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One year later, how could we solve the Transit Mall? A call for ideas

Posted by on October 18th, 2010 at 12:24 pm

This guest post is by Michael Andersen of Portland Afoot, a new “10-minute newsmagazine” and wiki about low-car life in Portland.

Cars, bikes, buses (and MAX) share the transit mall.
(Photo © J. Maus)

When I asked Allen Morgan, TriMet’s head operations safety trainer, if mixing cars, buses, bikes, MAX and pedestrians on two narrow streets in downtown Portland had been the right decision, he paused.

“Initially,” he said, “I would have told you it was a crazy idea.”

(Photo: Dan Liu)

It was the night of Aug. 12. I’d just spent the day walking up and down 5th and 6th Avenues, struggling to find any pedestrians or retail managers with nice things to say about the new every-mode Transit Mall, which opened in 2009. Morgan had just spent an hour listening to an out-of-town consultant tell TriMet bosses that Morgan’s department was heavily understaffed.

When it came to the transit mall, Morgan was choosing his words carefully.

“We’ve had lots of close calls,” he said.

Despite his ongoing worries, Morgan said he’d been relieved by the mall’s nearly spotless safety record in its first year.

What neither of us knew at the time was that, an hour before and a few blocks away, an OHSU medical student on a bike had nearly become the new mall’s first fatality.

I’ve since had more than a dozen conversations about the mall with city, TriMet and business leaders, and I can tell you one thing: After a decade-long argument about parking, driving, pedaling, walking and rolling on 5th and 6th, everyone is eager to declare this problem solved.

“… half the retailers I talked to said they don’t see any benefit from having cars on the street.”

But is it? As Portland Afoot‘s print edition reports this month, you don’t have to see safety problems to question the new mall – half the retailers I talked to said they don’t see any benefit from having cars on the street.

I’ll tell you how I feel: I don’t think Portland can afford to end this conversation now.

So let’s keep it going. What are your ideas for making this couplet in the heart of our city better? Here’s a sample of the ideas I’ve heard so far.

Dan Anderson, city spokesman: no need for improvements. (One of many officials who said this.)
“We’re definitely happy with the mall. It was about 15 years of work to get it in. So, no plan at all for long-term or short-term changes.”

Eva MS, blogging TriMet operator: More signs.
“How about “CARS THIS LANE ONLY” all the way up and down the left hand lane on 5th and 6th Avenue? How about large informational placards educating people of the severe dangers of our new transit mall? If we do not admit that the dangers exist and are real, we are like the ostrich who supposedly sticks its head in the sand; the dangers do not go away by us ignoring them.”

Dan Zalkow, PSU transportation planner and director: physical barriers.
“More signals should be placed along the mall to distinguish between the transit lanes and the car lanes. Potentially a post at the beginning and end of each block, with a sign that says cars on this side, transit on this side. Some more physical barriers in the street.”

Douglas Obletz, acting executive director of Portland Mall Management: fewer signs.
“TriMet and the city would put up ‘do not do this, do not do that’ all over the place if they had their druthers. Those ones that were recently added were not what we favored. We fought long and hard on behalf of the business community to reduce the clutter of signage. All this stuff is governed by the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The problem is that there isn’t another project like this anywhere else in the country.”

Jessica Roberts, program manager, Alta Planning and Design: drop the car lane. (One of many who brought this up.)
“Drivers cannot understand where they can and can’t go. They just don’t get it. With only a single non-transit lane, everything backs up when anything happens. So someone’s waiting to turn or you have maybe a bicyclist that’s slow and they’re taking the lane, as they probably should be. You have heavy pedestrian volumes, and somebody’s waiting to make their prescribed left-hand turn off the transit mall. It backs everybody up, pisses everybody off. What about turning it into a pedestrian space?”

Jim Howell, AORTA director: Replace MAX with streetcar.
“Take MAX off the mall. Run streetcars up and down the mall, every 5 minutes. Streetcars are far more appropriate for mall operation. It would be less expensive to operate the light rail system, because you wouldn’t be creeping up and down the mall with 200-foot trains.”

OK, your turn.

