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TriMet announces traffic changes on new bus mall

Posted by on December 22nd, 2008 at 11:16 pm

Looking south SW 6th Avenue at
SW Yamhill Street.
(Photo: PortlandMall.org)

As part of their Portland Mall Light Rail project, TriMet has announced several “major changes” for bike traffic on 5th and 6th Avenues.

According to TriMet Planner/Bike Programs staffer Colin Maher, effective January 12th, bikes (and cars) must obey the following traffic laws:

  • Make no right turns on 5th and 6th avenues unless otherwise posted.
  • Do not stop in the left-hand traffic lane except as required by traffic signals.
  • Ride only in the left lane-don’t cross the bumpy, double white lane divider.
  • Be alert of buses on the Portland Mall-stay out of the transit lanes.

Maher adds that,

“Exactly how bikes will be able to make right turns on 5th and 6th Aves. remains TBD, but for now the same regulations apply to both bikes and cars.”

Artist rendition of new bus mall.

When the new mall opens, it will operate with three lanes. The right lane will be a bus/MAX boarding lane, the center lane will be reserved as a travel lane for transit, and bikes, cars (and everything else) will share the left lane (that’s why no right turns will be allowed because cars/bikes will always be on the left of transit).

Also on January 12th, bus operators begin training on the new mall, car parking on 5th and 6th will be the removed and new traffic signals will go live.

I should clarify that the January change only applies to the blocks that buses will use for training. There will still be construction and parked vehicles on the rest of the Mall until March. Only then will striping and new regulations be in place for the entire Mall.

**UPDATE: In a comment below, Colin Maher added that,

“…the January change only applies to the blocks that buses will use for training. There will still be construction and parked vehicles on the rest of the Mall until March. Only then will striping and new regulations be in place for the entire Mall.”

Bus service on the new mall is slated to begin on May 24 and light rail will be running by September 2009. Check out PortlandMall.org for more information.

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Fritz
Guest

We have a couple of streets with a similar configuration in San Jose, CA. Right lane is light rail tracks, then there’s the boarding “median” kind of thing, then a bus only lane and then a lane for cars. Vehicles merge into the bus lane for right turns, which are made *across* the light rail tracks (with lots signs and signals to prohibit right turns when a train is occupying the intersection).

I don’t really know if bikes are permitted in the bus lane, but in practice we all ride where we find an open space, including right on the light rail tracks, in the bus lane, taking the car lane, and on the sidewalk if there’s room.

GJB
Guest

I haven’t seen anything about the new trains yet – but saw one running down I-84 the other day…any idea when they’ll start running/testing the new tracks too?

John Russell
Guest

I know it never would have happened, but would it have cool to have these be huge bike lanes instead? Just think of the possibilities.

On a side note, can’t bikes legally make a right turn across the bus and MAX lanes by just doing a hook turn?

Steven  J.
Guest
Steven J.

Perhaps they can adjust the traffic light timing as well 14mph lights.

If Tri-Met has the same headaches as Streetcar, Portland will be called “Horn City”.

Steven  J.
Guest
Steven J.

Link to Eugene’s Answer. Not Electric, but very effective.

PDX could use a few of these to compliment Max’s east west, and Integrate a North South Grid express in Gresham, SE 122, Hollywood, Etc… Bikes could share a Barrier wall w/ service Veh along it.

Steven  J.
Guest
Steven J.
Icarus falling
Guest
Icarus falling

No right turns in the bus mall is a travesty.

Especially for the working cyclist, the bicycle messenger.

While I am now retired, if I was still working on the streets I would be doing right hand turns all day long as a necessity, regardless of the new “Tri Met” regulations.

And this thing about two full lanes just for Tri Met, while all others must share one?

Total crap!

The new downtown bus mall is a beast with two backs that was never needed in the first place!

When are we going to stop Tri Met from running amok on our city streets, and attempting to run over our citizens?

Take back the streets, and take back the lanes!

Why is Tri Met telling us how to operate on the road anyway? Why the hell do they have that authority.

They are a “basically” a private corporation, not public transportation.

I think I will start a company and tell Tri Met what they can and cannot do where I ride my bike…

See how they like that.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

“I know it never would have happened, but would it have cool to have these be huge bike lanes instead? Just think of the possibilities.”

John Russell,

I think that would have been a great move. I have yet to hear a good answer as to why cars are allowed in that lane. Seems really silly to me.

