Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Union and Church Street Treatments, Downtown Mobility Study Part 1

Here's some news! The posters from the Downtown Mobility Study open house are on the website today.

There's still too much to take in and comment on, so here's part one.

Downtown Mobility Study Area and Treatment Proposals
(Click to enlarge all images!)
It seems to me that for making safe, comfortable, and connected bike access to downtown for families, Union and Church streets are most important. Winter Street doesn't offer direct access to downtown businesses or the transit mall, and for this reason, Church Street is a more important north-south connection.

Bike and Walk Salem called for "enhanced" treatment on Church
And while the proposals for Union Street run a pretty full gamut, the proposals for Church Street aren't as rich and robust as they might be.

Union Street cycletrack detail between Commercial and Liberty
The big sexy idea on the table was a cycletrack alternative for Union Street. It would offer full separation from cars for people who bike.

Union Street Alternatives
There's not a whole lot of car traffic on Union Street, however, and the difficulty has always seemed to be crossing the intersections, not competing with autos between the intersections.

3,410 cars/day on Union Street - via new City traffic counts
And since there's a giant and totally underutilized parking garage, the Marion Street Parkade, right there, it should not be necessary to make preserving on-street parking such a high priority on Union. There's no reason more traffic calming and fewer parking stalls can't be used to make Union Street a family-friendly bikeway without the cycletrack. I get the feeling the cycletrack has a side purpose to retain angle parking - and there's no reason to have 14-foot travel lanes for cars!

Consequently I'd like to see more stress on medians, parklets, and creating a boulevard whose primary user is not a person in a car.  Less car-space and more people space!  With more work at the eastern end of Union, the bikeway should connect with the northern terminus of the Promenade.  This should really be a person-centered corridor, not car-centric.

If in some ways the Union Street cycletrack concept seemed like imbalance or overkill, I would to see the cycletrack concept considered here on Church.  Church street has considerably more traffic (about double) than Union Street, and neither bike lanes nor sharrows give the separation that families wanting to bike into downtown will want to have. (Sharrows only on Cottage and High Streets, with an enhanced treatment for bikes on Church seems like the optimal balance - but that'll be in another post.)

Church Street Alternatives
I see the Church Street alternatives as something of a missed opportunity. Do they really need turn-pockets in a three-car-lane cross-section?  With the bus mall Church Street right now functions with only two lanes.

In any event, there needs to be a family-friendly north-south connection into downtown, and with a prospective Church street bikeway in south Salem, Church Street downtown should also receive more robust treatments.

What do you think?


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated with Union traffic count graphic!

Anonymous said...

As a biker who rides down Union street frequently, I agree the worst part is getting across the intersections. Not easy on a bike, and impossible on foot! Makes my family and I reluctant to walk/ bike to the park as often as we would like.
Just and F.Y.I. they have painted sharows on D st. over the R.R. crossing. Practically an everyday ride for my family. Seems to have calmed SOME drivers but not all.

Curt said...

The Union St crossings are addressed with signalization at the difficult crossings. With good signal detection these should make a huge difference. Even on a very low traffic street like Chemeketa, riding with kids is high pressure situation. The cycle track will relieve this pressure. The bridge, Marion Park, the Saturday Market, Olinger Pool, the Boys and Girls Club is right around the corner, as well as the North Downtown redevelopment and the redevelopment of the Marion Parkade (which is overdue) all make Union St. a good candidate for this.

They can do better on Church St. When High St. goes 2 way, I would expect traffic to fall to Cottage St. volumes. The center lane should not be needed.

Court and State should be interesting. State especially will take on an entirely different character as a two way.

Gary said...

I really like the concept of a protected bike facility on Union. A two-way cycle track might be O.K. as shown in the conceptual drawings, but I would like to see how one-way cycle tracks (behind parallel parking) might fit. One way cycle tracks on both sides of a two way street offer some safety advantages, in a general sense.
Great points about Church Street - it needs a cycle-track option. I'd like to see a concept for a two-way cycle track on a one-way Church St. New York has put these on the left side of one-way streets and they keep building more.

Curt said...

Gary: You might have a point about Union St. On Church St. two-way traffic is the highest priority. New cyclists are still likely to choose their routes according to their driving habits and if they can't drive south on Church they are less likely to bike south on Church. They are more likely to bike to a destination if they made previous trips there in a car.

I think two-way streets are going to immediately transform downtown into a much more vibrant destination than it is today. People will immediate notice places and new business opportunities they didn't even know were there.

The lack of attractive biking destinations in Salem became apparent to me in planning Kidical Mass rides. Pickings are slim to none in the strip mall hellscape of Salem. More attractive destinations will drive more bike trips. Without a destination, new cyclist are unlikely to use even the best infrastructure.