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PBOT seeks project manager to guide major downtown bike investment

Posted by on January 14th, 2015 at 11:44 am

bike conditions on SW Broadway-2

$6 million could dramatically change downtown streets like SW Broadway.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Want to lead the public process on a project that will likely be the most important investment in downtown bicycling access in the history of Portland? Then step right up and submit your application.

“I think there are a lot of expectations around what we might be able to do with this funding; but there are a lot of challenges to deliver on those high aspirations.”
— Art Pearce, PBOT

Yesterday, the Portland Bureau of Transportation posted the job announcement for a Capital Project Manager that will focus specifically on their Central City Multi-Modal Safety Project.

That project, which is already over two years in the making, would establish a network of protected bike lanes through the heart of downtown Portland. So far, the city plans to spend $6 million (from a federal grant) to make it happen.

At PBOT’s monthly Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting in City Hall last night, city bike coordinator Roger Geller said the project is, “A great opportunity to change the shape of the Central City.”

Just how the shape of downtown changes is still up in the air. And that’s something that the new project manager will help decide. Reached today via phone, PBOT Capital Program Manager Dan Layden said they’re looking for someone that “can deliver a complicated project — from both an engineering and political perspective.”

Asked why the project is so complicated, PBOT Transportation Policy, Planning and Projects Group Manager Art Pearce told us it’s all about meeting the community’s expectations. “I think there are a lot of expectations around what we might be able to do with this funding; but there are a lot of challenges to deliver on those high aspirations.”

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PBOT themselves has played a role in setting such high expectations. Always careful to not anger any stakeholders prematurely, their grant application said the project would “preserve capacity for important uses” while it would also “create as much separation as possible between people walking or bicycling and automobile traffic.” The key for whoever takes the reins of this project will be to balance both of those goals.

It’s no surprise PBOT is approaching this project with caution, given what’s at stake in terms of both the amount of investment and how the project is vital to their adopted goal of reaching a 25% bicycle usage rate by 2030.

Three years ago the agency got railroaded by the Portland Business Alliance for trying to add a protected bike lane to SW 12th Avenue. Sources say the PBA opposed the SW 12th Avenue project because they felt PBOT hadn’t fully considered how it might impact traffic flow on adjacent streets. The city’s lesson from that debacle is to have a comprehensive downtown bicycle network plan in place before asking for the PBA’s blessing on “one-offs.”

While there’s likely to be a lot of hand-wringing about auto parking and freight access preservation, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance has already said they see the project as, “An opportunity for us to make a big bold political statement about committing space on a major thoroughfare to bikes.”

As an interesting side note, Dan Bower, the PBOT employee who spearheaded the grant that funds this project, has since left the agency to become executive director of Portland Streetcar, Inc. But Bower’s fingerprints will likely remain on the project: As of last night he’s one of 13 new members on the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee — a group that will likely hold considerable sway in where any new bikeways go and what they end up looking like.

The grant money for this project doesn’t officially kick-in until 2016, so PBOT hopes to start some of the work now and hit the ground running when the formal public process begins late this summer.

Stay tuned.

— Read our past coverage of the Central City Multi-Modal Safety Project.

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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Kyle
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Kyle

I rode the southern segment of the Williams left-hand bike lane yesterday. The moment I entered the buffered section I felt a lot more at ease and less worried about the traffic to my right, but I was still finding myself worrying a lot about the parked cars to my left. I feel the same riding the NW Everett bike lane. Why is free on-street parking so vehemently protected?

spencer
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spencer

godspeed! lets not have “another williams” debacle both in planning and execution.

Joe
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Joe

broadway is nightmare but dang I love riding it. 🙂

Rick
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Rick

SW 3rd Ave and also all of Natio Pkwy need lots of help.

Adam H.
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Adam H.

