In Sunday’s Oregonian Randy Gragg casts the Burnside/Couch couplet debate as a battle between “Road People” and “Urban People”.
Apparently Randy would put me in the “Road” coalition, which I find ironic given my efforts on alternative transportation.
37 responses to “Gragg Disses Couplet as “an unrelenting sameness””
Yeah, I’d definately paint you as a “road” person too. I mean, you hate stuff like Streetcars and own like 5 cars don’t ya! ;) j/k
That is interesting.
So on order of priorities, how do you see this Burnside Couplet within the scope of the other Streetcar projects underway?
4 – LO Streetcar
2 – East Side Streetcar
1 – Hawthorne Streetcar
3 – Burnside Couplet
There is my numbered, unordered priority list. What’s yours?
Randy, as usual, gets to the heart of the matter. I opposed the couplet when it was just a road project…I distrust couplets, like for the city to have some grit here and there, and find Couch a much better bike route than Flanders would be. And Randy is correct that as originally proposed, Burnside/Couch would be just another oneway couplet. The Streetcar changes the equation. With Streetcar it would not be just another couplet, but a unique spine that will have a lot to offer, especially if Streetcar crosses the Burnside Bridge.
Adron, the Streetcar priorities in my mind are:
1) Complete The Loop (aka Eastside)
2) LO (assuming it is the alternative chosen in the alternatives analysis process)
3) Everything else goes in the hopper for the City-wide rail planner process
I suggest making Couch St one-way beforehand. Until the couplet is approved, this would give motorists and pedestrians an idea of how the couplet could be an improvement. Motorists obviously find the 10th & 11th intersections at Couch St difficult to navigate. I’m pretty sure traffic at the intersection of 2nd and Couch could also be improved were one-way traffic direction installed.
The downside we must admit is that Couch St could become a raceway like Glisan. I’m burned about no marked crosswalk at 20th and Glisan for the school and park. Hello? Still, Burnside would certainly become safer for pedestrians.
Now, on the Eastside, the couplet has the potential to dramatically improve traffic and pedestrian mobility at all intersections, MLK & Grand up to 14th and Sandy. Maybe do the eastside first.
I’m unsure about the addition of a streetcar line on Burnside as it had to have completely disrupted previously planning.
The only problem with making Couch St. one-way beforehand is that it does not have signals at every intersection. Without signals, you would indeed get the “raceway” effect and that would justifiably sour people on the couplet idea.
What makes the Burnside-Couch couplet proposal work is signalization at every intersection that is timed to move traffic in a slow but orderly and reliable progression. Travel times will be competitive with what they are today but top speeds will be slower — less time will be spent waiting at red lights.
To make Couch one-way beforehand and have it be an accurate reflection of the project would require signals to be installed as well, and that’s a big chunk of the overall project cost, so we may just have to wait for the final project.
– Bob R.
1 – LO Streetcar
2 – Sandy/Hollywood Streetcar
3 – East Side Streetcar
4 – Hawthorne Streetcar
5 – Burnside Couplet
1 – LO Streetcar
2 – Sandy/Hollywood Streetcar
3 – East Side Streetcar
4 – Hawthorne Streetcar
5 – Burnside Couplet
On reading the article, my reaction was that Gragg got it completely backwards. I’m firmly an “urban person” and I supported the couplet because it would create a more walkable and bikeable neighborhood, integrate Burnside into the downtown circulation system, add street parking, and unify the two halves of downtown currently divided by Burnside.
Whereas “road people” (it seems to me, although it is presumptuous to speak for “them”) would prefer to keep a difficult-to-cross four-lane highway with few traffic lights, relatively high speeds and high traffic to deliver traffic through downtown, and hang the impact on pedestrians, bicyclists, transit and businesses that lack loading and parking zones.
I had a similar reaction as you when reading the article. The author started out by asking readers to keep an “open mind” and then went on to define two very narrow camps. As the discussions here at PortlandTransport have shown, support and opposition to this project cannot be so easily characterized.
– Bob R.
I think that Randy Gragg obviously is opposed to this couplet idea, or at least, it seems like that’s the overall flavor of his article. It certainly doesn’t seem to be an unbiased airing of the facts. Where is the acknowledgment that Burnside has been a dysfunctional mess for years? That it is a street crying out for improvement? That it doesn’t really work for anybody right now — not pedestrians, not bicyclists, not transit, not drivers.
