Planning Commission Disses the Couplet

Because I was at the CRC task force last night, I missed the Planning Commission work session on the Burnside/Couch couplet, but here’s the update I got from a fellow neighborhood activist:

The motion made by Don Hanson and carried in a 3-1 vote (and 1 abstention) made the following recommendations to:

  • not move forward on the B/C couplet
  • enhance Burnside
  • address Burnside safety issues
  • develop an urban design and development on B/C
  • eliminated Broadway as a barrier between East and West Couch
  • make more positive pedestrian environment as development occurs
  • make streetscape improvements
  • apply sound economic strategies and assist social services in the area
  • make turn lanes from Burnside
  • evaluate East/West streetcar alignment as a part of the rail system plan to find the best spot for it

Further, they recommended that IF the City Council does adopt the couplet to:

  • implement pedestrian safety measures on Burnside now
  • make streetcar part of the up front improvements
  • do not extend the couplet past 16th, however the streetcar could be
  • make I-405 overpass upgrades
  • make street designation changes right away

My personal view is that the Planning Commission fails to appreciate that the ‘enhanced Burnside’ alternative delivers only a fraction of the benefits to pedestrian safety that the couplet does and that any serious attempt to tame the traffic while Burnside is still a two-way street will have significant effects of diverting traffic into the surrouding neighborhoods.

Stay tuned for the next round in the bout at City Council on the 15th of March.

69 Comments

69 Responses to Planning Commission Disses the Couplet

  1. Terry Parker
    February 28, 2007 at 10:56 am Link

    It appears the Planning Commission is for the most part on target. The couplet proposal is just wasting more regional transportation dollars to institute social engineering.

  2. Doug Roberts
    February 28, 2007 at 11:36 am Link

    If the Planning Commission says: ‘do not move forward on the B/C couplet’, but then follows that with: ‘enhance Burnside’, ‘make streetscape improvements’, ‘make turn lanes from Burnside’, etc., aren’t they in essence requiring that Burnside be reduced to one lane in each direction? If not, then the recommendations are in conflict with one another, are they not?

    If so, then I’m all for it. All of those Washington County commuters drive right past a park-and-ride at Sunset TC everyday on their way up the hill. Then they pass within 100 yards of another MAX station at the other side of the hill near PGE Park. We’ve already done enough to accomodate them.

  3. jim karlock
    February 28, 2007 at 12:10 pm Link

    Just a reminder about the cost of the streetcar:
    (All data per passenger-mile except as noted)
    Bus…………………………………..$0.835 System wide average
    Light Rail…………………………….$0.434 System wide average
    Lowest cost BUS line……………..$0.34 Per Trimet: Line 33-McLoughlin
    Private Car…………………………..$0.294 (veh.-mi – actual cost – national average)
    Private Car ………………………….$0.185 (actual cost – national average)
    Private Car…………………………$0.227 (Above – adjusted for Portland’s lower vehicle occupancy)
    Portland streetcar…………………$1.25 (per ride)
    Portland streetcar………………$1.67 (using average trip length per Charlie Hales)
    Taxi Fare in Portland……………..$2.10 Taxi fare – per mile portion only

    Details at: DebunkingPortland.com/Transit/Cost-Cars-Transit.htm

    Thanks
    JK

  4. zilfondel
    February 28, 2007 at 12:18 pm Link

    I agree with your opinion, Chris. I believe the planning commission is out of touch with reality on this one.

    It would be one thing if the ROW for Burnside was 300′ wide and we could create some sort of ‘grand boulevard,’ but it is too narrow for the amount of auto lanes – there is no room for pedestrians, unless the cars move at 10 mph.

    Top 5 dangerous ped intersections.

  5. Joe
    February 28, 2007 at 12:31 pm Link

    Can we all agree that “social engineering” is an empty catch phrase? Any change involving people is social engineering, including adding more cars. What Terry wants us to feel at a gut level is that this is communism when we want to do something in the interest of all people of Portland. Let’s skip the emotional phrases please.

  6. Doug Roberts
    February 28, 2007 at 12:41 pm Link

    What? Commies? Pinkos? Reds? Bad. I vote with my car. And I vote no.

    What were we talking about again?

  7. Doug
    February 28, 2007 at 1:09 pm Link

    It was my understanding that the couplet option would lower the amount of time it takes to drive from the river to 23rd, if so why the negative reaction Terry?

    Having driven both ways down Burnside for quite a long time I know that it’s a CRAWL, especially between 405 and the river. If the couplet allows timing the lights at a reasonable speed in both directions that’s a net positive for drivers. It’ll also allow us to narrow Burnside, which will be a plus for cyclists and pedestrians as well. It looks like a win for everybody from where I stand.

  8. DE
    February 28, 2007 at 1:29 pm Link

    “If the couplet allows timing the lights at a reasonable speed in both directions that’s a net positive for drivers.”

    It already moves at a “reasonable speed.” The notion that we should be able to zip through the middle of town at 30-40mph at all hours of the day is useless. Burnside is a city street, not a freeway. If you drive in, you should accept the fact that you have to crawl out at 5pm. The only cities where traffic moves smoothly at rush hours are those with failing downtowns that nobody wants to live or work in.

  9. Lenny Anderson
    February 28, 2007 at 1:33 pm Link

    Burnside is plenty wide east of the Park Blocks where most ped/car crashes occur; there’s room to do some good stuff there…eliminate right turn lanes for a start.
    While we have been assured that signal speeds on the proposed couplet will be 12 MPH as is the case downtown, you can count on demands that it become an urban freeway like Broadway/Weidler.
    Better to follow the Planning Commissioners on this…maybe take it down to one lane inbound (as it is now one lane down thru the west hills) and do some creative ped friendly design with that extra lane. Oh, and make the bridge two lanes each way to allow for a broad sidewalk promenade.
    Streets should first serve those who live, work and have businesses along them, and only secondarily serve thru trips from somewhere else.
    But in the final analysis, Streetcar makes the couplet OK for me.

  10. Evan Manvel
    February 28, 2007 at 3:26 pm Link

    Don’t forget these modes (rough estimate of costs)

    Bike: $0.05/mile
    Walk: $0.05/mile

  11. DE
    February 28, 2007 at 3:42 pm Link

    And those modes are [almost] never slowed by congestion!

