Monday, February 22, 2016

Whackadoodle Crossing on Mill near 12th at SESNA - Updated

Just one item in the Neighborhood Associations this week. SESNA will discuss a tricky crossing made difficult by the railroad.

For people on foot and on bike the "Quiet Zone" projects have been a little mixed.

12th and Chemeketa seems to work just fine, much better than I expected, but 12th and Mill is still counter-intuitive, complicated, messy, and even unsafe. It turns you into a darting and unpredictable "urban deer." If good design makes the desired actions seem "natural," then the work at 12th and Mill is a broad failure for people on foot and on bike (it seems to work ok for those in cars).

Original concept for 12th and Mill contained a crosswalk
In the original plan there was a north-south crosswalk at the terminus of the Promenade.

The jumble at 12th and Mill - crosswalk deleted
But in the final plans it was deleted. People still cross here and use, in fact, the railroad bed itself, because it has new concrete, it's level, and the contrasting materials make it look like a crosswalk even. The "natural" thing and best way is exactly what the railroad and City doesn't want!

So. What to do?

SESNA  meets on Tuesday the 23rd, and they'll be talking about the rehab of the Baggage Depot as well as this crossing.

The agenda listing is brief, so it's hard to know who is driving the conversation and what outcome is imagined. At least on paper, the Baggage Depot has a third phase concerned with circulation for those on foot and on bike, and hopefully they are thinking about this vital connectivity with the Promenade. But I worry that under the guise of "improved safety" the intersection and crossing would get restricted and screwed up even more.

Busted Post and Mount in Median on 12th at Mill
An earlier round of "safety" improvements involved a full "pedestrian displacement system" in the overpass footbridge. Sometimes our approach to safety is to eliminate collision hazards and simplify traffic flow for those in cars by simply getting all others out of the way. It would be bad if this kind of displacement strategy is extended to the problem of the north-south crossing on Mill. (See the discussion of trees in median refuges in the comments here for more on displacement.)

Separately, in the median refuge on 12th at Mill, you may remember the busted post and mount from last summer. Plainly a car had crashed in to it.

The whole configuration here just seems like it needs a substantial round of refinement and adjustment, unfortunately.

McGilchrist at the SSA Office:
40mph, no sidewalks - but watch out for pedestrians!
They'll also be talking about McGilchrist Road, which is in the planning stages for a major project. It is in an important industrial area, but also now has a nascent cluster of breweries, the Social Security Office, and a Veteran's Clinic. It should be walkable. But it is signed for speeds too high, it lacks sidewalks and bike lanes, and, prone to flooding, it has tricky drainage and stormwater requirements. It's complicated, and will certainly entail compromises.

SESNA meets Tuesday the 23rd at 7:00 p.m. in the Capital Park Wesleyan Church, 410 19th St SE

Update, Feb 24th

A reader sends in the concept that was presented at the meeting.

White text, black text, black arrows added
Basically you've got two off-set half crosswalks with offset median refuges. Each elbow would be behind a gate, so if a train comes, you'd have a place to wait. The turning radius looks tight for a long-tail or trailer, however, as the reader points out. The off-set also affords a nearly perpendicular crossing of the tracks themselves - helpful for avoiding the problem of involuntary dismount!

It looks like it "flows" pretty well if you're on foot and, working out the bike movements, I think that it works well heading southbound (east or west) off of the Promenade, and rates at least "OK" heading east from 12th and then north onto the Promenade.

That looks like a promising first draft.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I disagree with your critique of the intersection at 12th and Mill. With the user activated beacon it provides the best service to pedestrians without the unneeded delay of a fully signalized intersection. Its position serves the greatest volume of foot traffic (between TIUA and Willamette). Its true that it is less than ideal for bikes but it is serviceable and a huge improvement over the way it was. It function far worse for cars. Making the left from Mill to 12th is extremely nerve wracking. Especially trying to avoid the median while trying to pay attention to southbound traffic on 12th (which I'm guessing is why someone hit the light).

Though many times the only reason I am at this intersection is because State St. is one way against me. I would much rather make a simple left from State St. to get south on 12th. But I guess that is too much to ask from Salem Public Works.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said... may be that this is a little sloppy and that different layers of observation are insufficiently differentiated. I use this intersection mostly when I am visiting the train depot. Especially with the Promenade, on foot or on bike that primary axis of travel is north-south. TIUA, as you say, operates east-west and has different needs.

1) It's the north-south crossing on Mill, parallel with the RR tracks, that is "whackadoodle," not the part on 12th with the flashing beacon. That east-west crossing on 12th could stand some refinement, but as you point out it is useful, and I did not mean to label it also "whackadoodle." I probably did not make that distinction clear enough.

2) The experience on foot and on bike are very different, and probably I slide too much between them. On foot the east-west crossing on 12th is very useful as you say, and while I think I'd still prefer it on the north side of the intersection, that is not show-stopper defect by any means. On bike I really dislike most of the movements through this intersection, whether north-south or east-west. And especially when they involve a connection to or from the Promenade - in a generous definition of the whole intersection.

Anyway, the main thing is - and maybe you still won't agree - is that the north-south crossing on Mill needs much more thought and a new approach, and the east-west crossing could still probably use some refinement. People on foot and on bike have meaningfully different needs in this intersection and a one-size fits all for non-auto users doesn't work very well here.

The issue at the SESNA meeting is the north-south crossing of Mill, primarily, I think.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated with new drawing and an initial take on the concept.