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PBOT unveils plans for NE Multnomah road diet project

Posted by on May 16th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

NE Multnomah open house

Lindsay Walker of the Lloyd TMA
looks over the project maps with PBOT
Traffic Engineer Rob Burchfield and
City Bike Coordinator Roger Geller.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Last night the City of Portland and representatives from the Lloyd Transportation Management Association hosted an open house for their NE Multnomah Street Transportation Pilot Project. It was the first time the public was shown the proposals for this project.

If you recall, back in October a citizen committee ended a 10 month public process with a 12-1 vote in favor of moving forward in making NE Holladay the main east-west spine for safe and convenient bicycling through the Lloyd District. That lone dissenting vote was held by the most powerful man in the room (or perhaps just the most feared) — Wade Lange of commercial real estate firm Ashforth Pacific. Lange — who was also representing a San Diego real estate firm that had just purchased $92 million worth of Ashforth property (the majority of which is on Multnomah Street) — never made it clear exactly why he opposed the project on Holladay; but despite being outvoted 12-1, he convinced the City of Portland to turn their attention away from Holladay and toward Multnomah instead.

By March, Lange found himself on a 25 person task force charged with putting Multnomah on a road diet. The task force was made up of PBOT staff, TriMet, the Portland Development Commission, property owners, and other stakeholders. Since then, they’ve met three times to come up with a plan to make significant changes to the street.

At the open house last night, the poster boards explaining the genesis of this project made no mention of Holladay. Instead, this is how the project was introduced:

“NE Multnomah Street was suggested as the prime east-west retail corridor as part of the N/NE Quadrant project. In its existing form NE Multnomah leaves little space for on-street parking, and active transportation that would invite shoppers, visitors, pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders to one of Portland’s premier districts.”

In order to turn the “outdated” street into one that will “energize the Lloyd District and create a vibrant east-west retail spine” on NE Multnomah, the first phase of the project will:

  • add around 70 new on-street car parking spaces between NE 1st Avenue and NE 16th (19 of which are being added in one stretch along Holladay Park);
  • add a wider, seven-foot bike lane in both directions (more details below);
  • add green coloring at several of the intersections where TriMet buses have to pull over and access corner stops;
  • reconfigure the number of standard vehicle lanes from five to three.

The lead graphic on one of the posters created by PBOT showed elements of the project — like on-street bike parking and a “parklet” — that are not yet funded or planned for in the first phase. Instead, PBOT says they’ve “set aside space” for what they are calling “future streetscape enhancements” (also important to note is that the cars in this scenario would be moving, not parked):

For reference, below are the proposed cross sections (Note: Currently the street has standard, four-foot bike lanes and five standard vehicle lanes):

The proposed designs for the bikeways alternate between three types of facilities.

On a few of the block faces, bikes will be directed onto a curbside bike lane physically separated from other traffic by a large (eight foot wide) buffer that will alternate between striped pavement markings and large concrete planters. The drawings aren’t online yet, but I snapped a few photos to give you an idea of what it would look like.

Here’s the drawing for the section just east of SE Grand Ave:

And PBOT was showing this image from Vancouver, BC as an example of the planted buffer:

On many other block faces, where curbside, on-street parking has been added, bikes will travel in a seven-foot bike lane with a one-foot, painted buffer in the door zone. You can see how the curbside bike lane with planted buffer transitions into the more traditional bike lane in the image below (which is the section just east of NE 9th Ave):

And here’s how it appoaches MLK JR Blvd…

Here’s another section (not sure where, sorry):

And here’s what they’ve proposed between MLK and Grand:

In just one of the block faces, the bike facility will be similar to the cycle track on SW Broadway, where the car parking is “floating” in the road and it acts as a buffer between bikes and cars. Why is only one section a parking-protected bike lane (which provides more separation and is considered a higher-quality bikeway) while all the other new car parking is directly at the curb? PBOT traffic analyst Wendy Cawley explained that business owners requested the curbside parking. Here’s how it looks outside the 700 Lloyd building east of NE 7th (and it’s worth noting that there’s a massive, 780 unit, $250 million housing and retail project coming to the parking lot just east of that building):

Much like we observed with the opposition to parking removal by the Portland Development Commission and other stakeholders on the Holladay project, parking rules in the Lloyd District. PBOT Director Tom Miller helped explain this for us back in December when he said, “on-street parking is crucial to the success of major, at-grade retail… Retailers need those [parking] stalls. Whether people like it or not, we’re not going to put retail out of business. It’s just not what we do.”

