Streetcar/Bike Conflict Averted

We reported here a few weeks ago about a conflict brewing between bike lanes and streetcar tracks in South Waterfront. It was also blogged about in other places.

I’m happy to report that City Council adopted a resolution this morning with a new concept that has the support of representatives of all the modes. The solution, arrived at after intensive discussions between PDOT and stakeholders over the last several weeks, has two prominent features…

We reported here a few weeks ago about a conflict brewing between bike lanes and streetcar tracks in South Waterfront. It was also blogged about in other places.

I’m happy to report that City Council adopted a resolution this morning with a new concept that has the support of representatives of all the modes. The solution, arrived at after intensive discussions between PDOT and stakeholders over the last several weeks, has two prominent features:

1) To accomodate the narrow envelope where the Streetcar track slab can be placed (it’s constrained between a sewer line, gas line and high-pressure water main) the curb lines were altered, resulting in a 10-foot sidewalk on the west side of the street, mitigated by expanding the sidewalk on the east side to 15 feet. This shift, in combination with some lane width tweaking, allows the preferred placement of the bike lane on the right, while still preserving parking.

2) To avoid the “Lovejoy problem” of running the bike lane through the Streetcar stop, the lane will actually run around the platform to the right and will be much more clearly indicated as a travel lane, and should be clearer to both bikes and pedestrians.

Here’s a full cross-section diagram (PDF 137K).

I’d like to thank everyone who kept hammering at this to make sure we did not get a substandard solution, and particularly Commissioner Adams for his leadership on this (and Tom Miller, Sam’s chief of staff for his personal involvement).

As I testified at Council this morning, this is a harginger of a systematic conflict between right-side bike lanes and right-side running rail transit. While in Europe we saw many examples of center-running streetcars, center-running has challenges with pedestrian and ADA issues. If Portland is going to simultaneously seek Platinum status and expand its rail transit system, we’re going to need to work out systematic design solutions to these conflicts.

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16 responses to “Streetcar/Bike Conflict Averted”

  1. As a disgruntled bicyclist for along time, I have kept quiet, and dealt with situations around me.
    I have recently, as I get older and more irratatable, been trying to keep myself in check, and maybe make a constructive difference. Ihave not yet quite figured out the proper way to do this.
    I must commend you on this post.
    Knowing that this is the plan, knowing that it must be like this because of pipes, and such, is a eye opener to a man like me.
    I don’t know what goes on under the sidewalk. I do wonder though, and in situations like this, it is apparent that it affects what goes on on top of the sidewalk.
    This proposal sounds very feasible to me.
    I have a question as to what is going to become of greenway access (as in along the river).
    Are we going to be banned to the street through that stretch as we have been for years? I always thought the greenspaces would be going straight through along the river, we seemed to just be waiting for things to kick off along the south waterfront for the trail to be built.
    Downtown 2, electric buggaloo, could benefit from a bike path along the river as well as along the street car section, in my opinion.
    Thank you.
    Dabby Rodriguez

  2. Dabby, my understanding is that the greenway trail is still planned, but funding has been delayed. I’m not an expert on this part of the plan. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable will chime in.

  3. Good work to all involved in this. I honestly have been very worried about plans to move the streetcar across to the eastside because the planned route used a couple of major bicycle routes: NE Weidler/Broadway and NE 7th. Using similar designs, which should be easy at least on the mega roads like Weidler/Broadway would enable cyclists and streetcar fans to be allies, not opponents.

    who knows, maybe we can use this design to calm MLK and Grand and turn them into true boulevards.

  4. The current concept on Broadway/Weidler is that streetcar would run on the left side of the street, so we should not conflict with bikes.

