Saturday, November 18, 2017

Union St Bridge Shows Trip Growth; Minto Settles into a Routine

Now that we are well into the rainy season, and with the new light at Union and Commercial, it seems like a good time to visit the bike traffic counts on the Union and Minto Bridges.

Bike traffic on Union Street seemed to grow, and Minto settled into a routine, dominated by walking.

From the front pager on Soft Opening in April -
Not representative traffic it turns out

Union Street

The Eclipse was popular!
Would it surprise you to know that the highest traffic on the Union Street Railroad bridge in the last two years came on August 21st of this year?

Of course not!

The daily counts show lots of variation with weather and events, and the weekly counts seem like the most stable at the moment. (It would be nice to have M-F and Sat-Sun counts broken out in more detail, but this is what we have just now. Agencies are still working on a reporting and publishing routine.) By the eyeball test, it looks like biking showed some growth on the bridge. If last year the weekly peak rarely touched 4000, this year is regularly exceeded 4000 and hit 5000 for a bit. By my reckoning that's a substantial increase, at least in the summertime.

Weekly bike traffic on the Union St RR Bridge
Bike traffic also remains a full quarter of the total traffic on the Union Street Bridge.

By the eyeball test, I don't see a meaningful change in the foot traffic, however. If the Minto Bridge took a significant bite out of the Union St foot traffic, I'm not seeing it.

Weekly foot traffic on the Union St RR Bridge
Unfortunately, word is that the City is not deploying any tube counts for a before/after look at the new traffic light at Union and Commercial. It would be nice to see, even in the darkest, crappiest weather, how it affects crossing numbers. (Of course that project still not connected to a full network and corridor, so the crossing mainly benefits people who already feel confident on Union and make the crossing on Liberty. It itself, it's probably not enough to incent completely new trips by people who bike infrequently.)

Minto Bridge

By contrast, bike traffic is a much smaller proportion of traffic on the Minto Bridge. Since there are fewer residences out south, and since the continuation on River Road is uninviting, it is not surprising that there is less bicycling.

Foot traffic also settled down from the exuberant peaks when it first opened. For the "soft opening" this spring, the peak was above 10,000! This summer, after the permanent opening and outside of the Eclipse, it rarely touched 3500. And the Eclipse traffic on it did not surpass the excitement of the Spring's soft opening.

In fact, now that it has settled into a routine its numbers in general don't seem very different from Union Street's, with daily trip counts clustering around 2000 or 2500.

The Eclipse was also popular, but not as much as the opening
From the weekly bike counts you can see that traffic is much less than on the Union St. Bridge. I'm going to swag and say that the summertime average is close to 1/6th of Union Street's - if we say the Union Street average is 3000, and the Minto average is 500. (If it turns out this swag is too far off, we'll revise it.)

If we say the weekly biking traffic is around 500,
that's about 1/6th the bike traffic on Union
(North counter)
The daily graphs (not shown here) say that the usage on Union Street is fairly level, with only slight increases on the weekend. Minto, on the other hand, doubles the use on weekends and about 50% of weekly bike trips are made on Saturday and Sunday.

Finally, the proportion of biking:walking trips on the Minto Bridge is quite small. At the north counter it's 3%, at the south counter it's 9% - again compared to 25% on the Union St Bridge.

(There are two counters for Minto at the wye in the path on the Riverfront Park footing. The "south" counter faces the acid ball, the "north" counter faces the playground. Probably the "north" one should be regarded as the main count, since people looping around the acid ball are likely already to have gone onto the bridge from the parking lot area and skirting the playground and are being double counted.)

In total the small numbers and the relatively larger weekend numbers are evidence that there's not much bike commuting traffic across the Minto Bridge, that biking on it is mostly recreational, and that foot traffic really is primary here.

All in all, for ordinary purposes it looks like we should regard both bridges as roughly equivalent to "collector" level streets, with peak summertime trip counts like "minor arterials." They serve a substantial number of people!


Rich T said...

Totally agree that the light on Commercial and Union is a game changer, but one that won't as make much difference until it's connected to a route of some kind. I biked through there on Friday morning and biking down Union was no fun. Cars parked on a narrow street, bike lanes that appear and disappear, and cars zooming past avoiding the traffic on Marion. Still, it's a huge improvement and kudos to those who made it possible.

Anonymous said...

The good news is that the city has committed funds to design and construct the Union Street Family Friendly Bikeway. Design is scheduled for 2018/2019 and construction in 2020, with a budget of $3.8 million ($1.5 from the city's Urban Renewal Agency, and $2.3 million of federal funds from the Salem-Keizer Metropolitan Planning Organization).

Here's the description from the adopted Salem Capital Improvement Plan (p. 35):

The City Council adopted the Central Salem Mobility Study recommendations in August 2013 and directed staff to pursue funding for implementation, including the Union Street Family Friendly Bikeway. This project leverages Urban Renewal Funding with federal funds to construct bicycle facilities on Union Street from Commercial to 12th Street for bicyclists of all skill levels. The project connects Riverfront Park and Marion Square Park on the west to the North Capitol Mall and the 12th Street Pedestrian Promenade on the east end.