Not to mention that real estate professionals and property owners fight for the spots because it makes their buildings much more valuable when it comes time to sell.

Interestingly, despite proposing to add around 70 new on-street car parking spaces (there are none currently), there are no plans to add new bike parking. Instead of being included in the initial plans, bike corrals are being considered as part of “future streetscape improvements” that “will be encouraged” in the parking zone. Business owners would have to request them before they are installed.

The lanes for cars are direct and straight the entire length of the street; but the bike-only lanes weave between three different types of facilities — moving from curbside, protected zones, then out into a more traditional bike lanes (with no protection from moving cars) and then mixing with buses at intersections. There are even a few intersections where PBOT says they might add a right turn lane.

When I shared my concerns with PBOT traffic engineer Rob Burchfield, he said they’ve set aside space in this initial proposal for future uses such as the corrals, parklets, and maybe even a bike share station. It was also made clear last night that the buffered bike lanes could be converted to more robust, physically separated facilities as part of a longer term “Phase two” of the project.

PBOT says the project will cost about $175,000, with about $90,000 of that to be paid by the Lloyd TMA. It will be considered a one-year pilot project and it could be completed by late summer/early fall of this year. They are accepting comments online from the public and I’ll update this post when I get the link.

Overall, this project as proposed left me very disappointed. Once again, people that choose to bike seem to have taken a back seat to powerful business interests and the need to accomodate automobiles. What do you think?

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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NF
Guest
NF

The most amazing thing about this conversion is the cost. With very little money a street can be transformed.

Dave
Guest

So essentially we get more hodge-podge bike facilities, where neither the people on bikes nor the people driving know what to expect or what’s coming up next, because the facility keeps changing – the deciding factor again between making a consistent, logical bike facility and one that is inconsistent and confusing, is on-street car parking, in a district which already has almost as much surface car parking as it has buildings. Not only can we not remove any on-street parking to make better bike facilities, but now we’re going to add it, and thus complicate what otherwise could be a really simple, straightforward bike facility?

This is just absolutely ridiculous. If Portland wants to do anything more than talk on and on about how much they want to be a world-class biking city, they sure aren’t showing it. In fact, the current bike lanes that are there now are more consistent than this design, and pretty much go straight through all the way from 20th to the Rose Quarter. Sorry guys, this is a big fail.

Cliff
Guest
Cliff

That whole area is a parking lot already.

Alexis
Guest

Not surprising, given who’s behind it, but I agree: disappointing, and roundly NOT “world-class”.

I don’t really understand how the bike lanes could be converted later, except in the sense that any bike lane + curbside parking could be switched around. But it doesn’t look as if there is room for two separated facilities, only two buffered lanes.

I’d rather see two regular buffered lanes all through than this weird combination. I don’t know why PBOT thinks bikes want to constantly change their street position, any more than cars would.

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Guest
Kiel Johnson

“Once again, people that choose to bike seem to have taken a back seat to business interests and those who drive.” I thought people that choose to bike are business interests 🙂

What has the BTA been doing on this project, were they at the 3 meetings/open house?

9watts
Guest
9watts

“on-street parking is crucial to the success of major, at-grade retail… Retailers need those [parking] stalls. Whether people like it or not, we’re not going to put retail out of business. It’s just not what we do.”

Come on, Tom! Have you checked with your staff about the demand for bike corrals lately? Or perhaps that is what you meant by ‘on-street parking’?

Charley
Guest
Charley

Yeah, this is a really weird plan. Why the variety of treatments? Why not just a cycletrack like SW Broadwayat PSU? Is that not curbside parking, in a practical, if not literal sense? Even if you’re 7 feet away from the curb, does that somehow make it not curbside parking? And if there’s not as much parking on that street already, why are they putting it in, and in a way that makes the bike lane system a complete and unpredictable hodgepodge?

This whole thing reads to me like it was aimed at attracting or mollifying developers, not at making the streets safer.

Dave
Guest

Charley
This whole thing reads to me like it was aimed at attracting or mollifying developers, not at making the streets safer.

Exactly – look at the whole process and who was involved in it. That’s exactly it.

Paul
Guest
Paul

This makes no sense. 1 block of protected lane? Portland is losing. Bigtime.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I see this as an opportunity. Make these changes to Multnomah, and trade the new spaces for the one that can now be removed from Holladay to make the cycle track. The developers will still get a few added parking spots, and cyclists will now have two improved routes.

Carl
Guest
Carl

It’s visionary thinking like this that’s made the Lloyd District such a retail powerhouse over the past 30 years.

Evan
Guest
Evan

Here’s a map with parking lots that face this stretch of Multnomah marked: http://evvywevvy.net/img/multnomah.png

Allan
Guest
Allan

Hey Everyone, sorry to rain on your activist parade, but making the 5-to-3 lane conversion in the Lloyd district now, right before a ton of development drives more traffic onto Multinomah is a BIG DEAL! Sure, the implementation might not be 100% perfect but don’t lose the forest through the trees. This will be a much-improved facility that will connect the east-side better than anything else could possibly change things. So what if not 100% of the new real-estate is given to bikes? This is a big deal.

BUILD IT.

Dave
Guest

Allan
I don’t see how this will be less than ‘world class’

Because the cycling facility is still an afterthought. Perhaps even more of an afterthought than the current bike lanes (they at least have a clear right of way all the way through the district).

I certainly have no great confidence that if there are issues with the implementation they will be suitably addressed any time in the near future. Look at all the bits and pieces of marginally functional bicycle facilities we have all over the city. Not exactly awe-inspiring.

BURR
Guest
BURR

If Charlie Hales gets elected mayor, none of this will change in the next administration either.

Steve
Guest
Steve

They really need to fix the east travelling portion of NE MUltnomah just before the intersection with MLK. Busses and other large vehicles constantly cut the corner making the bike lane unusable. Also a green bike box or something could do a lot to prevent auto traffic from right hooking cyclists as the light turns green.

craig harlow
Guest
craig harlow

I was sorry to be unavailable for the open house. Did PBOT make the materials available on-line?

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

Not acceptable.

Jonathan: If you get a chance to interview the candidates for mayor as well as Fritz & Nolan, I’d like to read their thoughts on this project.

Lance P.
Guest

This is a joke, just like the Lloyd TMA. This has nothing to do with bike and all to do with parking. This group consisted of mostly rich and powerful. Home many Lloyd residents were in the group? How many people with money that live in the Burbs? Nice. Great job.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

BURR:

If Charlie is elected it WILL change: there will be streetcars running in the right-hand lanes on top of the bike lanes.

bicycle rider
Guest
bicycle rider

This wouldnt be bad if HOLLADAY was going to be a cycle track. Fine, go ahead with this but bring back the Holladay plan, this Multnomah scheme provides the cherished parking spaces that apparently was the problem with Holladay as a cycle track.

Plus how about stop prioritizing through auto traffic on that street with the waste of space known as a ‘turning lane’ in the center. The sign of a suburban street are turning lanes because godforbid turning vehicles slow the almighty long distance traffic racing to get through the neighborhood.

Eric
Guest
Eric

I work in the 700 building and find the worst part about Multnomah is the timing of the lights and playing leapfrog with the buses. As far as on street parking, there really isn’t that much ground floor retail on the street now and I can’t imagine where it would be added…the planned apartment buildings?

Mickey
Guest
Mickey

There seems to be a real chance that there will be some higher density semi-affordable housing built in the Lloyd district which the inner east side needs much more than cycle tracks, the increase in density would contribute to an actual long lasting transformation of interactions within the shared social space amongst residents, tourists, and workers. If this is the compromise required to expedite the construction of the housing so be it, single family homes need to go the way of the DoDo.

Joseph E
Guest

This is really disappointing, because it could be an excellent improvement with just a few changes.

We all need to advocate for having the parking to the left of the bike lanes for the whole distance.

Basically, the existing 4 to 5 foot bike lanes would remain in place, a 3 foot buffer would be added to the left, and then 7 feet for parking, bike corrals, trees and whatnot would go to the left of that. This leaves the central 3 lanes the same, and generally should fit in with the plans above. And now bikes will be out of the door zone and away from cars, while the business owners get the on-street parking that they want.