And how does making Burnside one-way in any way reduce its contribution to urban form? All of the wonderful flatiron buildings will remain — and they might actually get the opportunity to put some cafe seating on the sidewalks outside, as a bonus! None of the urban form of Burnside, or its relationship with the city, would be fundamentally altered. Addresses would still count up from it moving north or south, and be prefixed with “Sx” to the south and “Nx” to the north. The only difference is that traffic would only be moving in one direction, rather than two — and it would be moving more smoothly, while also giving pedestrians more breathing room in their own domain on the wider sidewalks.
Where is his supposed infringement on the urban form here? Can somebody help me out? I’m just not seeing it.
Further, he compares Burnside to San Francisco’s Market Street. While this is an apt comparison, I wonder if he knows that San Francisco has been studying Market Street for years, trying to find a way to fix what is widely regarded as a dysfunctional street? I’ve always thought that San Francisco might be better off making Market and Mission streets into a one-way couplet… currently, both are two way, both have bus-only lanes, and neither one is very efficient at moving the buses and transit that is nominally their first priority. Perhaps Portland can lead the way with the Burnside/Couch couplet, and the Transit Mall redesign that clearly indicates that a street can be 2/3 for transit while still allowing 1/3 for automobiles (if, indeed, this proves to be the case once construction is complete on the new mall facelift).
In any case, I’m solidly pro-couplet, especially with the addition of the streetcar concept. I’ve always thought that there should be a way to fix the signals on Burnside, and the couplet seems to be the best answer. In many ways, this could be seen as fixing the problem that Burnside has wonderfully been causing by its very existence all these years.
And as for keeping Burnside and Portland weird — I think Portland can take care of itself in that department. But if there’s really a concern, how about using some of the Percent for Art portion of this project to kick-start a citywide mural program? Portland definitely does not have enough good murals, and a program to encourage and aid in mural creation, restoration, maintenance and promotion would be wonderful.
Gragg is essentially saying “I am an Urban Person®, I oppose the couplet, therefore if you disagree with me, you must be a Road Person®”.
that’s downright bushian logic.
does couplet criticism apply to both sides of the river? the east side couplet seems like a no brainer. on the west side, i can see the oppositions point.
1 – Hawthorne Streetcar
2 – East Side Streetcar
3 – Sandy/Hollywood Streetcar
4 – Burnside Couplet
5 – LO Streetcar
OregonLive’s Old Town blogger has another negative view of the couplet. See posts here, here, here, here, etc. He essentially sees the glass “half full” and is against it because of the changes to Couch Street.
Something’s fishy about Gragg’s article.
Do his generalizations about who’s in favor and opposed to the couplet conform to anyone else’s observations? My strong personal sense is that it’s the “road people”–those who tend to not care about mass transit and the pedestrian environment–who are generally in favor of keeping Burnside as it is now. It’s the “urban people”–those who favor shifting the transportation balance a bit toward those who are actually in the city and not just passing through in a car–who are most likely to favor the couplet.
And what’s the deal with the connection that Gragg’s trying to make between a pattern of one-way streets and some broader kind of homogeneity of culture and environment? Huh? How exactly does the couplet proposal threaten the level of weirdness in Portland?
I often like Gragg’s articles, but this one makes me question his motives. I can’t help but wonder if he owns property on Couch and doesn’t want to deal with additional traffic on his own street.
I think Randy correctly identifies that there are two camps, but mislabels them.
The first camp are the urban designers, including many in the Portland Planning Bureau who see a unique role for Burnside in the hierarchy of places and streets in the central city and don’t want to lose this (Gragg’s “Urban People”).
The second camp are the folks worried about how Burnside works as a place, and currently as a barrier between places. These are neighborhood activisits, alternative transportation activists and property owners along Burnside. I think Randy violently mischaracterizes us as “Road People”.
Randy Gragg was absolutely correct on many points;
“Burnside is the city’s spine – how streets like it operate in other cities – Burnside is unique – the triangular corners , the varying widths, the strange fit into the transportation system – all are opportunities for unique buildings, landscapes and experiences within the city’s larger fabric – It’s a decision between conformity and diversity – transportation planners seemingly incapable of appreciating such important variations as Burnside – the Portland Office of transportation would make every street the same – Some streets move more cars and transit. Some move more pedestrians – the Burnsides of the world function as thresholds between distinct places – It’s a design and enforcement problem, not a crisis.”