    MLK/Grand is an interesting question, since there are currently no bike lanes. There are lots of sewers and water mains we need to deal with though…

  5. East side street car on mlk and Grand?
    Who’s crazy I dea is this? Are they connected to the folks who came up with the useless tram idea?
    I mean good if you are a doctor, or patient who wants to go to ohsu (I mean, really, go to another hospital.
    The idea for the tram, and I believe, an idea for a streetcar on the east side is more wasted funds.
    Let’s put this money elsewhere.
    I mean we can still stop the tram, it is in the early stages.
    My main question is, where does the money for these little street cars come from?
    We already have the max, by trimet, who I understand we fully subsidize.
    Why don’t we just group all these little trains together, and put an Amtrack sticker on em?
    Throwing money up into the air, just to watch it float back to earth….What a waste!
    Ask portland, I mean all of portland, what they want.
    The answer will have nothing to do with more trains, trams, or street cars.

  6. Dabby,

    The Streetcar and Tram efforts are generally separate, although of course the beneficiaries in South Waterfront overlap.

    Streetcar has generally been funded with a combination of Urban Renewal funds, Local Improvement Districts (i.e., the property owners along the alignment) and parking revenues.

    On the eastside, we will likely seek Federal transportation funds to match the local investment.

    Why do we build Streetcars? A couple of reasons:

    1) We move about 8,000 people a day.

    2) It’s a great catalyst for economic development. The $50M original investment in the first alignment has leverage $1.5B (as in Billion) dollars in private investment along the alignment.

    And the polling I have seen suggests that citizens view the Streetcar very positively.

  7. How are people going to get from the sidewalk to the platform? Is the bike lane going to be depressed (at pavement level vs at platform level) as the diagram shows? If so, did they ever consider doing that on Lovejoy–having a short hump where the bike lane goes up to the sidewalk/platform level and crosses the path between the sidewalk and the platform? It does seem that this would make it clearer to both bikes and peds that there’s an intersection. The downside is that it restricts movement to/from the streetcar platfrom.

    Also, I noticed that they marked seperate lanes for bikes and peds on the approach to and on the Hawthorne Bridge.

  8. Yes, I believe there will be a grade separation between the bike lane and the sidewalk and streetcar platform.

    It’s somewhat similar to what we saw in Europe. People would actually wait on the sidewalk for the streetcar, then cross the travel lane to get to the platform as the vehicle arrived.

  9. The Streetcar comes from RiverPlace to Gibbs on a single track, parallel to Moody St. (west of the street). The idea is to have the second track somewhere to the east after the barge plant eventually goes away. Until then we’ll run in both directions on one track.

    At the stop at Gibbs, the track splits in two, so we can have one train loading and getting ready to head north as another arrives coming south.

    When we add the Lowell extension, the west side of this split will continue down Moody (in the street). The east side will curve east onto Gibbs St. and then south onto Bond St. to form the return leg of the extension (i.e., meeting the track that loops from Moody back to Bond on Lowell St.).

    Sorry I don’t have a map to post. Hope that helps.

  10. thanks a lot, sounds great cant wait to ride it.

    btw is the lowell extension going to open when gibbs extension opens? i had heard that that was a possibility. also is gibbs still going to open this summer with the opening of the meriwether?

  11. We still need to figure out how to pay for the whole Lowell extension :-) I think we’re close to an agreement on how to pay for the track slab so it can be built with the streets. But the catenary wires, etc. will take a little longer, so I think we expect it to open about a year after Gibbs.

    The Gibbs opening date has been a little uncertain as the opening dates for the Tram and the buildings bounce around, but the general idea is to be open for business as the district comes to life. I’ll try to get something more specific to post.

    As you probably know, the construction for Gibbs is essentially done, although the vehicles (3 more) won’t be here until late spring.

  12. If this city would forget about removing the Marquam bridge, the lower sections would provide support for a streetcar extension, from Harrison St. over to OMSI and points on Eastside. Sure the I-% is an eyesore and I suppose it would be nice to remove the Marquam and move the Amtrak Station but will we have ten billion+$? And what other transportation improvements could be had for ten billion=$? We already have a huge federal deficit. Just a thought.

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