PBOT claims they know how design “world-class” bike infra, but they end up putting in sub-par bike lanes such as the one on Williams. Let’s hope they actually live up to their word this time.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

It may pay well but it’s going to be a stressful thankless job.

paikiala
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paikiala

$6M doesn’t buy much. What if all downtown lanes had sharrow markings at the beginning of each block and the signals were re-set to 12 mph progression instead of 18 mph?
All lanes are bike lanes.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Is this real?

Executive director of Portland Streetcar, Inc., is on the Bicycle Advisory Committee?

Conflict of interest?

Cognitive dissonance?

Jayson
Guest
Jayson

After the Vancouver/Williams debacle, I have very low expectation for the downtown Portland bike routes. The PBA is already pouring the water on this project. If the city could just install a couple blocks of wider sidewalks between Market and Harrison on Naito, I could escape downtown without experiencing the rest of the mess. That would make me happy. No expectations for real progress anywhere else.

Dwaine Dibbly
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Dwaine Dibbly

The Park blocks, both South and North, should be car-free in both directions!

sw resident
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sw resident

Six million is nowhere near enough. Every transportation and infrastructure dollar should be concentrated in the central city.
BTA: “An opportunity for us to make a big bold political statement about committing space on a major thoroughfare to bikes.” – and another big bold political statement that the only place that matters is the central city. The rest of us out here on Mars don’t need sidewalks and rudimentary roads and bike lanes.

Mark
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Mark

I don’t want protected bike lanes downtown. As it is now, it’s very easy to take a lane and ride with traffic. This allows me the flexibility to turn right or left easily, by positioning myself in the appropriate lane. I refuse to do a stupid jug-handle turn that requires waiting through an additional light cycle. With protected lanes, and with Oregon’s mandatory sidepath law, it would be much more complicated to get where I’m going. Taking the lane would infuriate motorists who wouldn’t understand why I’m not using the provided bike lane. Door zone bike lanes are dangerous, and separated infrastructure causes major sight line issues at intersections. No thanks.

chris
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chris

Can’t we just get an entire north/south running street? Make it two ways and ban all automobiles other than emergency and delivery vehicles.

Lenny Anderson
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Lenny Anderson

$6M is not enough. How about getting the PBA involved at the get go, putting some $ on the table from their downtown BID and/or helping to create LID(s) to carry some of the cost. LIDs paid for a significant portion of the Streetcar lines, but you need to document that increased bike access will add to property values as is the case with Streetcar.
This project is all about making multi-modal access better for everyone, even motorists; when I am in a bike lane and it ends, I take the lane. I am sure most motorists would prefer I still had that bike lane, so its really for them, not us! And as sure as they park, they become pedestrians, as do the 15K or so daily riders on Streetcar either before or after their ride.

Jim Lee
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Jim Lee

Streetcars and bicycles are a notorious conflict of interest.

So which hat will the executive director of PSI be wearing at Bicycle Advisory Committee meetings? And we are forbidden to attend PSI board meetings, where that hat will definitely be worn.

PSI is strictly an insiders club, with no earthly use except to con the public. But wait! PSI does do something well: unchecked by citizen oversight, it does misrepresent its finances, according to our City’s Auditor. PBOT and PSI are as thick as thieves.

Already we have Chris Smith on the PSI board and on the Planning Commission. I’ll give a new inner tube to anyone who can explain what his real interest is.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

PBOT never has evinced the slightest ability to do competent technical design. If it looks pretty on paper they will build it! So far as actual functionality, they have not a clue.

I, on the other hand, from high school to retirement, have demonstrated quite a high level at that arcane skill: airplanes, electromagnets, beach houses, concert halls, even bicycle wheels!

I am half-way considering applying for the position.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

And thirdly, perhaps I should just run for Mayor again!

Adron @ Transit Sleuth
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I started writing this massive comment, but then realized I should just print a map and write a blog entry. So I did just that: http://transitsleuth.com/2014/10/30/portland-gateway-to-copenhagen-amsterdam/

If you don’t want to click on that or TLDR; I pointed out some absurdly cheap, easy to implement routes that honestly I find shocking are even left to cars today, because seriously, barely any cars actually use them anyway. Usually a few stragglers or confused people use them once in a while, but that’s it.