All are great comments. From my prospective he is right. Burnside is a motor vehicle mover street and this spine of the city should not be broken and receive a do over to become anything else. The safety issues at some intersections and crossings can be resolved with capable people. The divide is more historical and psychological than physical. Plenty of wonky development opportunities exist by leaving Burnside in its current form. Not every sidewalk on every street needs to be widened to 12 foot pedestrian freeway status. Bulb outs should become bulb ins. The couplet only offers more of the same dull look experience and congestion of any other street PDOT has modernized and mess up. Burnside should remain as a street for motor vehicles; the one remaining that goes from city border to city border, West to East and East to West. The hustle and bustle of Burnside is unique, and should remain that way. Slow moving creeping-crawling streetcars that block the primary purpose of moving motor vehicles on this street have no place on Burnside, or any other high volume motor vehicle street for that matter. Even the modern day streetcars are a solution of yesterday that do not fit in with the traffic of today. Streetcars, if they can become financially self-sustainable without taxpayer subsidies, may be OK on secondary streets where they can tangle with bicyclists instead of cars, and on private-right-of-ways, but sluggish obstacles that impede traffic flow do not belong on Burnside just as the volumes of westbound Burnside motor vehicle traffic does not belong on Couch.
Bob R, signalization of Couch is arguably more likely to create the ‘raceway’ affect. A green light to many if not most motorists translates into no speed limit. A stop sign is a stop sign.
“..signalization at every intersection timed to move traffic in a slow but orderly and reliable progression.”
It’ll take more than signalization to engineer a slow, orderly, reliable progression. Perhaps it can be done with traffic calming devices like curb extensions and flashing yellow lights.
Chris nailed Randy Gragg’s view of Burnside. I don’t agree that Burnside can be fixed, or made more habitable, or become less of a barrier between north and south, or reduce its traffic problems without widening the sidewalks here and there. I believe the couplet could work. And I think making Couch St one-way beforehand, (with stop sign arrangement, not with new stoplights), is worth considering.
Signalization of every intersection works to calm traffic in the main downtown grid. Where you get a “raceway” effect is on stretches like NE Broadway where there are long distances between each light, or on the existing Burnside where bi-directional travel prevents progressive signal timing.
If Couch were to be made one-way on a trial basis using only stop signs, I don’t think it would give a realistic picture to pedestrians or to drivers.
It is unfortunate that 3D simulation/visualization technology isn’t quite affordable enough to make videos which could clearly (and accurately) represent how the final project would function — presentable online to anyone who is interested. A number of manually-designed 3D videos were made for the Transit Mall proposals, maybe something like that could be done for the couplet proposal.
One thing that irritates me about some of the criticism of the proposal (I’m not aiming this at you) is the idea that a revised Couch street which will carry roughly half of the traffic that Burnside now carries will be some kind of horrible disaster for pedestrians, but that Burnside (with twice the traffic) is just fine as it is.
– Bob R.
I’m willing to live with my title as a road person. One way streets with 12 mph speed limits are perfect for a bicycle, but I almost always have to stop for the red light on Burnside when I’m riding down Broadway.
However, his argument about how Burnside will lose it’s character by becoming one way isn’t doing it for me, partly because the Burnside he is describing, of the places where strip clubs, dive bars, and industry were north, and “respectable” commercial districts where south, is already gone. It disappeared with the creation of the Pearl. The strip clubs are more discrete and upscale now, so they don’t look out of place, the dive bars are still there, (some not for long: Virginia Cafe, for instance,) you just have to look more carefully for them. As for the industry, the large remaining industry in the area is the central post office, which is only there because it is next to the train station, which doesn’t move much mail anymore. If it moved out to the airport, (where our mail actually is,) very few people would miss it. (Yes, I do think we should move mail by train, but that is a far bigger problem than Portland can solve.)