Lodel
Guest
Lodel

How about making the shared lane undesirable for cars by strategically placed bumps where car tires would be come in contact with the road? The middle would be smooth for bike travel. Could help even out the speed difference and deter major motor traffic unless necessary – deliveries, local access, etc. A heavily cobbled lane with a strip of smooth pavement could work too, but that would be expensive now that the road is done.

Barbara
Guest
Barbara

Yea this is a major disappointment. The no right turns is ridiclous. They are making is very inconvenient with extra travel time & total disregard for bicyclists coming from the medical school & trying to get to the Waterfront park & across the bridges. It’s much easier to get across 405 where Terwilliger turns into 6th st then get caugth up in the traffic winding down towards Barber & 1st street.

Scott Cohen
Guest
Scott Cohen

No right turns for all vehicles on 5th and 6th is a safety issue, plain and simple.

When cars and bikes have a green light on the Transit Mall so do buses and MAX. A bike (or car) turning right into an oncoming train or bus (but especially a train since they can’t just hit the brakes and stop) would be disastrous.

PJ
Guest

Once again dear city, I will ride however I see fit to keep myself safe.

Racer X
Guest
Racer X

The other thing Trimet and PBOT should think about for the final striping plan…is how to facilitate bike turns to and from bike parking along the right/ transit side of the street.

Paul Cone
Guest
Paul Cone

Given that the left lane is mostly occupied by parked cars right now (i.e. you can’t ride in that lane), and will be until March (from what I was told by someone in Parking Control a couple of weeks ago)… it sounds like TriMet and the City are not on the same page.

Icarus falling
Guest
Icarus falling

Scott Cohen, et. all,

It is only a safety issue if the bus and or Max in question does not yield the proper right of way, or look effectively enough around them. Also, of course, if the drivers of other vehicles, including bikes, and pedestrians, are not paying attention either.

It is definitely NOT a safety issue, plain and simple, as you say.

It is however a Tri Met issue, and a Tri Met created issue, that they should deal with properly.

And properly is not disallowing right hand turns.

Properly is training their bus and Max drivers to conduct themselves properly near other road users, especially the vulnerable ones.

Due to their own admission, (as shown in a recent petition signed by at least 150 of them) Tri Met bus and train operators cannot, and do not, feel that they can operate safely around bicycles and pedestrians.

So making right hand turns illegal is not the solution.

More training, and proper road usage by train and bus operators is the solution.

And the only reasonable one.

I drink the line
Guest
I drink the line

OMG this is awful. My fellow bikers, we need to band together. Obviously there should be an exception for bikers to be allowed to turn right on 5th and 6th avenue downtown. I recommend we all go protest against city hall. Bikers demand the right to turn right!

Colin Maher
Guest
Colin Maher

These comments bring up some good points. I should clarify that the January change only applies to the blocks that buses will use for training. There will still be construction and parked vehicles on the rest of the Mall until March. Only then will striping and new regulations be in place for the entire Mall.

Exactly how bikes will be able to make right turns on 5th & 6th Aves remains TBD, but for now the same regualtions apply to both bikes and cars.

Thanks,

Colin Maher
Bike Programs
TriMet

maherc@trimet.org

LizardMama
Guest
LizardMama

I ride down 5th almost every day and will just be SO GLAD to see them get rid of the parked cars in the left lane. I’ve been hopping on the sidewalk and walking my last two blocks since dumping on the tracks. Haven’t felt safe on 5th in weeks with construction changing weekly and cars not knowing which way they are going.

Adron
Guest

First point.

WTF – Why does anyone want to ride on 5th or 6th anyway with those diesel spewing buses and nasty cars? Seriously.

If I’m riding downtown it is going to be on low throughput streets.

Second Point.

If you need to turn right, JUST DO IT. I mean seriously, if enough people get killed (hey, several on here are suggesting it) then they’ll have to change the rules right?

Third Point.

PJ “Once again dear city, I will ride however I see fit to keep myself safe.” That is and should be a rider’s ONLY rule to follow.

Icarus Falling “They are a “basically” a private corporation, not public transportation.”