— The cover story of Portland Afoot’s November issue is about ordinary commuters with awesome obsessions. BikePortland readers in the metro area can subscribe for $10 a year with coupon code “bikeportland.” Email Michael at michael@portlandafoot.org.

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Comments
  • jeff, the first October 18, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    No cars, left hand lane bikes only. Bikes need a good route North through downtown.

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  • obvious October 18, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    no cars on the transit mall, the solution is right there in front of them.

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  • cyclist October 18, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    There’s some truth to the fact that the mall doesn’t make sense to some drivers. Somewhere between 1 and 5 times a day I see a car in the transit lane.

    As far as bikes are concerned, I ride the bus mall every work day and haven’t come anywhere near a collision yet, it’s actually really safe because there’s only one lane. You don’t have to worry about someone not seeing you during a lane change, or right hooks (because there are no right turns and there isn’t a bike lane). There are one or two spots where you have to be aware of buses as they try to get into the left-hand lane, but that’s predictable and pretty easy. From a cyclist’s point of view I don’t see what the problem is.

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  • suburban October 18, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    The bike lane between the two white solid lines is, while nicely isolated from other traffic, too narrow, and dangerously close to the motor vehicle lanes.

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  • John Beaston October 18, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    6th Ave used to be a good bike route through town – ability to cruise with all the lights. Now it’s terrible with the light timing all messed up and the single lane backed up with cars. I’m with Jessica/Alta, forget cars in that lane. If that’s not possible, how about making a traffic lane on 4th Ave into a cycle track?

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  • Darwin October 18, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    No cars.

    I work in a building on the mall, and all day, the one sound heard every 30 minutes or so? Busses and street cars/Max honking at cars in their lanes.

    While more signage (not less) and better enforcement might improve this, no cars would eliminate it altogether.

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  • BURR October 18, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    the light rail should have been put underground in the downtown core.

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  • Michael Andersen (Contributor) October 18, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    #1 Jeff, do you think bikes-only would be safe? They’d still be fighting buses and MAX. Would operators be more or less attuned to bike/ped collisions, I wonder, if they didn’t have cars to worry about?

    Also, any solution for specific businesses, like the Hilton, that rely on a lot of auto access — taxis, for example? Screw ‘em?

    #2 Obvious, would you leave bikes on?

    #3 cyclist, I tend to agree that the mall is easy to understand if you’re a cyclist willing to take the lane. I’d argue that the risk to cyclists (and pedestrians) is mostly from auto drivers who are confused by the setup and get into regular conflict with buses, MAX and each other. I think the #1 reason the mall hasn’t caused more trouble is that all the drivers are so confused that they keep their guard way up and move at safe, slow speeds. Maybe that’s for the best!

    #4 suburban, are you talking about the separated bike lane at the south end, near PSU?

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  • Spiffy October 18, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    get rid of cars… even the businesses agree… cheap and easy… turn it into a bike lane…

    my dad ended up in a transit lane down there earlier this year… people kept yelling and honking at him but of course nobody wanted to give up their place on the road to let him back into the auto lane…

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  • Jeff October 18, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Try working on the bus mall! The trimet rain of honks, horns and bells is a cacophony that serves no effective purpose. I understand they’re instructed to lean on the signals excessively to get cars out of the transit lanes but it’s not working. Try cops and better signage…

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  • spare_wheel October 18, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    imo, the transit mall should be …drumroll…for transit. we should get rid of both bikes and cars and install a north-bound cycle track/bike lane on 4th.

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  • patrickz October 18, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    I have to go with spare_wheel. My first thought was: Transit means just that; restrict the use of private vehicles (allow for emergency, repair transport) and discourage bicycle use.

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  • cyclist October 18, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    #5: 6th didn’t use to go through from about Salmon to Burnside, every couple of blocks there was a forced left turn out of the mall. At least now 6th

    Michael Andersen #8: I feel a little bit like I’m repeating myself, but the lights are timed at ~12mph downtown, auto drivers drive at safe and slow speeds on all downtown streets because they don’t have any other choice. In terms of traffic speed the mall is no different than the rest of downtown.

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  • cyclist October 18, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    #10: I work on the mall (6th and Alder) and can hear the MAX honk/ring its bell when there are cars in the transit lane, it doesn’t happen more than once or twice a day and I’d hardly call that cacophony.

    #11: That seems like a pretty ridiculous solution to me. I’m tired of all of the fear being perpetuated in comments here. Biking the mall might be slower than biking some of the other streets (because of the aforementioned backups) but it’s certainly not unsafe. There’s no conflict with MAX because its movements are perfectly reliable (duh) and it stays in the right two lanes where bikes shouldn’t be (duh). There are one or two spots where there is a potential for conflict with buses… if you have your wits about you at all you’ll see when the bus is trying to enter the vehicle lane. Otherwise if you just park yourself right in the middle of the vehicle lane you have nothing at all to fear.

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  • jim October 18, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    I see bikes in the transit lanes quite often. This looks like an accident in the works. I think that they should enforce the traffic rules for bikes also instead of just letting a happy bunch of people do what ever they want. This is a single lane road with little extra room for bikes to pass cars. They should have to wait in line with the cars if they want to use this road.

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  • Michael Andersen (Contributor) October 18, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    #14 cyclist: Hey, you’re totally entitled to say there’s no problem! I’ve requested data from the police and PBOT. It’ll take a while, but I’m looking forward to seeing what it shows.

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  • q`Tzal October 18, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    +1 on the removal of all non-transit vehicles from the transit mall.
    My angle is the safety and conveniene of public transit.

    Surely all of us here are cycling gods, and goddesses, but the buses are safety hazards to their own existance.
    All it takes is one extra moron to cause an incident that causes delays that ripple through the system making it impossible to increase service frequency.
    In deference to the imperfect human drivers of our public transit system, that remove cars from the roads making our ride easier, I say we remove all users from the transit mall that don’t have a direct destination on the transit mall.

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  • Jen October 18, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Whatever you do to the transit mall, please leave fourth avenue as is. (re comments #4 and #11). I take fourth northbound everyday as part of my commute home (on bike) from work. Right now it is my favorite part of my entire ride. With no bike lane/cycle track, I get to take a whole lane and just ride without feeling squished up to the right. Since it is a slight downhill grade and the way the lights are timed, it is suprisingly easy to keep up with traffic.

    My only complaint is watching persons on bikes try to filter to the right of the persons in cars in the right turn lane on madison (to get to hawthorne bridge). too many close calls and relying on the drivers to not just turn into the riders.

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  • wally October 18, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    the worst part about the transit mall is not being able to make a right turn. I understand that cyclists are supposed to stop at the green light, and then wait for the signal to change, and then turn right. two problems with this. first, traffic from behind doesn’t expect the cyclist to stop at a green light and doesn’t understand why. even if you stay all the way to the left in the lane, it’s confusing for following traffic. second, you either have to stop partially in the traffice lane ro pull into the crosswalk when you stop at the green light. if you are sticking out into the lane, you run the risk of being hit by trafffic. if you get all the way out of the lane, you obstruct pedestrians who are trying to cross with the green light. unlike the cycle track at PSU, there’s no safe place for a cyclist to wait to make the turn.

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  • BURR October 18, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    close the Park Blocks to motor vehicle traffic and make them bike only

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  • Over and Doubt October 18, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    I second that 6th is fine if you take and hold the traffic lane. Even noobs can do that on 6th because the speeds are so low.

    BUT: It’s not reasonable to expect noobs to do it there if they’re too timid to do it anywhere else. Instead, they’ll practice avoidance and wander into the transit lanes, as others have reported.

    Note: People can ride for years and never progress beyond being noobs—and they may not even realize it.

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  • Cameron Johnson October 18, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Personally, as pro-bus as I am, The Green Line MAX was a relatively good idea. It serves lower income areas and such. (I could be biased because there’s a stop right outside my house, but oh well)

    But the idea to put it on the mall was total and complete stupidity. They had to take half of the buses off the mall to make room for it (14, 14, wherefore art thou 14?)and it obstructs traffic with that effed up layout. Seriously, what the hale is with that.

    But it’s too late to do anything about that, so here’s what I propose.

    Make the Mall MAX A seporate One-Train line between the Trolley Lloyd Center Station (Which would have a second track.)and PSU. The Gold line, perhaps (taking into account the price of it XD ) It would run every 10 minutes at the very least, because it makes no sense to run a MAX down the same place 10 buses run, except for the fact that it’s free, and you can wait 3 minutes more surely.