  12. Wells
    February 28, 2007 at 4:05 pm Link

    The couplet that compares best to a Burnside/Couch couplet is the Glisan/Everett couplet. NE Broadway/Weidler couplet is 3 and 4-lanes wide.

    I think the streetcar line is proposed to run entirely on Burnside, the westbound track laid in Burnside’s vacated, northside lanes. There’s not enough road width on Couch for the streetcar.

    I don’t know if the #20 bus was also to run westbound on Burnside. If so, it would improve westbound traffic on Couch, especially between the Park Blocks and 16th, where the couplet should end instead of 19th.

    The real problem is enforcing the speed limit on Couch. Traffic speed on Everett/Glisan is too fast.

  13. Matthew
    February 28, 2007 at 5:20 pm Link

    I live in N Portland. This morning my mother wanted to borrow my truck, (which hasn’t technically been mine for about 6 month now, but she still calls it mine, even though it lives at my sister’s house,) and she was having trouble getting it to start, (apparently the battery runs low if you don’t start it more than once a month. Who knew?) And so she came and bothered me about it, (I have to work until 10pm tonight, so I hadn’t left yet,) and by the time we actually got it started, it was lunchtime, so she decided to buy me lunch. And I was like, cool, lets go hit a cart downtown, (she was going downtown anyway,) and then when we got close to downtown she was worried because there isn’t anyplace to park downtown, (most of the carts are in parking lots, but I knew what she meant, there isn’t anyplace to park for free downtown,) so she decided to drive out to Beaverton to eat there cause it was free to park. Now, food at a cart downtown rarely runs over $5, and is just as good as the food we got in Beaverton, (although we did get an inside table instead of a park bench, but it was a nice day today so I would have rather been outside,) but it ran $10 each for lunch, plus the 10 miles further that we had to drive. Which means that we effectively spent about $12 for about 40 minutes of parking.

    My question is for Jim: Do your cost/mile numbers include the cost of parking, (not to mention the trips to Beaverton when there is perfectly good food downtown?) I just want to make sure you are including all the variables.

  14. Terry Parker
    February 28, 2007 at 7:14 pm Link

    Doug,

    I have expressed my opposition in other posts related to the couplet, In addition to the costs, it disconnects the only street the only East-West that traverses the entire City, it takes a relatively quiet pedestrian oriented street (Couch), and makes it into an arterial, some streets should be reserved for cars, transit vehicles stopping in travel lanes for loading and unloading blocking other traffic, curb extensions, slow moving streetcars have their place but do not belong on high volume auto streets, the Burnside Bridge is already congested without the streetcars adding more, the streetcars duplicate bus service but only for a short distance, the streetcars do not pay their own way and will require additional taxpayer operating subsidies, unnecessary overly wide sidewalks, and probably a few more.

    The fact is Metro even has questions about yet another streetcar line when other proposed transit funding is anything but certain.

  15. Richard
    February 28, 2007 at 8:47 pm Link

    The fact is the only reason folks on this blog WANT the couplet is because it includes yet another streetcar line.
    And it doens’t matter to them how much it costs or where the money might be needed more.
    Additionly these same folks will support every single similar project regardless of cost or other pressing needs, period.

  16. Doug
    February 28, 2007 at 9:27 pm Link

    Richard:

    Speak for yourself. I am not a big Streetcar supporter (I prefer MAX because it doesn’t share ROW). The reason I support the couplet is primarily because I think it’ll make driving that section of town a hell of a lot easier while simultaneously making it a nicer place for pedestrians. It appears you don’t like the couplet, could you explain why? What’s the negative for autos?

  17. jim karlock
    February 28, 2007 at 9:49 pm Link

    My question is for Jim: Do your cost/mile numbers include the cost of parking, (not to mention the trips to Beaverton when there is perfectly good food downtown?) I just want to make sure you are including all the variables.

    JK: My what a contorted story! Why didn’t you just go to the McDonalds drive thu on Burnside?

    (Or 23rd ave if you inist on yuppiedom.)

    Thanks
    JK

  18. jim karlock
    February 28, 2007 at 9:52 pm Link

    JK: Sorry of the 2nd post, but I forgot to mention that NONE of the transit numbers inlcude the cost of system construction (or road for bus), only operating costs. THe car number includes the cost of roads in the included taxes.
    (Light rail – costs too much, does too little)
    Thanks
    JK

  19. Chris Smith
    February 28, 2007 at 10:00 pm Link

    The couplet that compares best to a Burnside/Couch couplet is the Glisan/Everett couplet. NE Broadway/Weidler couplet is 3 and 4-lanes wide.

    I think Washington/Alder downtown is a better example, because it will be signalized every block as Burnside/Couch would be. Part of the reason Everett/Glisan are so fast is that they do not have signals every block.

  20. Richard
    February 28, 2007 at 11:13 pm Link

    “It appears you don’t like the couplet, could you explain why?”
    It’s a $50 million dollars farce to extend the streetcars and it isn’t needed.

    “What’s the negative for autos?”

    It will be another ped/bike/transit streetscape with autos completely disregarded.
    That’s what this city does. The evidence is everywhere. Talk talk talk to cover up the status quo agenda and keep doing more of the same.

    It’s all about credibility. When talking about traffic the city planners and policy makers have NONE. Behind the scenes they are laughing at the gridlock chaos they create.
    A prime example of the fiscal mess and traffic chaos is the choke point being created at South Waterfront. The SoWa plan is bankrupt and is already steeling money from PDOT and PARKS. The major street improvements are far over budget and unfunded. The “temporary” lane curb and turn signal access to SoWa is a growing nightmare.
    And among other problems the city has a growing deferred road maintenance backlog.

    But this blog likes SoWa because it has the streetcars and Tram and it was a “plan”.
    Also the perfect example that cost, management and accountability doesn’t matter.

    You tell me. Why does this blog think the best place to put $50 million is the B-C couplet?

    Does this blog also favor the Convention Center Hotel?
    Why wait? Let’s have it right now. There’s been more than enough time to know your position.
    So don’t wait for your marching orders from Metro.

  21. Doug
    March 1, 2007 at 12:07 am Link

    Richard:

    I’d prefer it if you would just stick to the topic at hand rather than going on and on about everything else.