Are you confused? TriMet is a publicly owned and operated company. Not in a stock market sense but in a Government run Corporation sense. They do NOT make money. They are subsidized to the tune of 80% of necessary funding. It is held accountable only by that entity – the city and Metro (the pseudo Government entity). The Government runs it, not a private entity. If it where private the focus on throughput, service frequency, and riders carried and meeting demand would be VASTLY higher because that’s what they would have to do to make money. But that is NOT what their priority is. It is instead to keep their political masters happy, and in indirect terms, to meet a particular constituent base happy. It is the politicians that need to be looked at for answers, not particularly TriMet or ODOT. They’re just the peons that our City runs.

Icarus “I think I will start a company and tell Tri Met what they can and cannot do where I ride my bike…” That is also something you’ve lost a right to do. The city, and State of Oregon has long since removed that right by creating TriMet and removing and individuals right to own or operate these types of transit agencies.

The Federal Government has even gone further and removed a companies ability to operate as such. Don’t believe me? Feel free to research your rights as an individual citizen to start such a company.

Also, TriMet has these rights, just as they have rights of imminent domain and such to remove you, and others of rights because it is a Government entity. Private entities RARELY have these types of rights. Only the Government has this right – so when an entity is formed and the Government takes over something that is supposed to operate like a business it becomes heir to Government powers.

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

Closed minded committees designed the 5/6th Transit avenues. They do things because that is the way it has been done and they hate new ideas that make meetings longer. Safety will improve if people speak out about the dangerous dynamics outlined below

Because parked cars are prohibited… a) cars will try to speed b) dangerous parking will happen as drivers will make any excuse aka “it will just take a minute” c) pedestrians will get hit at higher rates because they don’t have the buffer of parked cars

Because cars, bikes, busses and rail are all mixed together a) more injuries b) more transit delays c) more lawsuits d) more cars on streets as people loath the new transit mall

some of many solutions: allow only bikes, and city/stated owned transit vehicles – delivery trucks can use cross streets where more delivery spots are created – give the middle bus lane more room by converting 12′ left most car lane into 4 foot bike lane with physical divider.

I’d love to hear other creative ideas.

DT
Guest
DT

I’m with Barbara(#10). Bike traffic from OHSU to downtown flows from Terwilliger to 6th and across 405. There’s even a nice green bike box where 6th crosses 405. Without turning right off of 6th, there is no direct/simple route to the waterfront. No telling what this is going to force bikers to do . . .

Lodel
Guest
Lodel

Also, since you’re riding in the left lane, you’re already set up to join the cross street. All you have to do as a cyclist is stop at the intersection by the curb, point your bike to the right, and proceed when you have a green light. Simple right-hand turn from the left lane.

Andrew H
Guest
Andrew H

I expect to mostly avoid riding on 5th and 6th, since there are close and easy alternatives. And if I want to turn right, the legal and safest way to do it will be like the way they do it in Melbourne, Australia: at the intersection, pull over to the left in front of the cross traffic and then go with them when the light changes. This method also reduces the risk of slipping while turning across MAX tracks.

LizardMama
Guest
LizardMama

Well, I’d like to avoid riding on 5th, but I work on 5th, so have to hit it sometime! Meanwhile, haven’t found a much better alternative without going way out of the way. Hoping things will improve, or I will just keep walking the last bit… dual mode transport, eh?

John Russell
Guest

I still don’t see how there can be this much complaining about the lack of a right turn. Just like I said before and Andrew H clarified, just make a hook turn from the left lane! That’s what they do in Melbourne for almost the very same reason: to get out of the way of their trams in the middle of the street.

Now, I still would really have loved for this to have been a buffered bike lane. Too bad angry motorists never would have bought it.

jim
Guest
jim

Why not put cattle catchers (yes like the old steam trains) on the front of the new trains so when they do (and they will) hit someone it flings them off to the side instead of just running them over?

Matthew Denton
Guest
Matthew Denton

On the bus mall, (5th and 6th,) there are three lanes. The right two lanes are for bus and MAX only. That is what the signs will say, and that is how the street is designed. Same as the old bus mall, except due to the weave of the new MAX tracks there, most people really won’t want to ride on those lanes. The left lane on the bus mall is for cars/trucks/bicycles/whatever, again, same as before. So, keeping all that in mind:

You will be riding down the left most lane, on a one way 3 lane street. If you attempt to make a right turn from that lane, you’ll be hit by the two lanes of traffic next to you that are going straight. So, you shouldn’t do it. And just in case you were feeling reckless, TriMet is clarifying that you shouldn’t do it. Again, it is same as it was 2 year ago: You couldn’t turn right off the bus mall from the left most lane.