    The Green and Yellow Line would provide service on 1st and Yamhill, boosting it to 3.5 minutes every train. The Yellow and Red lines can stay at Galleria and the Green line could go to Beaverton to provide an East-West MAX Corridor, and let’s face it, the only place along the rest of the Red Line tourists could go (besides homes in Beaverton-a slim chance) is PGE Park and Washington Park, and I doubt people will really get off the plane and cart their luggage there, and if they are crazy enough to do so, it can be timed so that a Green Line train comes 4-5 minutes before the Red line Train.

    It’d cost more, but it’d relieve half of the MAX troubles (literally) and create an excuse for an East-West MAX line.

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  • Over and Doubt October 18, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    wally: Stopping at a green light? Turning right when signs say not to? What leads you to understand the mall this way?

    Doesn’t it seem like the expected behavior for *all* users of that lane is to make a left turn and make your way around the block?

    I must admit, though, I’ve fudged by signaling left and pulling to the curb near Madison, then stepping onto the sidewalk to await the eastbound light change.

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  • Dave October 18, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Burr, #7, Amen. The sooner they admit that surface trains downtown was a huge mistake, the sooner we can start fixing it. The mall project was a golden opportunity to start burying MAX stations, and we’ll regret missing it.

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  • spare_wheel October 18, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    cyclist, no fear. bu i value efficient public transport more than the dubious convenience of the transit mall. i also think that 4th is a far better route for bikes than the transit mall.

    jen, its perfectly legal to pass on the right (space permitting). and imo a bike lane should not stop anyone from taking the lane. violating the mandatory sidepath law is one of the highlights of my commute.

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  • Jeff October 18, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    cyclist (#14): You may only be hearing one or two honks I day. I work ON the mall at 6th and Stark. I’ve counted upwards of 40 a day and some days it’s worse. Your data points don’t match up to mine. What’s needed is a full one-week study (city and trimet funded) to reduce noise pollution on the corridor. Stop making this a political issue. Let’s let science and sound policy decide. I recognize your attempts to commandeer the thread. Nice try.

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  • Jim Lee October 18, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    I was working as a pharmacy delivery kid downtown about the time the one-way grid was established in the 1950s. Not so bad.

    When TriMet put in the first bus mall not many people noticed that 5th and 6th form a WRONG WAY COUPLET, meaning that one must BEAR TO THE LEFT to enter and use them.

    So the rebuilt mall with trains makes all the complicated turns on and off 5th and 6th counter-intuitive. In other words, pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, bus drivers must pull a GIGANTIC GESTALT SWITCH to navigate this artistic mess. Trains can’t turn, which at least makes them predictable.

    That is the objective truth. Personally, I enjoy cycling anywhere downtown precisely because it is so difficult. The new mall rocks with really hairy problems!

    But then, I admit to being a masochist.

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  • cyclist October 18, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Jeff #25

    My office building is on 6th betweeen Alder and Washington, I can hear the train bell/whistle every time it gets pulled. I haven’t heard it once today. Perhaps there’s a reason it would happen more often at Stark than it would at Alder or Washington? FWIW there are something like 8 trains an hour running down 6th ave, so that would mean every other train would ring its bell as it passed your building over the course of a normal 8 hour work day.

    BTW, I don’t appreciate you attributing malicious intent to my post.

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  • cyclist October 18, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Over and Doubt #23: TriMet actually recommended to cyclists that they pull over, turn 90 degrees, and then go on the green rather than bike around the block. That’s the officially sanctioned maneuver.

    Wally #19: What I prefer to do is slow down and enter the north-south crosswalk (watching for peds, of course), then turn my bike and place it in front of the east-west cars in one of the lanes, then proceed when I get the green. IMO it’s safer for me than pulling into the east-west crosswalk and then merging into traffic.

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  • matt picio October 18, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    BURR (#7) and Dave (#24) – burying MAX in the downtown core isn’t practical – it’s cost-prohibitive. Also, on some blocks an underground MAX would require destroying some of the Shanghai tunnels, which would involve historic concerns. It would also increase operating costs, since the MAX tracks would be below the groundwater level and require pumping to keep dry. There are already a lot of people opposed to new MAX lines due to cost, and burying the line may have doubled or possibly tripled the project cost.

    Personally, I’d like to see a return to the Mall being for transit only – or possibly a one-way cycle track on the left in place of the car lane.

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  • Patrick October 18, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Solving the “Transit Mall Problem,” really leaves only one obvious solution: moving cars off the street. The largest source of traffic conflict is cars in transit-only lanes (I.M.O.) and neither the MAX nor the buses can or should be moved.

    What then do we do with the third lane is the real question. I’m all for a bike lane, with bollards at the entry for each intersection to keep personal automobiles out (the kind the police can move though for special events). A separated bike lane would be nice, though I can see issues with how exactly to do that both practically and aesthetically. Two lanes transit, one lane for bikes on 5th and 6th. It would make a very nice statement for Portland as a bicycling city.

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  • Michael Andersen (Contributor) October 18, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    For those who’ve written that bikes should leave the mall along with cars: PSU’s Dan Zalkow, who was involved early in the remodel process because he serves on the Downtown Neighborhood Association, said it was decided that bikes had to have a space on the mall because bikers (unlike cars, apparently?) would use the roads with or without permission.

    As they were doing before the remodel.

    Sounds true to this biker.

    As for the debate about noise: I asked this of many retailers on the mall. Some said they only see a couple problems a day, others claimed it was constant. People who work facing the street, like the barista at the Elephants alcove or the valet at the Hilton, tended to perceive much more of a problem than people who only overhear trouble, like restaurant managers or the Hilton’s GM.

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  • sam October 18, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    I don’t have any problems with 6th. But southbound on 5th is just a mess with it’s two little jaunts onto the sidewalk. I still can’t believe they started from scratch and came up with that. The bike lane actually directs you to weave in and out of traffic.

    I don’t have any fear about taking the lane, so I take the lane – especially just before the 405 crossing when the lane I need is actually all the way across to the far right. Bikes are really supposed to go up on the left-hand sidewalk, push a button and wait for a cross signal there? Feh. I’ve never seen anyone do it.

    And since no one else mentioned them, the designer staples throughout the mall are still bad.

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  • Paul Johnson October 18, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    @suburban: That isn’t a lane between the double white lines, it’s called a “no lane change zone.” It means traffic on either side of that line cannot merge across it. Because it’s a lane separator, you shouldn’t drive your bike on it. Thanks for learning basic north american rules of the road before operating on our streets.

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  • Kevin Wagoner October 18, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    I like the idea of turning it into a pedestrian space.

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  • Paul Johnson October 18, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Some of the art racks on the mall are pretty, but difficult to park to, and in a lot of cases, unfortunately, designed by people who should know better. I guess the upswing of Tulsa is most of the locals appear addicted to air conditioning and it’s hard to argue with a tornado-resistant signpost…

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  • suburban October 18, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    In the photo, the cyclist has taken the moto lane, and who wouldn’t? the bike lane is only about 3 or 4 inches wide there, an bordered both sides by bumps!!, this must be discouraging to riders with trailers or tag-alongs.
    This is the most difficult cycle lane to ride, given the limited inertia of frequent lights and other vehicles.
    Less expensive than putting trains underground:
    http://www.inewidea.com/2010/01/19/18522.html

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  • Sean G October 18, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    I’ve driven and ridden my bike down the transit malls, and it’s really worthless if you’re going any distance in either mode. The traffic backs up at the drop of a hat, and unless you want to cut in and out of traffic you’re just stuck waiting.

    I love the transit mall aspect of it, and just avoid the streets if I am not walking. I always assume it’s just tourists or those not used to downtown driving there… which probably doesn’t leave them with much of a positive opinion of driving downtown.

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  • SD October 18, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    If cars stay, then cars/bikes turning left at lights and pedestrians in the crosswalk need to be separate events and not coupled together with a green light and walk light at the same time.
    If this can not be accomplished then public transit and bikes only.

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  • Mindful Cyclist October 18, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    SD (#39): I agree with that. I finally caught my Fall cold so decided to take the bus/max to work today and nearly got creamed by a car making a left around the parked MAX train on 6th.