    The big benefit that the couplet has to autos is that the lights will be timed in both directions, meaning, for instance, that between the river and I-405 you won’t hit two or three red lights before you get to Powell’s (as is currently the case). I’m sure you’ve driven west on Burnside between the bridge and 23rd, so you know that this is a particularly long and frustrating stretch to drive (even with no traffic) because you hit light after light. During rush hour you also have to contend with buses weaving in and out of traffic on lanes that are too narrow to accommodate them.

    You can blindly reject the city’s assertion that the couplet will be able to move more auto traffic than Burnside currently can, but if you’ve ever driven up and down this street I don’t see how you can throw away the fact that having properly timed lights will speed things along on this street.

  22. Matthew
    March 1, 2007 at 1:29 am Link

    Richard, or Ben, or whatever you are calling yourself this week: Are you a fan of Men in Hats? It is a good cartoon, you should read it, it might give you some more ideas. :-P

    I personally am in favor of the couplet regardless of the streetcar being on it or not. I’m for it because I think that it will make the intersections of Broadway at Couch and Burnside safer for bicycles at rush hour. (I’m not going to deny it: It is self interest, I’m in favor of making the roads safer for bicycles, cause I ride one.) Now, if the enhanced Burnside plan really can deliver what they think it can, at a price far below what the couplet would cost, I’d be all for that. I just don’t see how they are going to do it without significantly reducing the capacity of Burnside, (which doesn’t seem like something you’d support, but I could be wrong,) where as the couplet will actually increase capacity…

    Jim: The food carts downtown are far better than McDonalds. But it looks like that is “no” on the parking costs: ($1000/car/year, so at 15000 miles/year that is another 6 cents/mile,) and since the gas taxes only cover about 1/4 of the actual road maintenances costs, there should be about 4.5 more cents/mile there.

  23. jim karlock
    March 1, 2007 at 3:06 am Link

    Jim: The food carts downtown are far better than McDonalds. But it looks like that is “no” on the parking costs: ($1000/car/year, so at 15000 miles/year that is another 6 cents/mile,) and since the gas taxes only cover about 1/4 of the actual road maintenances costs, there should be about 4.5 more cents/mile there.
    JK:Your data is suspect, but even if true, you have to find another 30 cents per mile to match Trimet’s average operating cost. And that is comparing Trimet’s operating cost to car’s total, cost including right of way. To be fair you should add the 2 BILLION that we wasted on MAX construction and some more to cover the streets torn up by buses, but accounted to roads.

    Thanks
    JK

  24. Richard
    March 1, 2007 at 8:31 am Link

    Matthew,
    Your little cartoon depicts your camp perfectly.
    Doug,
    The reason to expand the conversation is to clarify credibility and establish reality.

    The city is NOT wanting the B-C couplet to help move traffic. That could be acheived with little expense by shifting the buses and traffic signals.

    This project like so many others is getting the tunnel vision approach in order to avoid the deliberately horrible track record in traffic engineering this city has. Along with the desire to conceal ulterior motivations and the relentless anti-car agenda. The cost, as usual, is also irrelevant.
    I find it amazing that so many can be so narrow minded in discussing this project.
    Out of the entire city of needs how this boondoggle rises to the surface is some kind of mystery.
    Those who support it are afraid of revealing their past and future positions such as on Urban Renewal, SoWa and the CC Hotel because it would demonstrate perpetual wrongness, costly mistakes, gridlock in the making and their undieing support for every boondoggle the city planners dream up.

  25. Adron
    March 1, 2007 at 10:33 am Link

    Hey JK. Just out of curiosity… and you can respond to me via e-mail. You are against the waste that is public schools too right? Rather an efficient dedicated entity (such as private enterprise) take it back over? Home schooling – what’s your take on that?

    I know it is completely off topic but I’m just trying to flesh out your Libertarian positioning. :)

  26. Adron
    March 1, 2007 at 10:43 am Link

    Private Car…………………………..$0.294 (veh.-mi – actual cost – national average)
    Private Car ………………………….$0.185 (actual cost – national average)
    Private Car…………………………$0.227 (Above – adjusted for Portland’s lower vehicle occupancy)

    These estimates are horribly off. If one wants to lower their standards of life to that of about 6k a year, live in a $200 dollar a month trailer in Mississippi, and buy a beat up car that is horribly unreliable but costs next to nothing…

    …one would STILL BE HARD PRESSED to get these numbers. Seriously JK. At least use conservative, easily accepted numbers. I mean the Feds and such use 0.45 cents a mile or more as a write off as the base AVERAGE cost of a car per mile. So if that is what they let you write off, based on average cost, including only oil, gas, maintenance – then what about the average cost of the car? What about the road maintenance? What about the road construction? We know it isn’t included, nor is it ever thought of in a market sense – because people calculate everything based off of gas only.

    …I “guess” the numbers above could be based on per mile if ONLY gas is included. I dig yer info JK, but those ridiculously low numbers are hard to swallow by any standard of measure.

    If anything when one compares lifespan, average resell/usage of a vehicle, and all those things transit vs. auto use almost comes out break even in actual cost. The differences come in lifestyles, preferences of mode, and all that other almost superficial mess. The fact of the matter is the average household, in either Portland or Hattiesdburg MS or Jacksonville FL or Plano TX is about 80 cents to 1.50 a mile. …and that can be figured out with complex calcuations or just figured out on the back of a napkin.

  27. Justin
    March 1, 2007 at 11:12 am Link

    I don’t really care if it costs more to build streetcars and MAX systems, than it does to build roads for cars. I like the lifestyle they create so I support mass transit.

  28. Doug
    March 1, 2007 at 11:21 am Link

    Richard:

    I don’t want you to address the city’s points or this blogs points, I want you to address what *I* am saying. Now I’ll address the salient parts of your argument.

    “The city is NOT wanting the B-C couplet to help move traffic. That could be acheived with little expense by shifting the buses and traffic signals.”

    #1: Where would you put those buses? If they’re not running down Burnside (or Burnside/Couch) you’d pretty much have to send them down Glisan/Everett, which isn’t really reasonable, especially because they’ve have to find their way back to Burnside west of 23rd anyway.

    #2: Running a 1 way street with timed lights is always going to be faster than a two way street, at least in one direction of travel. Compare 99e (Grand/MLK) against the current Burnside configuration if you like. Or compare Glisan and Everett, which are also much faster to drive down than Burnside. If you can explain to me how you would shift the traffic signals to alleviate the huge mess on west Burnside you might be able to win me over.