What he is trying to do is save the Burnside of 10+ years ago, when there were railroad cars parked on NW Portland streets. But it isn’t going to work, it just isn’t there to save anymore, and keeping Burnside two ways won’t bring it back. If he wants to save an industrial area to be an industrial area, he has to start with one that is still alive, like the one near OMSI. (I should admit, I’m of mixed feelings about that area myself. That is where I buy my chicken food, for instance, and I’m fairly sure that that type of use would be forced out by a street car, but on the other hand, it is too close to downtown to be a warehouse district…)
Bob, a computer-generated traffic simulation study, I’m pretty sure has already been conducted by the city. Its conclusion was the Burnside/Couch couplet is technically feasible; Couch can handle the predicted traffic volume. (Someone correct me on this if I’m wrong.)
Making Couch one-way beforehand, (without the new signals and signalization), would indeed give motorists and pedestrians a very reasonable idea of how Couch would work with one-way traffic. C’mon! The one-way traffic arrangement with Couch’s current stop signs wouldn’t be exactly the same as with signals, but worth considering.
It’s irresponsible to give a blanket rejection of the idea. It would be relatively cheap to arrange and could build support for the eventual couplet. I’m not arguing the point any more and am not accepting your ridiculous rejection. Get used to it.
Wow, I thought we were basically on the same page here, just that I didn’t think your suggestion of a one-way Couch trial would be practical, and I offered my reasons why. Not a “blanket rejection” and I’m pretty confident I wasn’t being “ridiculous” or “irresponsible”.
Also, you appear to have misunderstood my statement about simulations. I am well aware that the city did traffic modeling simulations. What hasn’t been done is a birds-eye and pedestrians-eye 3D visualization which could give a realistic, accurate portrayal to members of the public. This was done to a certain extent with the transit mall project, however the videos produced were not directly created from the traffic modeling software. That kind of link of public presentation from actual modeling data is missing at this time.
Finally, I still maintain that simply making Couch one-way with stop signs does not provide a realistic portrayal of the final product. For pedestrians, it will give a false sense of security because traffic speeds would be lower in a stop-sign simulation than in the final product, especially with low traffic volumes, and for motorists who try it out it would provide very slow travel times, unlike the final product. What would such a demonstration prove to either group?
– Bob R.
Several letters to the editor in the Oregonian on this today, including one from me. Unfortunately, only one of them is online, so you’ll have to grab a paper copy.
Bob R, a one-way demonstration on Couch would help pedestrians, for example, crossing 11th from the NW to SW corner. Pedestrians would be less concerned with traffic on Couch coming from two directions, obviously. Most pedestrian crossings at one-way Couch intersections see this same reduction in potential accident, which incidentally improves pedestrian mobility.
For motorists at such intersections, the same reduction of potential collision (because there is one less direction in which cars are travelling), makes for smoother transition through the intersection or in turning, obviously.
I understood your statement about simulations, so you don’t have to further elaborate. We are on the same page, both supporting the couplet project, but you are making no allowance for even the least departure from your own ideas, infighting. Learn to pick your battles.
Care to re-post what you wrote to the Oregonian?
They shorted it slightly in the paper, here’s what I submitted:
re Randy’s piece, I think he is cautioning us about “cleaning up” everything, a tendency that has kept Portland pretty un-wierd over much of the last century. Also, reading between the lines, I come away with the sense (and I agree) that while planning is all well and good, you can have too much of it. Great cities have some chaos, some unkempt corners and crooked avenues where unexpected, but positive things happen. We have few of these, and Burnide is one of them.
Is Burnside really that bad? Between the Park Blocks and the Bridge it is plenty wide for four lanes with parking. We need to take out the peak hour lanes as well as the right turn only lanes…these are real Ped-killers…and safety will improve. Same on the eastside where interesting stuff is already underway that probably will not survive the proposed “improvements.”
Oh, and while we are at it, let’s make the Bridge 2 lanes each way with extra wide sidewalk/bikeway promenades. Maybe all Burnside needs is a diet.
I wouldn’t worry about things getting “unwierd”. When the Pearl gets slapped with that millions of dollars of tax abatements, the changes there will be drastic over a few years period. The prices will probably fluctuate largely.
But none the less when that impact hits the area, it WILL cause some really wierd things to happen. As for the physical elements, by the time that happens the Pearl wont’ be a shiny new place anymore. It will have started to take a more worn and aged look. Beginning what could be considered the “maintenance” phase of the area. The question is, with the abatements gone, and the intrusive taxes put back onto the owners’ backs, will they stay, or will they go?
Many of them are already stretched relatively thin in the budget category with hopes of appreciation. What they’ll probably get then is an artificial inflation of value, but will they need loans to cover it? Will they still be paying and have to refinance?