Adron @ Transit Sleuth
Guest

Sorry – double post, bad copy paste cache, care to delete that comment just previous to this one? Anyway… this has the link I intended in it.

I started writing this massive comment, but then realized I should just print a map and write a blog entry. So I did just that: http://transitsleuth.com/2015/01/15/fixing-bicycle-access-in-downtown-portland-time-to-get-real/

If you don’t want to click on that or TLDR; I pointed out some absurdly cheap, easy to implement routes that honestly I find shocking are even left to cars today, because seriously, barely any cars actually use them anyway. Usually a few stragglers or confused people use them once in a while, but that’s it.

Keith
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Keith

While I appreciate and support bicyclists in the community there must be a balanced approach. The city stated in 2010 they planned to spend $600 million on bike infrastructure improvements. A very admirable and enormous investment for the biking community. However, as I read these posts, I see more and more calls for banning automobiles from roadways in different areas of the community, particularly downtown. But look at the bigger impact to the business community. Agreed it is already congested, but the stores, shops, restaurants we know and love need goods delivered to support their livelihoods, this can’t be biked in. Contrary to belief, the downtown residents do not support the businesses, the vast majority of patrons are tourists or non residents that frequent those establishments…by car. If we make it more difficult to navigate the roads, you threaten to push patronage to other areas like SE, Suburbs, etc… We still have to consider, with the goal of 25% cyclists, we can’t affect the majority for the minority.
Additionally, where are these road improvement funds coming from? I understand a $6 million grant. But residents and motorists are preparing to be taxed further in Portland in the name of infrastructure, on top of the federal gas tax, state gas tax, proposed mileage tax, license fees, registration fees and DEQ fees. Is it not time we look for the minority of bicyclists to invest in the roadways and exclusive bike improvements that they exclusively utilize and benefit from. Portland needs additional revenues to compensate for the lack of funds not being collected in consequence to alternative travel resources. Hybrids, EV’s, public transportation and bicyclists have stiffly cut into those revenue streams, and spending $600 million, however ideal, is not fiscally responsible. I propose a process, no different than vehicles, that bicyclists license and register. Under the same principle of safety and responsibility, bicyclists are governed and order to abide by the same rules of the road as motorists. As an earlier poster identified himself as an aggressive bicyclist, all folks should be held responsible equally. Being able to identify, track, ticket these folks equally with motorists will make all our citizens safer, and the coffers fuller. Additionally, ensuring the growing number of bicyclists and urban residents pay for the much needed improvements we all agree are necessary.