    One of the biggest problems I see with autos being allowed on the transit mall is that 5 blocks West, autos are allowed to drive on the streetcar tracks. While I think most people who work or spend much time downtown know the difference, I can easily see how someone from out of town or does not spend much time down there could easily get confused.

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  • Mindful Cyclist October 18, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Or make that SW 5th, rather.

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  • Chris Smith October 18, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    I think it’s worth going back to the original requests articulated by the business community for keeping cars on the mall:

    1) The prior arrangement in which cars were sometimes forced to turn off the mall was confusing to drivers and made traversing downtown complicated – bad for business.

    2) It was important to have shoppers be able to drive by businesses for visibility, even if they couldn’t park.

    3) A few businesses, e.g., Hilton lobby, need pullouts.

    Based on Michael’s interviews it appears to me that #2 has been demonstrated to be useless – drive-by without parking has little or no value.

    It also seems to me that eliminating cars from the mall makes downtown driving just as understandable as having a through lane does.

    Pullouts may still be an issue.

    But I wonder if mall businesses would not benefit as much from converting the auto lane to bikes only – it would give access to a set of customers who actually CAN park on the mall.

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  • Paul Johnson October 18, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    The pedestrian traffic in downtown Portland is high enough that it would be handy for more than just the transit mall, and pedestrian-only phases would allow pedestrians a legal Barnes Dance maneuver.

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  • Over and Doubt October 18, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    cyclist # 29, re: stop on green, turn right against signs on red: Intriguing. Is there a place–preferably online–to see that TriMet official recommendation?

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  • Over and Doubt October 18, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    cyclist #29: Never mind, found it. It’s http://trimet.org/portlandmall/safety.htm

    It says to move over to the *left* curb, which I somehow didn’t catch before, and sorta convert yourself to east/westbound.

    So turns out my fudge is pretty much official procedure–but I’ve done it only near Madison, where there’s another car width between the lane and the curb. Seems dicey otherwise.

    Suburban 37, the same link above says bikes *should* use the “moto” lane. Like Paul Johnson said, that’s likely not a bike lane you’re describing; it’s a dead zone.

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  • wally October 19, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Over and Doubt: The link you posted is what leads me to understand the mall in the way I described it. The right turn is a problem. As others have pointed out, heading down 6th is not an issue for most because it’s easy to keep up with the flow of vehicular traffic.

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  • spare_wheel October 19, 2010 at 8:31 am

    @burr
    i agree that closing the park blocks would make a terrific pedestrian/bike space. we still need a novice-friendly route that runs all the way to old town.

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  • Lenny Anderson October 19, 2010 at 8:52 am

    What Mall problem? Prior to the opening, many thought the sky would fall when MAX, buses, bikes and cars all got together on 5th & 6th Avenue. Turns out that at 12 mph, it works pretty well; the one bus/bike accident that made the news was due in part to a rerouted bus making an unusual left turn.
    Private vehicles have always been on the Mall, but in the old days they had to turn off; now its hard to turn off because we have too many pedestrians! That’s a problem we want! Bicyclists should get onto 5th and 6th every chance they get and take the lane…turn them into defacto bike lanes. Motorist, except for the occasional tourist, will seek comfort on 4th and Broadway (which yesterday seemed empty).
    My biggest complaint is that MAX is seems so slow, often sitting thru two cycles at lights.
    But let’s embrace a little chaos in the public right of way; my home town’s a bit to fixated on order in that sphere.

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  • chelsea October 19, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I’m fairly certain that Suburban was being sarcastic when he/she called the 3-4 inch area between lines a bike lane. You know…jokes?

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  • John October 19, 2010 at 9:51 am

    I’ve ridden this street every week day since it opened (not out of preference, it’s hard to avoid coming from OHSU). I’m actually surprised that someone from Alta would suggest bikes slowing down traffic. I’ve never seen it. Even a rolling bike moves faster than the long line of single driver vehicles stopped by one vehicle trying to make a left turn.

    PSU & OHSU are on the path. I’m ballparking their biking ranks alone at 2,500. A better option needs to be installed.

