Tuesday, December 25, 2012

12th, Cottage, and High Streets, Downtown Mobility Study, Part 3

Today's "Capital Connect" column makes for a great wind-up to the Downtown Mobility Study. Columnists Michael Rose and Queenie Wong call out transportation twice as a favorite topic: Portland to Salem and Salem to Portland commutes; and the ways the vast single-use expanse of State Office buildings dictate downtown hours.

Commuter Culture:  Transportation is Fundamental
An important subtext? Proximity, not efficiency, is paramount. No matter how "efficient" are the highways and arterials, if people don't live near where they work, they won't hang around and invest in the neighborhood. And in this context, the neighborhood means downtown.

A giant bridge and tolled highway (we need to stop calling it a freeway, because in so many ways it would be the opposite of free!) will in no way make downtown better. Not for State workers, not for anyone else.

Creating a more robust set of choices for getting to and around downtown will enhance proximity, even if some choices may on the surface appear to diminish efficiency.  Proximity should trump efficiency!

So, continuing the look at the initial concepts for downtown streets (part 1 on Union and Church, part 2 on the North Downtown parcel) advanced in the Downtown Mobility Study, here are proposed treatments for Cottage, High, and 12th Streets.

Downtown Mobility Study Area and Treatment Proposals
(Click to enlarge all images!)
With strong alternative facilities on adjacent streets or ways (Church St. and the Promenade on 12th), there don't need to be a lot of formal project alternatives on these streets, nor do the facilities need to be fancy or complicated for people on bikes.  So there's not a whole lot to say on these proposals.

For whatever reason there's only one alternative for Cottage Street. And that's ok.

Sharrows on Cottage Street
The proposal shows two-way traffic with sharrows, almost exactly like Chemeketa. In fact, the car traffic volumes on Cottage are slightly less than those on Chemeketa between Commercial and Winter.   As long as Church Street is improved to a family-friendly standard, then there's no need for more than sharrows on Cottage and High.  It would operate just like Chemeketa.

So one alternative is just fine.

The proposal for High Street shows one one-way alternative, but since that's not the point, let's just look at the two-way alternatives.

Sharrows on High Street?
The bike lanes + angle parking in alternative 2 doesn't look all that comfortable, and I'd rather have alternative 3 with the sharrows.  The lane widths stay wider, however, and some additional traffic calming might be in order. 

But again, that's dependent on Church Street being improved to a family-friendly standard.  This creates a system where confident riders will find Cottage and High more accessible, and families will be able to use Church Street for north-south movement in downtown.

Now the thunderbolt in this group is on 12th Street.

Bike lanes on 12th are totally unexpected and would be great!

Bike Lanes on 12th Street!
Families already have the Promenade, and you see fearless people biking down 12th from time to time. This treatment with three auto lanes would serve those fearless folks and expand service to the "confident" class of people on bike. (For a discussion of the typology of fearless, confident, and concerned, see this.)

Implementing this would create two strong options for north-south travel along 12th street. Win.

Footnote on Bulb-Outs and Curb-extensions

Curving around Bulb-out
Here are two bulb-out details from the Union Street cycletrack concept. They illustrate one of the reasons I have reservations about the value of bulb-outs for people on bike. (This value is unfortunately apart from their greater value for people on foot; this is an instance where the two interests of people on foot and people on bike are not as closely aligned as they usually are).

Channel in Bulb-out
A bike lane or cycletrack would normally use a part of the roadway that is taken up by the curb extension. Consequently, bike lanes or cycletracks must curve around or be channelled through bulb-outs.

The decision to install bulb-outs thus makes it more difficult to retrofit a roadway for bicycular traffic lanes.

No comments: