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The parking/biking trade-off: Q & A with PDC Director Patrick Quinton

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 1st, 2011 at 2:21 pm

PBOT wants to create a high-quality, two-way
bikeway on NE Holladay. One of the issues
with the project is how to deal
with on-street parking.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Last month, a representative from the Portland Development Commission (PDC) said they'd oppose any on-street parking removal on NE Holladay as part of a plan to create a high-quality bikeway on that street.

The announcement was a surprise, not just because the PDC is a City of Portland entity, but because parking removal is considered nearly essential to reaching the project's goal of providing, "comfortable and convenient non-motorized access" from the Rose Quarter through the Lloyd District.

"The difference, in my mind, relates to how each of us would choose to spend our last dollar. We would spend it on trying to create a high quality job for a Portland resident and you might spend it on improving bike infrastructure."

Following our coverage, we received an email from PDC Director Patrick Quinton. Quinton wrote that, given his organization's, "support of bike-related businesses and the personal commitment of our staff" he found it "unfortunate" that we used the comments of one PDC staffer (Irene Bowers) to portray the PDC's position in an "unflattering light."

To give Quinton an opportunity to respond, we sent him a few questions via email. The Q & A is below...

A representative for the PDC said she opposes the removal of parking in the NE Holladay bikeway project. Is that the official position of the PDC?

No, this isn’t the official position of PDC. PDC doesn’t take official positions with respect to parking issues. We follow the lead of our colleagues at PBOT and trust their expertise and judgment on these matters.

Are you aware that parking removal is a key component to creating the type of low-stress bikeway that is the entire reason for this project in the first place?

As someone who rides a bike everyday to work and often through the Lloyd District, I am well aware of the stress that on-street parking can cause people on bikes. That being said, how I or any other cyclist feels about the street environment isn’t the only consideration in a project like this. A variety of interests have a stake in what happens, including legacy businesses and buildings that rely on street parking and are impacted by a decision to remove that parking.

The Lloyd District has 1,442 on-street parking stalls. The map above shows that it also has an ample amount of surface and garage parking capacity as well. The purple line is NE Holladay Street.
(See interactive Google Map here)

Does the PDC feel like there is a shortage of parking for motor vehicles in the Lloyd District?

No, we don't believe there is an overall shortage but I think you understand quite well that all parking spaces are not equal. On-street spots serve a very different purpose than spots in surface lots, and aren’t that plentiful. From a land-use perspective, the Lloyd District does have a lot of surface lots and we and others would like to see more efficient use of the available spaces, and, ultimately, more dense development in this part of the city.

Whether or not the Lloyd District becomes more dense depends less on the need for parking and more on the demand for additional development in the district and the availability of investment to support that development. I should point out that the Lloyd District, through its TMA [Transportation Management Association], has been extremely effective in reducing the numbers of cars coming into the district and making more efficient use of the existing parking infrastructure. They’ve been fighting the good fight.

You say that, "Our mission is fundamentally about job creation and economic development, our priorities won’t always align with yours." To some people, that perspective assumes that a high-quality, carfree bikeway is mutually exclusive to jobs and economic development. Does the PDC believe that the presence of a few on-street parking spots on Holladay will hurt job creation and economic development in the Lloyd District?

Saying that our priorities won’t always align isn’t the same as saying they are mutually exclusive. Priorities become mutually exclusive when one group demands all or nothing solutions. I think PDC has shown over the years that this agency can promote a more bike-friendly city while still pursuing what are fundamentally redevelopment and economic development objectives.

"I think PDC has shown over the years that this agency can promote a more bike-friendly city while still pursuing what are fundamentally redevelopment and economic development objectives."

The difference, in my mind, relates to how each of us would choose to spend our last dollar. We would spend it on trying to create a high quality job for a Portland resident and you might spend it on improving bike infrastructure. Neither is right or wrong and both could be considered complementary.

To your question – of course the removal of a few on-street parking spots on Holladay won’t, in the long run, impact job creation and economic development in the Lloyd District, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be real short term impacts to the businesses and building owners on Holladay.

I don't believe a supporter of biking in Portland is selling his or her soul by considering these impacts before weighing in on a project like this. When you encourage the kind of dense, human scale development that we have in Portland, you force a lot of activity onto a small footprint, and you heighten the need to balance the interests of the people and businesses that use our city. So while we are all working to reduce car use in our city, some business will continue to be conducted by people in cars for the forseeable future and we need to account for that in our projects.


Thanks to Mr. Quinton for the responses.

The next Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting for the Lloyd District Bikeway Development Projects is slated for June 16th. Learn more on the City's website and stay tuned for more coverage.

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  • fiets503 June 1, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    very interesting response, but not saying that much.

    "I think PDC has shown over the years that this agency can promote a more bike-friendly city while still pursuing what are fundamentally redevelopment and economic development objectives."

    This statement makes it sound again as if economic development objectives must be on a different track than "bike-friendly city" objectives.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 1, 2011 at 2:36 pm

      I agree with you. My hunch is still that the PDC (and many other city agencies for that matter) still have a fundamental dichotomy in their heads that bikes and business are mutually exclusive (to put it generally).

      This all gets to back to a pervasive official perspective (outside of some PBOT staff and a few others) that biking is something to be accommodated as a special interest or an "extra" amenity, rather than seeing it as being just as viable — and even more viable — as cars and transit for urban mobility.

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      • wsbob June 1, 2011 at 10:03 pm

        Referring to biking: "...rather than seeing it as being just as viable — and even more viable — as cars and transit for urban mobility. ..." maus/bikeportland

        For this project area, advocates for bikes as a mode of travel aren't effectively showing that bikes can be just as viable as cars and transit for urban mobility.

        In bikeportland stories and comments to them regarding the Holladay bikeway proposal, not enough information has been presented that offers ideas about what a 'motor vehicle street parking free bikeway' would do to meet the development objectives PDC officials seem to have in mind (what those objectives are, is anyone's guess.).

        Can the proposed bikeway bring anything more to this area than street level cafes and coffee shops...small retail stores? Is there some other type of business the bikeway could bring to the area that's comparable to the type of big business that PDC officials likely have in mind?

        The idea of the bikeway seems mainly to be a commute route...that is...people on bikes traveling Holladay St through the Lloyd district, before work and after, but not staying to spend much money.

        Yes, I know....'money, money, money!!'. Not pleasant, but that's what's at stake here. Unless bike advocates are able to come up with some solutions to problems the PDC, development people and others hesitant about this project, see associated with a 'motor vehicle street parking free bikeway'... .

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  • Josh Berezin June 1, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Generally, I would think that safely getting people to their destinations (by car, bike, foot, whatever) would be a higher public priority than storage of private vehicles.

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    • Steve B. June 2, 2011 at 12:00 am

      Couldn't agree more, thank you.

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  • Byron June 1, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    My interpretation is that the PDC likes to think of biking, the bottom line for them and the developers/owners is that there is no room for bikes within the Lloyd area. If you can't find one street that you can make good for bikes in the area you are basically saying that bikes need to stay out of the way. I agree that making all streets bike friendly is not feasible or good at this time, but all that is being asked for is one bike street in an area with lots of people that are working.
    I don't feel that the bike community is asking for so much and some trade offs are always there to be made. But when PDC and the developers/owners look at it, any give is unacceptable. I found that offensive and don't feel that the characterization of PDC as bike unfriendly is inappropriate, it is spot on!

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  • Lance P June 1, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    I would also like to point out that J Cafe, a local business, is located on Holliday and supports removing parking to create a bikeway. When PDC was speaking about how business would be hurt by removing parking Johnathan from J Cafe tried to speak up. Unfortunately, the representative for the PDC cut him off every time he spoke. She didn't want to hear how his business could benefit from this infrastructure. This was the first meeting Johnathan had attended and after being treated like he was I would be surprise if he comes to the next meeting.

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    • Mabsf June 2, 2011 at 8:51 am

      The thing is that he should though...and perhaps some other people who feel like him should join him..

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  • Paul Souders June 1, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    "The difference, in my mind, relates to how each of us would choose to spend our last dollar. We would spend it on trying to create a high quality job for a Portland resident and you might spend it on improving bike infrastructure."

    This is a weird non sequitur. In what way does "bicycle infrastructure" compete with "job creation?" That's like saying, "you might like salty food, but I prefer the color orange."

    To be fair, Quinton follow with "of course the removal of a few on-street parking spots on Holladay won’t, in the long run, impact job creation and economic development in the Lloyd District, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be real short term impacts to the businesses and building owners on Holladay." Well of course there are SOME salty foods that are also orange. (Cheetos, for example.) But it's just as likely business along Holladay will IMPROVE, given the evidence and arguments at hand (that is to say, none).

    A conversation about density or reducing car trips is also a red herring. Northwest Portland & Pearl are densely developed AND have on-street parking.

    This whole line of [some socially responsible thing] vs. [jobs/economy] is a false dichotomy intended, probably unconsciously, to dodge the real issue. Which is that on-street parking is a public good subsidized by everyone in Portland. There seems to be no shortage of similar privately owned services in the Lloyd district. That some businesses got to use the public resource for free was peachy we saw a more efficient use for that resource. Now they need to justify their continued (subsidized!) use of it with a better argument than "because I need it."

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  • Ryno Dan June 1, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    It does not make sense that PDC doesn't take positions on parking. It just doesn't. Do they also not take positions on sidewalks, pedestrians, the Max, busses, motor vehicles, etc ?

    And we are not asking about "stress that on-street parking can cause people on bikes". We are asking about removing on-street parking to put in a bikeway.

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  • Paul Manson June 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    The retail use of Holladay parking is limited. PBOT is already changing many of the on-street parking spots to 5-hour or carpool spot from short-term parking. The one problem block on the Holladay route is 11th to 13th. This block has two retail locations but most of it is carpool. I appreciate the need for quick access - but to have a handful of spots hold the idea hostage is absurd.

    Additionally, the re-development potential in the district will likely add more creative parking options to meet this need. For example, the PDC Lloyd Development Strategy shows more options - including in the middle of the superblocks (ala the driveway at the DoubleTree.)

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  • craig June 1, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Please note that discussion of the Holladay project is not on the agenda for the next Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting. However, as time permits, the public may ask questions and add their comments during the meeting.

    The meeting on the 16th will focus on the testing outcomes from the temporary changes at the 12th Ave Overcrossing.

    Craig Harlow
    Chair, Lloyd TMA Bike Commitee
    Chair, Stakeholder Advisory Commitee, PBOT Lloyd District Bikeway Development Projects

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  • q`Tzal June 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    We need a market-based parking pricing system like SFpark here.

    After a few years underprice lot parking gradually to reduce demand for on street parking until you can show that on street parking is not needed.

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  • Rick June 1, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    As a business owner located in the Lloyd Center area, I hope others understand that these are very challenging times for business. Our sales are now down 42% year to year and I am far from alone. I don't think removing parking will help me keep my doors open. I want options that promote ALL ways of getting into the area in ways that are mutually respectful. Sending a message that cars are not welcome will not be helpful and will only make it harder for us to survive. I don't understand the whole "bikes as a religion" approach of many bikers in this city. We need a multimodal approach, not an exclusionary one.

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    • Paul Manson June 1, 2011 at 5:25 pm

      Its great to have more business weigh in on this. The best option is to get something that creates more customer traffic for you and others on Holladay, regardless of mode. As a Lloyd District employee I also wish we had a more vibrant street side retail and restaurant environment. It is pretty tough to get a bite to eat at lunch without getting burned out on the options here!

      I think the decision by the businesses along SW Ankeny to pay to have cars removed from their street shows bikes, pedestrians and business are a great mix. The challenge on Holladay and for the Lloyd District is to ask is we can welcome more people to stop and spend time, and not just pass through.

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    • 9watts June 1, 2011 at 5:32 pm

      "Sending a message that cars are not welcome will not be helpful and will only make it harder for us to survive."
      Interesting. I wonder why businesses all over this city are lining up to get on street bike corrals installed in front of their businesses? Bike corrals which by definition involve removal of car parking spaces. Maybe the folks who bike/don't drive have more money left over to buy stuff from them? Maybe businesses that rely on car traffic--as you describe yours as doing--that refuse or cannot adapt to the end of oil, are on their way out too?
      Whether PDC or the City of Portland has a friendly attitude toward car parking or not isn't in the end the issue, since the 42% decline in business you observed, and all that's yet to come have nothing to do with that.
      It is entirely conceivable that in our determination to shut out the mess we've created, to pretend that climate change and peak oil do not concern us, we'll keep the pro-parking folks in charge. To what end? Soon enough all of those will be empty of cars, and we'll have squandered our money and fossil fuels on building infrastructure that no one wants or can use. If that is what survival looks like, count me out. Why aim so low? Thrive is much more inspiring.

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    • dwainedibbly June 1, 2011 at 6:08 pm

      Leaving on-street parking in place sends the message that people on bicycles are not welcome.

      If there must be parking, I'd rather see surface lots & parking garages remain and on-street parking removed. It results in lower density (unless you increase building heights) but that's an acceptable trade-off to me.

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      • mh June 2, 2011 at 10:45 am

        Oh no, you don't want surface lots. That's suburban-style dead space; at best, in the urban core, it's land banking.

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    • beth h June 2, 2011 at 2:14 pm

      With all due respect -- and speaking as another business owner -- any business with a 42% hit in sales is dealing with MANY other factors besides parking. Please don't make on-street parking out to be such a "third rail" (our elected officials already do enough of that).

      Instead, consider how -- or even if -- your product or service can be a viable part of a more sustainable future. Then prepare for that future by marketing more aggressively to sustainability-savvy customers who are ahead of the curve. I bet that such an approach would make up many more percentage points in sales than adding back in some more on-street parking for cars.

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  • 9watts June 1, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I have a question for you Mr. Quinton.
    Since we are talking about infrastructure changes here that have long lives, measured in decades, and since both Climate Change and Peak Oil are breathing down our necks (Portland City Government believes this, see the Peak Oil Task Force Report which is now already five years old, as well as the more recent Climate Action Plan), how can you defend a few measly parking spaces for private automobiles in the face of proposals to expand bike-supportive infrastructure?
    Cars are increasingly recognized as an obsolete and untenable mode of transport. We know how to avoid reliance on them in cities, and are exploring how to shift away from them altogether--or at least I hope you and your Commission are. Please explain.

    Sincerely,
    Reuben Deumling

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  • Sigma June 1, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    This whole "peak oil is coming so we should stop planning for cars" really cracks me up. Cars will run on a different fuel long before we undo 75 years of urban/suburban development. The reality is most people will not give up rapid, physical exertion-free, climate-controlled, personal transport. They might pay more for it for a little while, but cars are here to stay.

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    • 9watts June 1, 2011 at 7:41 pm

      I'm glad you're amused, Sigma. Care to specify that 'different fuel'?
      Like you, I know plenty of people who "will not give up rapid, exertion-free, climate-controlled, personal transport' or who at least have a hard time imagining how they would do without it, but I'm not sure how relevant that is. People in Joplin, Missouri I'm sure were disinclined to give up their houses and belongings and cars and loved ones either. But they didn't have a choice and neither will we.

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    • Chris I June 1, 2011 at 7:56 pm

      Peak oil is part of the issue, as we will need cheap options to get people around during the transition (bikes). In the central city, the issue is congestion, which is independent of fuel choice. As the city grows, we need to increase transit and bike use to reduce crippling congestion.

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      • Sigma June 2, 2011 at 7:10 am

        I agree chris, but central Portland is not the issue. I'm talking about the rest of the country. Visit Florida sometime-cars are the only option for thousands of square miles of very low density development. This is the case in most of the nation. My point is that cars will run on solar charged batteries, or natural gas, or 200 mpg diesel/hybrid engines long before we reconstruct suburbia. There may be a transition period, but convincing middle America that the way of the future is riding a bike 25 miles one way to work or the grocery store in 95 degree weather is a fool's errand.

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        • peejay June 2, 2011 at 8:52 am

          Market forces will force the reconstruction of suburbia quite effectively, if certain interested parties would stop blackmailing our government to continue to prop up the current development patterns with subsidies and bizarre zoning laws.

          In fact, DR Horton, one of the biggest ex-urban developer whores, is reading the writing on the wall, and building a great urban infill project on SE Division as we speak. Money can be made both ways; the losers will be the ones who just want to keep doing the same thing.

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  • nrdbomber June 2, 2011 at 9:21 am

    I commute by bicycle every day, don't own a car, and choose a route that allows me to do my shopping on the way home. I stop off to buy stuff three or four times a week.

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  • Oliver June 2, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Looking back over previous stories it looks like the heavyweight opposition to the removal of the parking comes from commercial property management company Ashforth Pacific and the LLoyd Transport Management offices.

    Neither one of these entities are dependent on casual "drop in" custom, or will go out of business because drivers will choose to shop somewhere else (for 8000 sq feet of office space)

    But certainly in the case of the AP, would be getting an earful from entitled, business types who show up to conduct high-dollar meetings and feel folk of their caliber are either too busy or (self) important to walk their length at this point in their career.

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    • wsbob June 2, 2011 at 10:56 am

      I haven't noticed comments to bikeportland by people expressing that they really know what Portland city officials and developers hope may be built along Holladay St. Amongst those that don't seem to know, is the publisher/editor of this bike weblog.

      Suffice to say though, that among the possibilities, is likely to be development that relies on people being able to drive down Holladay, and park for varying periods of time on the street next to the business or building where they need to go.

      One possibility is hotel use with valet parking. Another is pickup and delivery. There's probably other possibilities as well. From the standpoint of being a business dynamo, this street may not currently seem very impressive to some people, but I expect that's the direction the city is looking forward to for the street. A bikeway has to fit in with the objective of the street becoming a generator of greater business activity, or be able to enhance that objective in some way. An improved commuter route 'bikeway' alone probably isn't going to cut it.

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  • John Mulvey June 2, 2011 at 11:19 am

    The jobs vs. bikes dichotomy Mr. Quinton describes might carry more weight if the PDC actually helped create a job once in a while.

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  • Laurence June 2, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    On-street parking in a vital element of any compact, vibrant, and efficient urban neighborhood. The removal of street parking from even one street in a district should not be done in a cavalier manner. The idea that streets are public spaces that should not accommodate private storage of vehicles is contrary to the finest empirical examples of great urbanism around the world. The street the the BEST place to store your car, or bike, or horse and buggy.

    Every eliminated street parking space will become an on-site parking space, and in the Lloyd District there is already a glut of on-site surface parking lots. Now granted, maybe some of those drivers will turn into bikers, which is a wonderful thing. But for the foreseeable future, cars are a fundamental appendage to allot of people's seats. I also grant you that DH Horton is building a compact housing project with NO on-site parking (as PJay noted) But they would be hard pressed to do that without maximizing the on-street parking around them!

    If Portland wants to grow up to be a truly compact, and vibrant urban city (like say NY or SF) it needs to maximize it's building footprint, maximize on-street parking, maximize bike use, and maximize transit. And expecting parking to be put underground or in structures is not a reasonable solution, except perhaps for the most high priced develops in the inner cores with high-end condos and retail to pay for it.

    Park in the street, slow down the traffic to that bikes can ride along with the cars. I haven't even touched on all the benefits that parking provides pedestrians in terms of protecting and separating them from the travel lanes. I would rather see you removing driving lanes while keeping the parking lanes on-street.

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    • are June 3, 2011 at 10:43 am

      okay, but let's look at the actual utilization and traffic counts here. maybe a couple thousand cars a day even use holladay, and east of about 9th there is not even that much demand for onstreet parking.
      http://www.scribd.com/doc/55859945/kittelson
      there is no reason this could not become a much more pedestrian-friendly transit mall, with much more vibrant street-level retail. the office towers do not (or should not) depend on onstreet parking.

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    • wsbob June 4, 2011 at 10:36 am

      Assuming Holladay St were to become the 'motor vehicle parking' free bikeway that's being envisioned: What people riding bikes for transportation and recreation, that don't currently use the street because of its design that provides for such parking, would pssibly ride it if the parking were eliminated?

      By bike, how many minutes away, might these potentially new users of the street live? 10 minutes? 15 minutes, 20 minutes? How many of them might there be? What businesses or events would bring large numbers of them into the area via a transportation by bike improved Holladay St, outside of the am/pm commute periods?

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      • 9watts June 4, 2011 at 11:57 am

        Wsbob,
        with enough time, a lot. Notwithstanding all the wishful thinking on this subject it is extremely likely that we will see an order of magnitude more people biking in the future than are today.
        How could it be otherwise? Bikes are the future.

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        • wsbob June 5, 2011 at 12:02 pm

          That's not a good enough answer. Bike advocates need to put before city hall...specifics...projected numbers of people and dollar amounts that eliminating on street motor vehicle parking for a bikeway could bring to the area around Holladay St.

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          • 9watts June 5, 2011 at 1:18 pm

            Although you may be right, bob;if you are then these requirements are out of focus. We're missing the forest for the shadows cast by the clouds on the creatures scampering about on the forest floor. Planning of all kinds today should--and this is not just my view, read the Peak Oil Task Force report or the Climate Action Plan--take into account the end of cheap oil and the looming disasters that climate change is beginning to share with us. Counting heads in the manner you suggest is an obsolete, inadequate, and distracting method for making sense of these dynamic large scale changes.

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          • wsbob June 6, 2011 at 12:17 am

            "...Counting heads in the manner you suggest..." 9watts

            Are you then suggesting to not, as you choose to put it, 'count heads', at all? Or is it just that you don't think it's advisable to 'count heads' in some way you seem to think I've suggested?

            If that's so, I suppose it logically follows that you'd be opposed to 'counting heads' on Holladay St, or...to put it in terms of general respect to the people that would be counted: count the number of people that ride this street now, and also, to attempt to arrive at an idea of the increased number of people that might ride Holladay St if the street had the bikeway that's being proposed?

            Some idea of the rate of usage the proposed bikeway might bring about, could be very valuable in possibly winning sufficient approval for the proposal. If it could be argued to be capable of doing so, a number for the reduction in car trips required, that the bikeway would enable, could also be valuable (there's your 'peak oil-climate action plan' hit.).

            And amounts for money that these people riding their bikes on a Holladay St bikeway could conceivably be bringing to Holladay St and the Lloyd District.

            Kind of seems like you're going to be confining your ideas to win people over to the bikeway proposal, to those having to do with Peak Oil and the Climate Action Plan.

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  • Laurence June 3, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Traffic engineers are expected to mainly consider existing traffic conditions, and rarely forecast a more enlightened vision of the future. So whether there is a allot of traffic on Holladay today shouldn't be an issue. This is similar to the earlier comments about the current retail condition of Holladay. We need to think much more holistically than just this one street and this moment in time. We need to consider the entire functioning, built form and 'movement economy' of the entire Lloyd District...now and 50 years from now. Overall the District is functioning poorly and needs a serious overhaul.

    Lloyd District problems include its high percentage of large and small parking lots, towers casting long shadows, 'super-blocks' (450 feet square), one-way streets, and streets already lacking parking. Notice the causal effects between these factors. Tall towers require allot of parking, but land prices are apparently not high enough to build structured parking and develop the edges of the blocks. Main arterials like NE Multnoma lack street parking, thus further justifying the on-site parking lots. There is a close interrelationship between Holladay, NE Multnoma, MLK, Lloyd Blvd and all the other local streets and blocks. If car travel and parking are pushed off of Holladay, it will migrate to other streets and on-site lots. Granted, Holladay is a little local street, but if someone wants to drive, park and visit someone on that street, then they are circling around more blocks looking for places to park.

    Consider these basic principles:
    1. disperse and maximize parking evenly on all streets (except freeways)
    2. located on-site parking in the centers of blocks with limited access-points to the adjoining streets
    3. limit the linear width of curb cuts accessing on-site parking. The city could charge property owners a fee for every foot of curb cut driveway access, as well as all on-site parking that en fronts a street right of way.
    4. Slow down cars by mixing them with bikes and pedestrians and on-street parking, and two-way traffic...especially on the larger avenues and boulevards.

    Everything is related to everything else in the world...and a happy bikeway is just one element to consider among many. And it's much more than just jobs verses bikers.

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