  29. Wells
    March 1, 2007 at 11:28 am Link

    Chris, you’re right. The Washington/Alder couplet does make the better example. Am I correct about the streetcar line running entirely on Burnside, along with the #20? Do you agree that keeping transit off Couch is an advantage for both car traffic and transit, and an important point to make?

    Portland has a nationally renowned record of managing traffic far better than most US cities of all sizes. Portland has plenty of traffic, but its speed is engineered to be kept comparatively low. Plenty of cars, but a higher percentage of them parked. A higher percentage of transit use, higher bicycle use, higher and safer pedestrian access.

    The Burnside/Couch Couplet is one more “impossible” Portland engineering experiment that will befuddle the professional naysayers and wow the Now Crowd. Keep it on the table.

    Lars Larson done larz’d his last larzon.

  30. Richard
    March 1, 2007 at 12:07 pm Link

    Doug,
    I’m saying B-C doesn’t need a $50 fix at all.
    So what if Burnside doesn’t work for traffic as well as (Grand/MLK)or Glisan and Everett?
    That’s doesn’t mean or rule out any and all small fixes. Buses or no buses.
    To make the gargantuan leap from “nothing is possible” to a “$50 million make over” as the only “remedy” for a low priority problem is irresponsible, as well as disingenuous.
    Let’s be honest here. The B-C couplet is being pushed by people who think rail is nifty, would like it easier to ride bikes along Burnside, and want pedestrian facilities improved as a general goal. And $50 million means nothing to them.
    Fine, but it aint a traffic fix.
    Characterizing traffic on west Burnside as a huge mess and then portraying the B-C couplet as a traffic remedy flys in the face of PDOT’s reputation.
    I contend that this “traffic remedy” pitch is nothing but another ploy to move forward on yet another iconic transit/ped/bike streetscape project which in the end will likely worsen traffic in that corridor. That prediction is far more rational and consistent with Portland’s reputation that any forecast of any genuine traffic relief.
    That’s why it’s important to look at other and past projects. Agenda detection is key.

    So I’ll go with history and MO on this and call it like it is and has been. This $50 million iconic non-necessity will result in traffic “calming” and/or capacity reduction.

    That’s what Portland does.
    Pretending the anti-car agenda is not driving this process is naive.

    Not to mention that when all is said and done the price will soar to $80 million with the city claiming everything went as planned.

  31. Doug
    March 1, 2007 at 12:15 pm Link

    Richard:

    You still aren’t addressing any of *my* actual points. Please answer the following questions:

    #1: Will the proposal of running two one way streets with timed lights lead to shorter driving times on Burnside? If you don’t think so, please explain why it wouldn’t.

    #2: What would you do to fix the traffic problem on Burnside? If you’d take buses off of Burnside where would you put them?

  32. Richard
    March 1, 2007 at 12:41 pm Link

    No No No on #1
    Because the proposal you envision doesn’t take into account the whole streetscape which the $50 million will be paying for and you completely ignore the reputation of PDOT and city policy makers. This WILL NOT be a traffic moving adventure. No genuine traffic relief will be provided while traffic calming will be absolutely incorporated. You’re stuck on describing something, “two one way streets with timed lights” without any deliberate obstructions, conflicts or “calming” as planners like to call it. Where have you been?
    So my explanation as to why it won’t work is simple. It’s a fantasy.
    I would choose nothing over this B-C $50 million make over.
    But I might take out the islands, possibly remove sidewalks from one side, entice developers to create elevated sidewalks or maybe throw on a couple ped bridges from tower to tower or store to store. Prohibit bikes from Burnside (how dare I)
    Ingenuity versus throwing $50 million at a farce of a plan derived from misguided planners being directed by disingenuous policy makers with ulterior motive.

  33. Nick
    March 1, 2007 at 1:04 pm Link

    Richard said:

    “The fact is the only reason folks on this blog WANT the couplet is because it includes yet another streetcar line.”

    Not true, Richard. Most everyone on this blog knows that I am not disposed at all towards rail projects for Portland (not appropriate); however, as a non-driver and pedestrian who lives near Burnside, I have to deal first hand with the inadequacies and safety issues there. So I have supported the couplet.

    That said, my previous speculation that Sam Adams cut a deal and proposed the streetcar to get the “railfans” on board has been reinforced by recent developments I have seen.

  34. Doug
    March 1, 2007 at 1:07 pm Link

    What obstructions are they planning on building into the system that don’t already exist? From what I can see they’re adding on-street parking on Burnside and curb extensions, which isn’t really any worse than two narrow lanes of travel in each direction as we have now. Where do you see anything about traffic calming?

  35. Bob R.
    March 1, 2007 at 1:12 pm Link

    Richard –

    You are factually incorrect about the history of the Burnside-Couch proposal. You can review the archives of this very site to see many discussions and diverse viewpoints on the topic. The addition of a streetcar to the proposal took many by surprise, even among those people here who are generally supportive of streetcars. I believe that only one person (apologies Lenny if I have this wrong) switched from non-support to support based on the inclusion of the streetcar.

    For my own sake, I posted a proposal (complete with graphics) supporting widening the curbside auto lanes from 15th to 23th compared to what was originally proposed. This drew support from some motorists and polite opposition from some pedestrian advocates. But it was clear at the time, without discussion of the streetcar, that there was a diversity of opinion on the topic.

    Furthermore, your proposal to build pedestrian overpasses would be prohibitively expensive. Take Las Vegas, for example: In 1997 dollars (if I recall correctly), each 4-crossing intersection cost $4 million. Even if you only put elevated crossings at 10 intersections, you’d be up to $40 million without doing a single thing to the roadway (which has to be rebuilt anyway.)

    Your proposal to completely eliminate a sidewalk on one side of Burnside is a political non-starter. You’ve gone from decrying “anti-auto” policies to being completely anti-pedestrian in a single post.

    Note that on East Burnside, sidewalks were completely eliminated in the early part of the 20th century, with business properties partially condemned and required to turn over the lobbies of their buildings for pedestrian access (this is why E. Burnside now has “arcades” where the sidewalks travel under building supports.) Now you propose to take more, more, more just for autos.

    Finally, regarding bikes on Burnside, it is STATE LAW that bikes can use any non-freeway public road, and can also use freeways in cases where there is no nearby alternative. If you want to completely ban bikes from Burnside, call your state legislator and see how far you get. You probably won’t care to review the actual proposal, but the Burnside-Couch project will actually relocate most bike travel to Flanders.

    – Bob R.

  36. Chris Smith
    March 1, 2007 at 1:30 pm Link

    Do you agree that keeping transit off Couch is an advantage for both car traffic and transit, and an important point to make?

    No, actually I think transit should be where the cars going in the same direction are. So if we do the couplet, the Streetcar should be on Couch with the rest of the westbound movements.

  37. Chris Smith
    March 1, 2007 at 1:34 pm Link

    So what if Burnside doesn’t work for traffic as well as (Grand/MLK)or Glisan and Everett?

    The point is that trying to accomodate as much traffic as their is now on a two-way street requires that you sacrifice pedestrian safety and the streetscape. The couplet holds auto traffic harmless (indeed improves travel times slighty) while vastly improving the pedestrian realm and opening up access for all modes (in part because of the left turn opportunities created).

    I favor the couplet with or without the Streetcar. The Streetcar is just icing on the cake from my point of view. Even if we don’t choose to do Streetcar we should do the couplet.

  38. Roger Bixby
    March 1, 2007 at 2:16 pm Link

    I’m generally in favor of the couplet, if it’s the only way Burnside will get repaved. The road is practically undrivable west of the 405 in its present condition.

    As for the streetcar, eh. Nice to have. Just repave the damn road.

  39. Mel
    March 1, 2007 at 2:25 pm Link

    Somebody ought to point out that the Burnside couplet isn’t one couplet. It is two couplets. One on each side of the river, and a segment west of the proposed couplet which is need of traffic management more than the two areas of Burnside covered by the “B-C.”

    The overall time to get from Sandy Blvd to NW 23rd Ave. will be longer as one gets off the east segment to go over the bridge and back to the couplet interruption caused by the river and, then, back again to Burnside.

    This has nothing to do with making traffic go faster. If it did, it would not be acceptable to Adams or Metro.

    Mel

  40. Richard
    March 1, 2007 at 3:15 pm Link

    “The couplet holds auto traffic harmless (indeed improves travel times slighty)”

    That is a complete fabrication. Designed to muster supprt for the couplets.

    “I favor the couplet with or without the Streetcar.”

    Good one Chris 8) Why don’t you offer up a plan without the streetcar? he he he

    The signal timing helping traffic is really a whopper too. As many people know signal timing downtown is often put on an 18 mph or less sequence. With bubble curbs, streetcar/ped/bike and streetscape improvements the deliberate calming will be assured.
    If you think this approach is so worthy why not tell the truth and lobby hard for the plan. It aint about traffic relief and you know it.
    Mel said it best,
    If this had anyting to do with making traffic move faster, it would not be acceptable to Adams or Metro. or Chris.

  41. Terry Parker
    March 1, 2007 at 4:31 pm Link

    Joe,

    Social Engineering is far more than a catch phrase. It is about an attempt to limit the choices of the public. As an example, if the political powers of government decided that everybody should wear size 12 army boots, for what ever reason, and handed them out free of charge to all comers, but at the same time added a hefty tax to all other types and sizes of footwear; that would be social engineering.

    This same scenario is currently being enacted related to choices of transport and choices of housing. Tax codes are used to influence choice. Alternative transport mode infrastructure that is less than cost effective is being built to for the sole purpose of influencing choice. Taxpayer subsidies are being used to influence choice. Building codes are being used to influence choice. Limits are being placed on parking to limit choice. For someone to not call all this social engineering, they must be wearing rose colored glasses.

  42. Wells
    March 1, 2007 at 5:12 pm Link

    I don’t know, Chris. But, I think there’s enough room on Burnside to run the streetcar line and the #20 bus entirely on an isolated westbound lane on Burnside. Eastbound Burnside would still have 2 traffic lanes. Enough extra streetwidth to improve sidewalks on both sides. It would probably require a new design for the Park Blocks segment. Leaving transit on Burnside is worth considering, and might be a good compromise. Everybody will be able to figure out that transit is on Burnside. Whatever.

  43. Chris Smith
    March 1, 2007 at 6:56 pm Link

    Good one Chris 8) Why don’t you offer up a plan without the streetcar? he he he

    I’ve been lobbying for the plan, sans Streetcar, for three years. Streetcar is a very late addition.

    If this had anyting to do with making traffic move faster, it would not be acceptable to Adams or Metro. or Chris.

    You’re missing an important point. While moving traffic better WAS NOT the motivating factor, the reverse is not true. If in fixing the pedestrian environment, we make Burnside inhospitable to cars, the cars will divert into the neighborhoods adjacent to Burnside, and I can assure you that I don’t want that for my neighborhood, nor do the other Stakeholder Committee members from along the corridor want that to happen in significant volume.

  44. Chris Smith
    March 1, 2007 at 7:00 pm Link

    I don’t know, Chris. But, I think there’s enough room on Burnside to run the streetcar line and the #20 bus entirely on an isolated westbound lane on Burnside. Eastbound Burnside would still have 2 traffic lanes.

    Yes, if you didn’t add back parking (hey look, the alternative mode guy is advocating parking – because it helps trigger redevelopment). I don’t think giving transit a dedicated right-of-way in this area would add much value to the transit.

  45. Richard
    March 1, 2007 at 8:35 pm Link

    No Chris you are missing THE point.

    Demonstrated by your last comment.

    You mention “cars will divert into the neighborhoods adjacent to Burnside” and you qualify it with “stakeholders don’t want that to happen happen in significant volume”.
    In other words admitting it will happen, as designed I contend.

    Burnside is about the only over the bridge and through downtown steet there is. It’s the perfect target to “calm” or deliberatly congest.

    I’ll even go so far as to charge that policy makers and planners have been conspiring to deliberatly congest that corridor, knowing full well traffic will clog and divert.
    That’s the point. That’s what Metro/PDOT et al does.

    Let’s quit beating around the bush. I’ve read countless conversations here, and elsewhere about the agenda to avoid relieving traffic.
    That it will only lead to “induced demand”, “will only fill up”, “will encourage people to drive” etc.

    You can’t pretend you don’t know what I am talking about.

    It’s been present in the CRC discussions with comments about making sure traffic is not accomodated, figuring out some way to help freight while NOT helping autos. ect. You’ve been involved in those conversations. You know how the agenda works around here.

    Same with the Sellwood bridge. “Let’s not make the new bridge four lanes” “that will prodcue more traffic”.

    Same goes with every conversation about every project where added capacity or traffic relief is dicussed.
    And here you are talking like PDOT is seeking traffic relief for Burnside?
    Give me a break. “We can’t build our way out of congestion”, right? so what the heck is the couplet for? It aint for traffic movement.
    You know it. It’s a design to slow traffic, clog traffic, calming traffic and theoretically streetscape-torture people out of their cars.
    It’s all about the alternative modes mantra.
    So folks how about we play it straight and enough of the phoney talk about this being a traffic engineering plan. It aint. It’s a traffic congesting plan, with of course, the streetcar as the centerpiece. Despite the timing.

    And Bob R, I wasn’t talking about high cost PDOT overpasses.
    I was talking about a couple bridgings between private buildings in some arrangment with developers.

    And what a hoot, suggesting removal of sidewalks on one side of a section of one street is “being completely anti-pedestrian”. Wow!

  46. Chris Smith
    March 1, 2007 at 9:31 pm Link

    Richard, I know exactly what you’re talking about, and it’s evident we have a fundamental difference in philosphy. Which is fine.

    What is not fine is for you to cast aspersions on the motives or sincerety of the participants in the conversation here. We have clear rules that the conversation here is about ideas, not personalities.

  47. Richard
    March 2, 2007 at 9:39 am Link

    “Aspersions”?
    You said you “know exactly what I’m talking about”?
    It aint a “fundamental difference in philosophy”.
    It’s the anti-car agenda masquerading as balanced transportation planning. Always pretending to be considering and addressing the movement of vehicular traffic while devising and implementing plans which stifle it. Which is not fine.
    You basically have admitted to the disengenuous nature of the greater activism and planning which dominates transportation policy making around here. That is not fine.
    The ease at which you now raise a set of rules to sever this revealing conversation is further demonstration of what’s going on here.
    The casting of all strong challenges to the status quo as personal asperations, is a routine too often used as a fallback to avoid the core of this issue.

    Your convenient hyper-sensitivity and warning is
    completely transparent.

  48. Ross Williams
    March 2, 2007 at 10:47 am Link

    It’s a design to slow traffic, clog traffic, calming traffic and theoretically streetscape-torture people out of their cars.

    Sometimes I wish the planners really had those goals in mind. It would be so much easier. We could design streets for under 15 mph so that they could be safely used by everybody. Instead we spend huge sums of money to create a special place for cars so people can drive really fast in their personal vehicle without killing themselves or anyone else too often.

  49. Doug Roberts
    March 2, 2007 at 10:56 am Link

    Terry,

    You make a perfect argument for increasing the number of transportation options in this city. If what you’re really against is lack of choice, then the majority of the last 50+ years of planning should disgust you.

    Many people here in this city want choice. No one’s taking away your car, but we want to know that there are other options for getting from point A to point B. Streetcar/LRT and improved bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure allow that. It’s not taking away choice, it’s adding it. I’m not sold on the couplet idea, but the fact that it was designed to attempt to add more choice for transportation options in this corridor should make you a huge booster of it.

    Of course, maybe what you’re saying is that we should all have choice, as long as it’s only the automobile. Then you can keep saying that we’re “voting with our cars”

    By the way, I found this little gem on the BBC news site, dated October 2, 2002:

    “Iraqi officials say President Saddam Hussein has won 100% backing in a referendum on whether he should rule for another seven years.

    There were 11,445,638 eligible voters – and every one of them voted for the president, according to Izzat Ibrahim, Vice-Chairman of Iraq’s Revolutionary Command Council.

    Saddam Hussein – who has ruled Iraq since 1979 – was the only candidate.”

  50. Chris Smith
    March 2, 2007 at 11:12 am Link

    The ease at which you now raise a set of rules to sever this revealing conversation is further demonstration of what’s going on here.

    That rule has existed since the day this site started, and it’s part of the reason why we can maintain reasonable dialog between people with very different view points.

    Criticize the policies all you want. Criticizing the people is not welcome.

  51. Richard
    March 2, 2007 at 12:53 pm Link

    Ross said,
    “Sometimes I wish the planners really had those goals in mind”.
    They do. You of all people know they do. Traffic calming and streescapes to bring it about can be found throughout the planners work.
    I’ve personally read you advocate for no traffic releif in perfect alignment with out planner’s work.
    The fact that you come clean here with your suggestion that all streets be 15 mph is agood fit with Rex over at Metro.
    You see, most of you are all in the same mindset supporting the same policies.
    You just shouldn’t be afriad of coming clean on what those policies and objectives are.
    In the case of the B-C couplet, the policies being planned are NOT for traffic relief but are aligned with what you and Chris have managed to eek out under protest.
    I appreciate the honesty on policies. However it comes about.

  52. Matthew
    March 2, 2007 at 1:15 pm Link

    Let me get this straight, Richard/Ben/whoever, you think that developers are willingly going to create public, ADA accessible pedestrian bridges across Burnside, in exchange for a few tax breaks?

    I mean, aside from the surface parking lots and gas stations that don’t even have second floors to begin with, you are expecting that, say Dante’s and Union Gossip Mission will gladly install elevators, and allow people to enter their buildings, go up to the second floor and cross? Besides the fact that they share almost no common customers and Dante’s charges a cover, and are open different hours, and I doubt that their management would get along very well, and everything else, that somehow, (for less than $4M,) that they’d be happy to do it?

    You are ignoring the entire logic of pedestrian bridges. Go look at the ones that have been built downtown, you’ll see that they connect either two buildings that are owned by the same owner, or parking garages to shopping malls, (and that the shopping mall validates the parking garage tickets…) You should also note those bridges aren’t technically public. (If you don’t believe me, try to go gather signatures on one of them.) There aren’t any of those on Burnside, partly because nobody wants to cross the street on foot, so no developer in their right mind would consider buying two lots next to each other across Burnside in the first place… And, if the bridges wouldn’t get built naturally, then a few tax breaks is unlikely to change that to the point that you’d get one every other block. You’d need major tax breaks/free land, and as such it would cost as much as if PDOT did the work itself.