Now, if you want to argue that bicycles should be allowed the right&center lanes, you can argue that, (and indeed in Paris that would be how the road would work. But if we were in Paris we’d all be riding around with bicycles with 2 inch wide tires that don’t fit in railroad tracks either, so it would be a lot different.) But make THAT argument. Don’t argue that you should be allowed to make right turns across two lanes that are going straight, and that they should stop for you, even though they have a green light…

carless in pdx
Guest
carless in pdx

Turn right in front of a MAX, and you win.

You win a Darwin Award.

I for one won’t be sad a couple of dozen ghost bikes pop up around 5th and 6th avenues if you guys are this dumb.

ValkRaider
Guest
ValkRaider

Wow.

You all are amazing.

1. TriMet and the City wanted to keep cars off of the new transit mall. The downtown business fought that – they swear that cars are necessary for business. So we have cars on the transit mall.

2. Significantly more people ride transit to/from downtown than bike. Why is it wrong to allow them some infrastructure too? Why is everything about the bicyclist? First and foremost we should embrace transit for getting people out of their cars…

3. Metro is not a “pseudo government”. Metro is run by ELECTED officials, and funded with TAXES. You are welcome to vote for those officials, and you are welcome to vote on Metro issues.

4. Tri-Met is a government agency. However they do have a poor record of allowing public input or oversight into their operations and planning. They are run by appointed officials, I believe it would be better for them (or at least some of them) to be elected by the public.

5. Just make the hook turn and quit the pissing and moaning. It really makes bicyclists look bad.

6. I absolutely agree that the bicycle planning on the new transit mall was poorly thought out. But that is behind us now, nothing we can change about it for the time being (until the next mall rebuild in 30+ years) and I would advise people to not joust with busses or MAX. Bicycle armor is not that good.

Icarus Falling
Guest
Icarus Falling

Adron,

I know the answers to the questions I posed .

It is called a “rhetorical question”.

Tri Met obviously is not really what you think it is though, I see.

Oh, also, as supposed public transportation (yes, I said it again, mainly for your amusement),
Tri Met Sucks!

IMO.

Christopher Cotrell
Guest
Christopher Cotrell

Right turns from the left lane on the transit mall were never allowed for bikes, so things are basically the way they were before, except with trains added.

One small improvement for bikes (and cars, admittedly) is that you can now go straight through along the whole mall without playing with busses or risking a ticket.

Adams Carroll
Guest
Adams Carroll

I really don’t understand why you all are so upset about giving two streets (out if hundreds!) over to vital transportation infrastructure. Think of all the cars that are being removed from downtown thanks to buses and trains which operate much more predictably in traffic anyway. There shouldn’t be a car/bike/scooter/rollerblade/whatever else lane on fifth and sixth, much less unpredictable turning, because it is a TRANSIT MALL. And besides, there is no greater joy in our moist northwestern city than timing the lights on third and fourth and blasting by cars the whole way down. Who needs fifth and sixth?

Icarus Falling
Guest
Icarus Falling

Who needs 5th and 6th you ask?

The working messenger.

The smart cyclist who realizes that there is less regular auto traffic on those streets, so travel there is considerably safer, and considerably faster, when crossing downtown.

I hate to add them, but even Pedicabs would be better off riding on these streets than on major arterials.

I could go on and on, but won’t.

I will close by saying that while some of you can’t imagine why people would be upset at a loss of, or continuation of loss of, privledge through our transit malls, others could not imagine why you wouldn’t use the transit malls yourselves.

Look at the box from across the street, instead of just thinking outside of it .

John Russell
Guest

Looking again at the signal phasing, the MAX gets priority over buses for obvious reasons. Why then is the left lane stuck behind a red light? I strongly doubt that the MAX will jump the tracks and come into our lane. Sounds more like a signal for bikes to cut ahead of everyone else if you ask me.

Other than the legality of it, are there any reasons why not to jump the light when the MAX has preempted the signal?

Dan Christensen
Guest

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE get the word out that bikes on the bus transit lanes are at great risk. I have already seen two bikers take dives at night when hitting the rail. Lucky one had almost stopped and the other said they were ok when I stopped to lend aid.

Also be aware that each lane has it’s own lights so don’t guess and go. Because the middle lanes may get a green and that may be a train rolling on through.

Most bike riders get this so far, lots of people on foot have not figured this out.