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  • Over and Doubt October 19, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Chelsea: IDK, I think the aptly named Suburban is in earnest. I’ve seen people attempting to ride that strip in just the way Sub describes.

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  • Skid October 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    I rarely say or think this, but in this case, NO CARS.

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  • Skid October 19, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Also jim, we get our fair share of citations. And please don’t pretend the motorists don’t make moving violations that go unpunished. I see it all the time, on my bike, and when I am driving my wife’s car.

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  • mello yello October 19, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    The Transit Mall is great. The two right lanes are always empty. A tandem bike is a bus right? It’s even painted yellow and sometimes I head to school.

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  • commuter October 19, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I don’t ride down 6th anymore..after using it for almost 8yrs…now I take 4th!

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  • reopmok October 20, 2010 at 9:24 am

    I agree that whoever designed the southbound bike lane on 5th to go up on the sidewalk near PSU should be fired. Isn’t it illegal to ride on the sidewalk in downtown, or is this outside that zone? Was it designed that way because there was no other solution to a right angle crossing of the tracks? I suppose the rail design was more important then than finding a good solution for the other modes.. and btw, where are the sharrows on 5th and 6th? Is PBOT still too scared to start using them the correct way, for fear people will confuse the transit mall with a bike boulevard?

    And yeah, I’ve accidentally ended up on these streets during rush hour, only to get in an immediate traffic jam. Fortunately I have the option of dismounting my bike and heading for the sidewalk, where I can keep moving. It might be doing a favor to motorists to simply ban them from the mall, as more than a couple on these streets with low capacity is already a few too many. Make an exception for cabs and commercial vehicles maybe so all the businesses have their needs filled. The additional signage for this project should be cheap, a few “DO NOT ENTER” signs with “EXCEPT BICYCLES” and “EXCEPT COMMERCIAL VEHICLES” ought to be sufficient.

    I’m sorry all the college degrees at PBOT couldn’t come up with this idea, and need a lowly line cook to make creative traffic planning solutions for them. You could probably save a few hundred grand a year if you fire them all and just hire me instead – I’ll only ask 40k.

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  • Steve B October 20, 2010 at 10:07 am

    It might be cool to look at a 2-way cycletrack on 5th in the one travel lane and maybe allowing cars use of 6th.. switch the directions at rush hour to help folks get out of the city.

    I don’t mind taking the lane, but I know my grandma would.

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  • Michael Andersen (Contributor) October 20, 2010 at 10:21 am

    #56 reopmok, PSU is south of the sidewalk-riding ban; the southern boundary is Jefferson, right around City Hall.

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  • Lapis October 20, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    I ride home from PSU on 6th everyday and avoid 5th as much as possible.

    It’s great to have a transit mall: buses and MAX to all over town with stops on two streets. It’s good. When I’m tired and cold from a long day at school, I can hop the MAX to get most of the way home.

    There are a number of problems though, and not all of it is transit-mall related.

    The transit mall is not intuitive to drivers and certain businesses require access to cars on those streets. No unmodified right-hand turns, period. Traffic gets backed up at intersections where there are left-hand turns available. I don’t feel safe veering into the transit lane when stuck in traffic, either. Perhaps removing on-street parking for use as a turn lane would be an option to expedite those continuing on. Or a dedicated bike lane. But I do feel very safe taking the lane on 6th, a blessing. Actually, single-lane one-way streets feel good that way in general.

    The other problem I can see is that there is no companion northbound option to Broadway’s cycletrack. If there was an option for a dedicated, through bikelane between 6th and 10th to merge (or easily join with) Broadway at or north of Burnside I’d be all for removing bike traffic from 6th.

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  • Kate October 20, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    How about raising the entire lane up to the level of the sidewalk? Use part of it to widen the sidewalk for a great pedestrian space, and use the rest as an elevated, separated cycletrack. You get on at one end of town (or via a crosswalk in the middle after looking both ways) and get off at the other end of town.

    This doesn’t solve anything for people who want to make multiple left & right turns while biking N/S through town, but we have plenty of streets where you can do that already. The transit lane is used by buses & MAX to go straight for a long distance. Why not do the same for bikes? We desperately need a safe, fast, N/S route through town.

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