  53. Wells
    March 2, 2007 at 1:43 pm Link

    Well, just think about it, Chris. I hadn’t thought about parking, let alone parking on both sides of Burnside.

    I’ve looked at parking
    from both sides now,
    from north and south,
    and still somehow,
    I’d like a streetcar
    there to go.
    I really don’t know why not,
    at all.

    Apologies to Joni Mitchell

  54. Chris Smith
    March 2, 2007 at 2:19 pm Link

    LOL :-)

  55. Richard
    March 2, 2007 at 2:29 pm Link

    Matthew,

    Way to go. Focus on some mundane passing comment and ignore the essence of my posts. Is that deflecting?

    My primary point is to criticize the B-C policies being crafted, which while being presented as partially traffic accomodating, are quite the contrary by every genuine observation.

  56. Chris Smith
    March 2, 2007 at 2:38 pm Link

    Richard, as I understand it, your argument is that phased signals will result in a slow overall trip time. Is that correct?

    Let me try to make the case intuitively. Today if you are driving on Burnside, the signalization is set to pretty much turn all lights green at once. So you move forward at 30mph (or 40mph) in some cases and then you hit a red light and wait for another cycle, then repeat.

    With progressive signals on the one-way couplet, once you get your first green, if you drive at a steady 17/18 mph, you won’t get a red light again. So you trade fast/stop/fast/stop for steady-moderate.

    I don’t know of any traffic engineers (even the very pro-car ones) that would disagree with this.

  57. Bill
    March 2, 2007 at 3:09 pm Link

    Christ, someone must be drunk. Guess I have to add another name on the ‘skip the stupid post’ list.

  58. Ross Williams
    March 2, 2007 at 3:25 pm Link

    They do.

    Well no, they don’t. If they did I would have my 15 mph streets where cars had to share with pedestrians and drive slowly enough to make them safe.

    In fact, the planners all design streets that are almost exclusively for automobiles. Where walking or riding a bike often means endangering one’s life.

    the policies being planned are NOT for traffic relief

    I agree. They are designed to provide roads that can be used exclusively by people who create traffic. They certainly aren’t going to provide the rest of us with any relief from it.

  59. Bob R.
    March 2, 2007 at 3:28 pm Link

    Richard wrote: Way to go. Focus on some mundane passing comment and ignore the essence of my posts

    Why Richard, just yesterday you ignored all but one of the arguments of my comment, and then completely mischaracterized and slammed the remaining point. I had thought to reply with a complaint about you doing the very same thing, but decided to let the matter drop. Now that I know that it is very important to you that people don’t go off on tangents and ignore your arguments, I would kindly request you extend the same courtesy to others.

    Best wishes,
    Bob R.

  60. Ross Williams
    March 2, 2007 at 3:53 pm Link

    They do.

    Well no, they don’t. If they did I would have my 15 mph streets where cars had to share with pedestrians and drive slowly enough to make them safe.

    In fact, the planners all design streets that are almost exclusively for automobiles. Where walking or riding a bike often means endangering one’s life.

    the policies being planned are NOT for traffic relief

    I agree. They are designed to provide roads that can be used exclusively by people who create traffic. They certainly aren’t going to provide the rest of us with any relief from it.

  61. Matthew
    March 2, 2007 at 5:15 pm Link

    Bob R: Thank you.

    Richard: If you want to question PDOT’s motives in general, have a good time, but I’m not going to respond to those sections of your posts, because it seems like a waste of time. We don’t have any real data to back up either side of our arguments, and as such it is rather quickly going to degenerate into sound bites (“Vote with their cars” and “Social Engineering” for instance,) and not a real discussion.

    If you want to discuss if this project is pro or anti-car, that is one thing, but you are one of the few people that sees the couplet at being anti-car, (the Oregonian, for instance, sees this as very pro-car, so much so that they think it is a bad thing.)

    What would you suggest we do to Burnside? Bridges seems to be your only suggestion so far that actually helps the problem. The other things you’ve suggested, like removing the sidewalks, would make the street extremely dangerous, (cause the sight lines at the intersections would go to nil, and people would be inches away from crashing into buildings,) and would put a lot of places out of business, (cause customers wouldn’t have a way to get to the front door,) and would clearly be very anti-pedestrian, so I figured I didn’t need to point out the problems with it…

  62. Wells
    March 2, 2007 at 6:56 pm Link

    More B-C couplet ideas:

    I’m not sure parking should be on Burnside. There’s not much parking there now. It’s a major thoroughfare, and more parking might be too disruptive.

    I was only thinking wider sidewalks and bicycle lanes next to the curb for Burnside.

    Couch is another story. Parking is already there on both sides. Wouldn’t keeping transit on Burnside, westbound in an exclusive single lane, make managing the traffic on 1-way Couch simpler? I think so.

    Think about it, Chris. I haven’t seen the latest Burnside/Couch couplet drawings. Are there any that incorporate the streetcar line? I’ll bet not.

  63. Bob R.
    March 2, 2007 at 7:24 pm Link

    Wells –

    Regarding your concerns about adding parking to Burnside, in the few blocks closest to the bridge at least, the most of the parking will be in separate plaza areas separate from the main ROW. Thus, cars entering/exiting parking will not be disruptive in the traditional way that parallel parking is disruptive. (Of course, this does not apply to the entire couplet, but it may be enough to prevent problems in the most congested blocks of Burnside.)

    The parking “plaza” areas can be closed off on weekends or for special events and become complete pedestrian plazas.

    – Bob R.

  64. Wells
    March 3, 2007 at 10:32 pm Link

    If by “plaza” Bob, you mean parking lot, then just please call them parking lots thank you.

    My point still unaddressed is: if the B/C couplet would arrange both directions of transit on Burnside (streetcar line and the #20, westbound in a single, transit-only lane), is possible, worth considering, and would allow westbound Couch traffic to flow better. What is so hard to understand about that?

    Chris said Burnside is to have parking. Bob R says no. If it’s no, then transit can remain on Burnside and Couch less encumbered with traffic-stopping transit vehicles. Good grief.