The questions abound. But one can be rest assured when these things start aging and the tax burdens come back monstrously, wierdness will DEFINATELY occur.
As for that though, someone should ask the question. What happens when entire sections of light rail need rebuilt in about 20-30 years. Does Trimet have a plan so they don’t have to cease operations for long stretches of time?
Many of the tracks are already at half lifespan marks, being on their 1st, 2nd, and some 3rd track grindings.
What happens then? Do those ceasing abatements pay for that?
I have gone off topic somewhat, but the questions remain. Anyone been thinking of that? Sam? Chris? JK? Nate? Bob R? Garlynn?
Between the Park Blocks and the Bridge it is plenty wide for four lanes with parking.
At the Park Blocks MARKED crosswalks I have been rear-ended once, stopping for a pedestrian and, on a more recent occasion, when I was again stopped for a pedestrian the driver in the lane to my right almost hit him, avoided it only by slamming on her brakes, and was herself rear-ended.
This is NOT a safe place to cross Burnside. It would be interesting to know how many rear-endings there are, as well as how many pedestrians have been killed crossing there, and at the other intersections.
That said, all this silliness about the “European Pedestrian ambiance”…c’mon. They create pedestrian-only zones for peds all over Europe. Wonderful areas to walk, shop, stroll…Couch is nothing of the kind. The four-way-stops are a awful for pedestrians and drivers.
I, personally, have a hard time figuring what makes the most sense here. I DO know, on the east side, as someone serving on the Burnside Bridghead CAC, it’s been made clear with at least the couplet on THAT side of the bridge, that project can not –and will not– go forward as planned without it.
My short answers about track replacement:
Funding: I don’t know.
Operations: Track replacement can be done at night and in phases. For trickier stretches, earlier closings/later openings may need to be employed, and for really complicated sections, scheduled closing of Sunday service may occur. (The complicated streetcar/MAX interlocks on 10th and 11th were done during Sunday closures if I recall correctly.)
For long stretches of track-on-ties such as along I-84, rail replacement machines that move along the tracks and replace them as they go can be employed economically. This is what is now happening along most of the commuter rail project alignment (although using “economically” in conjunction with that particular project is a big stretch of the word).
For track-in-concrete things are more complicated… I wonder what it will take in 40 or so years to replace rails along Interstate Ave where local organizations lobbied for and received large sections of all-concrete trackway.
For future projects, I would stress to neighbors that while concrete is prettier, gravel trackbeds help manage runoff and do a lot to diffuse noise. If they want something more aesthetically pleasing, grass can be grown in the trackbed, like in New Orleans and a number of European cities. Even Eugene’s new busway has a grassy section between the paved “tracks” for the bus wheels.
– Bob R.
“They create pedestrian-only zones for peds all over Europe. Wonderful areas to walk, shop, stroll…Couch is nothing of the kind. The four-way-stops are a awful for pedestrians and drivers.”
Good point about Couch, Frank. I’ve also wondered why some people extol its supposed virtues as a “pedestrian friendly” environment. Three- and four-way intersections with stop signs make pedestrians feel anxious, since both peds and drivers have to exercise their fallible judgment about when it’s safe to proceed. As a highly experienced pedestrian, I’m much less trustful of drivers’ ability to deal safely with stop signs than stop lights.
The one-way grid system in downtown Portland is relatively comfortable for pedestrians, so I don’t see that making Couch one-way with stop lights represents any kind of loss. And the couplet certainly will be a gain for those trying to walk across Burnside–and those drivers genuinely interested in allowing people to walk safely and calmly across.
And let’s not forget trying to walk on Couch over 405 (between 14th and 16th Aves). That REALLY sucks. I try to avoid walking home that way whenever I can.
Also, 21st-Burnisde-Morrison and 18/19th-Burnside-Alder. Again, bad news for us pedestrians who live in the area.
“What happens when entire sections of light rail need rebuilt in about 20-30 years. Does Trimet have a plan so they don’t have to cease operations for long stretches of time?”
>>>> No problem with a BRT system when lanes have to be repaved.
Nick said: No problem with a BRT system when lanes have to be repaved.
Only in the case of stretches where buses can reroute into auto lanes (of course, any time savings is then lost.)
