-degree turns, and execute movements potentially unpredictable to others in car or on foot is concerning. If predictability at night is helpful, the confusing design may instead promote "urban deer." More than sub-optimal, this looks like folly all around!

The jumble at 12th and Mill
The logical north-south crossing of Mill at the terminus of the promenade has been deleted.  At the immediate terminus of the path, a person on bike must turn right or left.

Looking south and having to turn right or left
Turning right, here you can see how the sidewalk narrows just past the candlestick and ADA dome mat.

Looking west towards the intersection
But when the field's not lit, is there enough light?
West-bound bike traffic (towards the university) will negotiate a ramp at the corner and significant car traffic, many of whose drivers may not be expecting a person on bike to be entering the road.  Some will continue on the north side of the intersection, following the line of the sky bridge.  Others will go to the south side to the marked cross walk.  Still others may bike vehicularly and take the lane.  There's not a clear "best choice." 

To reach the road east-bound (towards the neighborhood), bike traffic will have to navigate half a block down a narrow and curvy sidewalk to reach the Mission Mill driveway and curb cut. Or else hop the curb at a random location.

The upshot? While the concrete is prettier, for people on bike at the Promenade, this represents no change from the existing conditions! It just substitutes a finished curb for the large rocks - both are effectively impassible.  With the median, crossing 12th may be marginally easier, but many will choose to stay on the north side and not use the median, and this will create confusion in a tricky mixing zone.

Also interesting is the traffic pattern for cars.  Amtrak's driveway onto Mill look like it is disappearing (red x on map below), closed off with a new curb. In its place a new driveway on the 13th street angle has been cut.

Passenger Rail will be hidden,  even more difficult to reach
But we have a tortured one-way grid here!  Pretty much it only works now for traffic going north on 13th.  The approach from the west going east seems unchanged.   But if you are going west or going south, you can no longer make left turns into the station from Mill or 12th - so how the heck do you get to the station?  That's a ton of out-of-direction travel for people on cars.

And Amtrak will be even more isolated from the whole transportation system, on the grid and in the share of mind.

In fact, this looks like it may make that whole "bermuda triangle" even more of a cluster-f than it already is!

With the passenger railroad station, Mission Mill and tourists, and Willamette and students, this should be a multi-modal hub with convenient travel for all.  Instead, it looks like a hopeless, and potentially unsafe, jumble. This is a real missed opportunity, a win for no one but freight rail.


B+ said...

Just by there today. Ludicrous. It is probably worse and less useable now than it was in the old "ballast rock ballet" days. I'm saddened by this, as it appears to be a tremendous missed opportunity, making the Promenade much less useful for cyclists.

Also, it appears we will have to push a button to get a walk signal at all the crossings from State on north to Marion on the Promenade, once the new crossing signals are in service. Is this correct? If so, it will again be a big disappointment, as it will make it much harder to judge when it is safe to cross while biking (it seems to me). Perhaps I'm wrong about all this...or, perhaps there is some law that forces this situation to occur, rather than having the current situation where fixed crossing signal times alert one to time remaining at each light cycle.

Anonymous said...

This is a complete disaster. I was by there today and it is now much worse for bikes. I was also wondering about all the new push button signals on the promenade. I hope I don't have to pull over and push a button every time I want to cross.

Anonymous said...

We are all adults here. You can write clusterfuck.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Yeah, I don't know about the push-button issue. Many if not all of those lights are on fixed timers, and will remain on them, so the push-buttons, like those at the intersection of Mission and Winter, may in some sense be dummies. (Of course, that you'd put in dummy ped signals is a whole 'nother issue!) On the other hand, it is at least possible that the push-button will give a more protected crossing phase, sandwiched in between straight and turning phases for cars. So there may be benefit tucked in there. (Though on balance I am more skeptical than optimistic.) We will all see as we learn more!

In daylight, I saw a left-turn pocket from 12th, so the south-bound approach for car traffic isn't quite so bad, but it still exacerbates the potential conflicts in the mixing zones.