  65. Adron
    March 4, 2007 at 1:03 am Link

    Terry Parker
    “Social Engineering is far more than a catch phrase. It is about an attempt to limit the choices of the public. As an example, if the political powers of government decided that everybody should wear size 12 army boots, for what ever reason, and handed them out free of charge to all comers, but at the same time added a hefty tax to all other types and sizes of footwear; that would be social engineering.”

    That’s exactly what they did to get cars to become the “common” and “relied upon” transportation device.

    hmmm, imagine those same types of people are doing the opposite now. :o

    Strange how things come full circle.

  66. jim karlock
    March 4, 2007 at 1:57 am Link

    Adron Says:
    Private Car…………………………..$0.294 (veh.-mi – actual cost – national average)
    Private Car ………………………….$0.185 (actual cost – national average)
    Private Car…………………………$0.227 (Above – adjusted for Portland’s lower vehicle occupancy)

    These estimates are horribly off. If one wants to lower their standards of life to that of about 6k a year, live in a $200 dollar a month trailer in Mississippi, and buy a beat up car that is horribly unreliable but costs next to nothing…

    …one would STILL BE HARD PRESSED to get these numbers. Seriously JK. At least use conservative, easily accepted numbers. I mean the Feds
    JK: Err, those numbers are from the FEDs. They just happen to be real data on the real cost of cars, instead of theoretical. See DebunkingPortland.com/Transit/Cost-Cars-Transit.htmfor details just click back to the federal government source documents.

    Adron Says: If anything when one compares lifespan, average resell/usage of a vehicle, and all those things transit vs. auto use almost comes out break even in actual cost.
    JK: No, those numbers are actual USA averages and as far as I know include ALL costs of auto. Usually transit numbers ignore road costs, fuel tax and construction – the auto numbers DO NOT leave out these costs (as far as I know.)

    Adron Says: The differences come in lifestyles, preferences of mode, and all that other almost superficial mess.
    JK: So pay for your own mass transit. Current Trimet users are 80 % on public welfare.

    Adron Says: The fact of the matter is the average household, in either Portland or Hattiesdburg MS or Jacksonville FL or Plano TX is about 80 cents to 1.50 a mile. …and that can be figured out with complex calcuations or just figured out on the back of a napkin.
    JK: Sorry, you are wrong – my data is actual USA average data, again see DebunkingPortland.com/Transit/Cost-Cars-Transit.htmfor and click back to the government source data.

    Thanks
    JK

  67. Bob R.
    March 4, 2007 at 10:37 am Link

    Wells wrote:

    If by “plaza” Bob, you mean parking lot, then just please call them parking lots thank you.

    I do not believe Parking Lot is the appropriate term… they are multi-use plazas that function as parking during the week but as purely pedestrian areas when closed off during special events, and they have a distinct entrance and exit so function differently than traditional parallel parking.

    My point still unaddressed is: if the B/C couplet would arrange both directions of transit on Burnside (streetcar line and the #20, westbound in a single, transit-only lane), is possible, worth considering, and would allow westbound Couch traffic to flow better. What is so hard to understand about that?

    There’s nothing hard to understand about that. The last time I addressed one of your ideas directly, you flew off the handle. This time, I just added to your points about parking, without contradicting you, and you still flew off the handle.

    But, since you asked, here is my answer: Although I believe there is room in the ROW for a dual-track streetcar alignment on Burnside, it would be very problematic to operate. Westbound streetcar travel would be operating against the traffic signal flow.

    One of the main features of the couplet is reduced speed, but more continuous traffic flow due to timed signals. You can’t do much with signal timing on a two-way street. Westbound streetcars would be constantly hitting red lights, and preemption wouldn’t work as it would throw off the timing for all eastbound travelers.

    Furthermore, there would be two streetcar tracks sharing a narrow alignment without room to widen sidewalks or build boarding platforms… basically your idea replaces the two westbound auto lanes with two streetcar tracks into the same cramped space, and most of the benefits of the couplet proposal for adding sidewalks and narrowing crossing distances are lost.

    Chris said Burnside is to have parking. Bob R says no.

    Where did I say there is to be no parking on Burnside? I never said “no.” I said, quite clearly, that in several blocks closest to the bridge that the parking would be configured differently than most people expect.

    …Good grief.

    Good grief indeed. At least we agree on that.

    – Bob R.

  68. Bob R.
    March 4, 2007 at 10:50 am Link

    Wells –

    Please see this document:

    http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=90267

    for examples of the “flexible public space” plazas.

    – Bob R.

  69. Wells
    March 4, 2007 at 6:59 pm Link

    Bob, What do you expect me to do, humble myself before your all-knowingness? A parking lot is a parking lot, not a plaza. Chris says on-street parking, parallel-style, is what he supports on Burnside. That’s what we’re talking about, not some “plaza” parking.

    We’re talking on-street parking because if Burnside were to dedicate the lane to westbound transit and forego some on-street parking, the transit configuration could work, maybe.

    “Although I believe there is room in the ROW for a dual-track streetcar alignment on Burnside, Westbound streetcar travel would be operating against the traffic signal flow.”

    OK, that’s a good point.

    “…One feature of a couplet is reduced speed, but continuous traffic flow due to timed signals. You can’t do much with signal timing on a two-way street. Westbound streetcars would be constantly hitting red lights. And preemption wouldn’t work as it would throw off the timing for eastbound travelers.”

    I’m suggesting transit-only on Burnside, not regular traffic. Cross-streets that are one-way southbound (3rd, 5th, 8th, 9th, 11th) could be preemption signalized for westbound transit regardless of eastbound traffic signalization. 2nd Ave would need a special signal. There are 10 more interesections that could possibly operate ‘yield to westbound transit’ signals.

    “…two streetcar tracks sharing a narrow alignment without room to widen sidewalks or build boarding platforms… replacing the two westbound lanes with two streetcar tracks, the benefits of widened sidewalks and narrowing crossing distances are lost.”

    Wrong. I’m suggesting the streetcar run on the outside lanes, the same as on 10th and 11th; eastbound in traffic, westbound in a transit-only lane. Yes, it is some sacrifice of new sidewalk widening, but not that much because the extra lane is transit-only, instead of parking as Chris supports.

    I think the idea has some merit. You haven’t made a strong enough argument against it. You say I’m flying off the handle. I say you’re being condescending.

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