Tonya
Guest
Tonya

It also looks like they are moving the bus stops around? Multnomah is a major bus thoroughfare. Is the leapfrogging that already happens here going to get worse?

I’d also be curious about the length of the meters that will be added. The 5 hour spots mostly get used by people who work in the district. Adding more will definitely encourage more auto commuting, and therefore more auto traffic.

Dan
Guest
Dan

Personaly, I love how it was a long “public” process on Holladay, but a quick “stakeholder” process that actually gets done on Multnomah. And look how fast this is getting built out. If they were planning on paying any attention whatsoever to the “public”, there is no way they should be planning to have it done by fall. And, relating to other matters, if Multnomah can be restriped this quickly by PBOT, maybe their crews could help ODOt redo the St John’s Bridge…

Ian
Guest
Ian

I guess I’ll just keep taking Holladay eastbound. and Lloyd Blvd westbound. Was anything said about improving the Lloyd district to Esplanade connection? Right now it’s probably the most dangerous/stressful part of my whole commute.

Dave
Guest

Regarding East Portland vs. Central City – I know it’s tempting to want to get into a battle about who should get resources, etc – and I totally understand the frustration of folks in East Portland, nor do I disagree that they get much less and really should get more. However, I think as tempting as it may be, we might be better off all fighting together to, as Jonathan said in a comment above, make good bikeway design and implementation simply a standard operating procedure city-wide, rather than arguing about who gets what piece of the money right now.

Think about this project this way – if we get them to do Multnomah really well (it’s either going to be done well or poorly, but it’s going to be done), they’ll have a basis to go on, and some good design ideas, when we push them to do something with, for instance, NE Glisan out past 82nd. If it gets done poorly, the chances of any changes made in the future to East Portland are that they will get done equally poorly, because we won’t have pushed them to try anything new, and we’ll just get the same old thing.

I think it might be better, all-in-all, if we get them to solidify good design now, before they start hodge-podging East Portland like they have the central city.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

Reza
Guest
Reza

I think this project is a workable compromise with some areas in need of improvement. I am as wary of a door-zone bike lane as others on here, and would prefer a curbside bike lane treatment throughout. I do think that there are tangible safety benefits to reducing the overbuilt roadway to one lane in each direction, which will calm traffic speeds, and increasing the number of midblock crossing opportunities, a necessity in a district of superblocks. Reducing the travel lanes to 10 ft in each direction shows a commitment to dedicating as much space as possible to bicycles given the ROW constraints. Now whether the center turn lane is really necessary in most places is another story altogether.

Bottom line, this project can be a worthy improvement to cycling in the Lloyd District, IF they continue forward with the Holladay cycle track project. I do not support Multnomah as a “replacement” for Holladay, as the parking they’ll add on Multnomah should mitigate most spaces lost on Holladay.

Pat
Guest
Pat

Today was Bike to Work Day, and the Multnomah Street Plan was on display at an outdoor gathering this morning in the Lloyd District. A PBOT representative was there for Q&A. I asked if PBOT plans to take comments via the internet, and the staffer cited the bureau’s lack of internet expertise/resources to do that, so the best/only way for electronic comments is to submit them to the project manager, Ross Swanson, at ross.swanson@portlandoregon.gov .

bicycle rider
Guest
bicycle rider

Oliver
It’s my impression that there’s also a huge constituency of folks, say 1st generation immigrants east of I205 that don’t want bicycles, transit, or higher taxes (required to pay for sidewalks and paving) that will “prevent them from escaping” east of 205 as soon as they get a generation into whatever legitimate business venture they are into. Being able to move up requires somewhere for them to look down upon and say “that’s where I started”.
On the other hand you have a huge constituency of folks east of 205 that don’t want bicycles, transit, or higher taxes (required to pay for sidewalks, paving and police presence) because they associate all those things with what they perceive as blight on their once 50’s dream suburb brought about by gentrification in the inner city.
Recommended 1

exactly there’s the equity preaching hipster living in the inner city hipster belt of portland that wants to impose their view of what east portland should be. there are also many long time residents who live in east portland who want east portland to remain the autocentric 1950s suburban dream it was built to be, why should an urban lifestyle be imposed on their neighborhood, its not even compatible with its built form.