Keith
Guest
Keith

This isn’t about an argument of bikes versus cars. You can turn this into an emotional argument, however the truth is that bikes are allowed to use city roadways and bike lanes. Having lived on SE 12th Ave and Ladd Ave, bikes used these streets as a thoroughfare, sometimes dozens of bikes at a time. These are not bike lanes, but roads. On more than a dozen times I was almost hit by various bicyclists using these roads, and never in 12 months, encountering bikes daily, did a bicyclist yield to me, or any other pedestrian as I looked out my window. Daily I saw at least one bicyclist not properly lit at night. And as a designated bikeway, not once in 12 months did I see a single police officer. My car was almost hit on multiple occasions by a bicyclist not stopping at a stop sign. This happened to my friends and neighbors as well. This all took place on a Portland street, not in bike lanes. As far as cars being lethal and dangerous…that is why motorists in all states are required to purchase insurance that includes medical liability.
There are good and bad bicyclists and motorists period. And I ask that law enforcement hold all equally accountable. But this has nothing to do with the fact that we spend millions of tax dollars on bike lanes and bike centric improvements for 6% or less of the population. And that 6% should pay for those improvements rather than every household in Portland. The city of Portland plans to spend $80 million this year to repave and repair 100 miles of roads. Roads that we all utilize. Public transportation pays a portion through gas taxes and ridership fees. Trimet is a semi private endeavor, utilizing fees to operate and license themselves to operate. Taxis, probably the worst group of drivers, also must be licensed and inspected, funds going to city roads. They also pay gas tax to fund. The gas tax is the primary source of infrastructure improvements. The reduction of gas tax collection from drivers finding more efficient or alternative means of transportation is the exclusive reason our Democratic legislature stated was why roads were going unrepaired. In turn, the mileage tax is currently being piloted in the state of Oregon. That alone acknowledges and supports my argument that bicyclists need to contribute to the funding. With a population of approximately 700,000, and 6% of the population are cyclists, that’s approximately 42,000 cyclists in Portland, using napkin math. With average annual mileage of 15,000/year, and a 1.5 cent per mile tax being piloted, that’s about $225 per person. That’s nearly $2.5 million dollars in lost revenue in Portland alone for roads. Further, if ridership ever got to even 24%, not the 25% goal stated in the 2030 plan, that would be $10 million lost in excise tax revenue. How do you propose to make up for the lack of funds. This $6 million being committed by federal tax dollars is well underfunded by the 6%, $150 being spent on every bicyclist! That’s 3 times the revenue that this group could fund in a year. How can we financially justify the expense? To spend $6 million to a group we lose $2.5 million to is ridiculous. That money could be used to improve storm drain run off in the Willamette, fund mental health for the homeless population, build a shelter to house those homeless folks, pay for school lunches, fund parks, repaint and repair overpasses, expand green spaces throughout the city, fund enterprise zones in impoverished portions of the city, buy body cameras for police officers, and many other public works programs that impact all citizens of this amazing city. Or even better, stop the city of Portland from further taxing every man, woman and child to simply eat, sleep and breath in this city.
In closing, we tax tourists, cell phone users, smokers, drinkers, lottery gamblers, airline passengers, cable and internet users and drivers through specific excise taxes. All justified to fund various programs and services that people CHOOSE to use, not forced to use. So again, my question still lingers, how can we justify these expenses? And why can’t bicyclists pay a portion of the expenses like every other consumer?

Keith
Guest
Keith

Again, you make an emotional argument about vehicles. Contrary to your thought, if you see a driver, delivery truck, etc. Drive recklessly, you can report them using what? A license plate number. If you were hit by a vehicle, I would assume you reported them to the police, the driver was cited, his insurance should have covered your injuries, his premiums went up, and if it was criminal, could have had his license to operate the vehicle revoked as it is a privilege not a right. Now, hypothetically, had the exact same thing happened with a bicyclist and pedestrian, what would the outcome be? No license plate, no registration to track down the operator, no insurance to cover medical damages, and the bicyclist would still be able to operate. This is a false argument. There is no justifiable means to not require bicyclists to pay fees. It is an emotional argument that some bicyclists use to create a red herring to draw the attention for free services by bicyclists.
To your point of, what would happen if fewer people drove or collected less tax revenue. That is exactly what is happening! Since the advent of hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles, light rail, and other alternative modes of transportation, the state has seen a steady decrease in revenue. Additionally, with the lack of residential growth in Portland, focusing more on multiunit housing requiring no proportionate parking in urban areas, the city of Portland will continue to see a disproportionate decrease in revenues. Alternative sources of transportation are fantastic, and do save on the congestion and environmental impacts. This year, Portland will spend $115 per resident on road improvements this year. Conversely, we will spend and additional $150 per cyclist. That is $265 on bicyclists versus $115 for non cyclist. While the 94% contribute to the funds through excise taxes on transportation, the 6% goes unfunded. Your argument about bike lanes being better for motorists is false. It’s enforcement of our laws that you cite as the problem, not the existing roads. Perhaps investing the $6 million into increased law enforcement will remedy your complaints. If done, the byproduct would be increased citation revenue, a safer public for all, and a balanced approach. Building protective curbs only masks the problem you state, not addressing the root cause, unnattentive and aggrasive drivers. By fair and equitable taxation, and equal accountability for motorists and bicyclists alike, we would address the budget gap, improve the travel conditions and conveniences for all, improve public safety, and make the future growth of this city sustainable. Regardless of the damage you state are caused by vehicles, ground transportation is necessary for a growing economy. Every road, every bridge, every sidewalk, every bike path has a lifespan. There are multiple factors that come into play beyond use. Let’s keep Portland moving, growing and amazing. Let’s all share in the cost of building the Portland we would all like to see.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