Concrete takes time to cure… anywhere a BRT system uses dedicated lanes, bridges, ramps, or tunnels (especially tunnels), those buses would have to be rerouted.
Once you’ve done significant bus rerouting, the situation is no different than temporarily running buses in place of light rail trains, as sometimes happens with MAX. After all, 100% of TriMet’s rail operators started as bus operators and are completely qualified to operate buses should MAX need a day or two off for track replacement.
– Bob R.
(And if you’re not constructing your “BRT” system with significant segments of dedicated ROW, it’s not “BRT”.)
– Bob R.
The reality check is the Burnside Bridge when in full service is one of the most congested bridges in Portland that crosses the Willamette. Additional motor vehicle capacity is needed at this location, especially eastbound, not less as some may suggest. Adding the streetcar which is billed as better connecting the two sides of the river will only add even more congestion and disruption; not to mention adding tracks to the bridge will require wastefully tearing up the recently installed new bridge deck.
So here is a unique solve all thought that has been proposed for other dividing furrows in Portland, put a cap over the river.
Starting from both sides of the Burnside Bridge, build a cap two city blocks wide in each direction. Call it the Willamette Crossing. Six more motor vehicle lanes could be added for the 80 percent plus of the population that vote by using their cars. The Couch couplet could then go straight across the river and not have to jog over to Burnside and then jog back. Usually when couplets are installed in most places, they also include new river crossings; so this would just be more of the same dull conformity that PDOT is always promoting. The streetcar could have its own right-of-way if fares can cover the costs to make the price tag financially self-sustainable. If bicyclists are willing to tax themselves to pay the costs, they could have a minimum 15 foot wide pedal place freeway crossing. There might even be room for a ride-a-bike through latté stand. That too however would likely need a bicyclist paid tax subsidy to survive. The fish should like a cap too; more shade to keep the river waters cool.
A cap over the Willamette is definitely the way to go. No pesky property owners over the river to preach the merits of and convince there is a real need for such a cap. Planter boxes and maybe even a strip lawn can be added to keep it green. It will definitely better connect the two sides of the river and therefore promote new development. The only thing left to do is ramrod the cap through and get it line for funding. Done deal!
A cap? That’s a reality check?
I cross the Burnside regularly as part of commuting between SE and working downtown. Congestion is not that bad, actually.
Besides looking terrible, it is the wrong direction in terms of solving the problems at hand.
“Vote by using their cars.” That’s snappy soundbite. Actually sounds like it was worked up in some p.r. spin zone. My reality is that I often “vote” by using my car because I have no other choice. That approach worked in the good ‘ole USSR but not here- although the logic does extend to those who claim that this is the land of socialistic thinking. A balanced approach that would provide options would be much more democratic, sustainable and in touch with the reality of many of us who actually work and commute downtown.
I’m not going to endorse Terry’s comments but they did inspire me on a tangent: A 2nd bridge for Couch street, modest in size and parallel to Burnside, styled to mimic the historic look of the Burnside bridge itself and not overshadow it, would make a logical fit with the couplet.
However, I don’t know if a direct Couch river crossing would be practical to build or even possible with the new Bridgehead development going in, and I’m not sure at all how other Portlanders would react to the idea… I’m just putting it out there as a random thought.
By the way, Terry, you’d be proud of me…
Yesterday, a bicyclist was making a very unsafe and illegal maneuver across three lanes of traffic on Glisan at the I-205 interchange, and I would have hit him if I hadn’t of noticed him in time.
I honked, rolled down my window and gave him a good talking-to, starting with “I ride a bike too, but you’ve got to be more careful!” (I actually managed to avoid expletives). Based on his response, he actually thought I was “parked”, which was strange because I was actually in the middle travel lane and moving at the time.
– Bob R.
Bob R. Said:
“Once you’ve done significant bus rerouting, the situation is no different than temporarily running buses in place of light rail trains.”
What? Change from a trolley to a bus and back to a trolley again, instead of riding all the way thru on a bus? Gimme a break!
Also, “And if you’re not constructing your “BRT” system with significant segments of dedicated ROW, it’s not “BRT”.
>>>> I was assuming that the BRT was on a POW;
just shift lanes over like on the Burnside Bridge when they are working on it. In any event, moving buses around when repaving a lane is much easier to handle than the current inflexible MAX when relaying track, an you have you have to use available switches.