I’m not making any emotional arguments, I’m stating facts and perhaps making ethical arguments. My hypothetical case of losing tax revenue due to drivers switching to walking is completely different from drivers switching to a different kind of driving. Driving a car damages the roads whether it is a hybrid or gasoline-powered; walking and riding a bike do not damage the roads. So what I presented hypothetically is not “exactly what’s happening”. A decrease in revenues, along with a proportionate decrease in damaging road use by cars should be no problem—unless drivers are currently underpaying for the damage they cause.

Yes, I could report the license plate of a reckless driver, if I could see it well enough and take a picture or remember it, but then law enforcement would have to give two shakes. 99 times out of 100, an officer can’t or won’t cite anyone unless they witness the violation themselves, or solid evidence can be obtained to prove that the law was broken. In the event of a bicyclist hitting a pedestrian, chances are the bicyclist will be injured as well, and their bike knocked over, if not damaged. Now if the cyclist decides to ride away in whatever condition they may be, there is nothing to be done. If the cyclist does the right thing and stays to be sure everyone is OK, then the injuries ought to be handled just as they would if, say, a skateboarder had come zipping around a corner and knocked over a pedestrian on the sidewalk. Should we require licenses registration, and insurance for skateboards? One of the worst impacts I’ve ever sustained was from an inline skater zipping around a blind corner on the “wrong” side of a path and knocking me backwards. I had the wind knocked out of me and I was lucky not to have bashed my head on the ground. Had I received more serious injuries, what insurance would there have been to pay for them? Should we require licenses, registration, and insurance for inline skates? There is very little difference between getting hit by a cyclist or being knocked down by someone running or skating. In the two cases I can think of in recent memory where a pedestrian was killed by a cyclist, I can name the cyclist in each case—because they were apprehended and prosecuted. I’ll bet it wouldn’t take long to find a few open hit-and-run cases where a driver killed someone, took off, and hasn’t been found yet, in spite of having license plates and registration. When you look at the sheer volume of destruction, injury, and death caused by motor vehicles (there were a few impressively destructive crashes in Oregon just today, according to this morning’s news) it doesn’t really compare to that caused by bicycles.

The bottom line is that motor vehicles have fees and taxes attached to them because they are vastly more destructive than any other commonly-used tool; so much so that destruction, injury, and death caused by other modes of transportation is essentially zero by comparison.

When you talk about segments of the population on which money will be spent, you make assumptions about group divisions. You say that bicyclists are 6% of the population, but assume it will stay that way. There is nothing preventing anyone from using bike infrastructure. To say that bike infrastructure excludes anyone is patently false, unless you are talking about those that are too physically handicapped to use a bike. So spending on bike infrastructure is really spending on everyone. Even if there are some people who would never use it, they are excluding themselves from the advantages of using it—but at the same time, if someone else decides to ride instead of drive, doesn’t that benefit all drivers? The argument is made that everyone should pay for roads because even if they never use them directly, goods are shipped, services made available (police, fire, medical, home repair, etc.) by having roads, therefore you benefit by them even if you don’t directly use them. That same argument holds for bicycle infrastructure; drivers benefit from it even if they don’t directly use it: it keeps cyclists “out of the way”, and it might encourage others to use it and therefore remove a car from in front of you on the road.