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TriMet seeks bike user feedback for new Division Transit Project station design

Posted by on June 12th, 2018 at 2:54 pm

TriMet’s latest design for stations in the Division Transit Project.

As TriMet inches ever closer to the final design of their $175 million Division Transit Project, the agency once again needs feedback on how best to handle bicycle users at new bus stations. And with protected bike lanes becoming a more common feature citywide, whatever TriMet decides to use could become the new standard.

Since our look at this project in October, TriMet has worked to “recalibrate” the project due to a budget shortfall of $14 million.

Several of the cost-cutting measures are based around station design. Instead of a raised island for passengers to wait on and bike lanes that jog behind it, the latest design would keep the bike lane in front of waiting passengers and offer a “step out” strip to be used just prior to boarding.

The design will be revealed for the first time at City Hall tonight at a special joint meeting of the PBOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committees.

The update comes as TriMet reaches the 30 percent design milestone and looks to finalize the project by the end of next year. The Division Transit Project started in 2014 as a true bus rapid transit (BRT) line that would connect downtown Portland and Mount Hood Community College. But when it became clear that putting buses on state-controlled 82nd Avenue and/or dedicating lanes to them on SE Division wouldn’t be possible due to the presence of single-occupancy car drivers, the project stalled out.

In a FAQ published in August 2017, TriMet wrote that dedicated bus lanes weren’t possible because, “Division carries approximately 35,000 cars per day, which is well over the 20,000 to 25,000 cars per day that a 2- or 3-lane roadway can accommodate,” and that, “Reducing lanes on Division for a dedicated bus lane would very likely result in traffic diversion to other streets and significant delay.” Dedicated transit lanes would also prohibit some drivers from turning across them and the, “impacts to local access and vehicle circulation, including access to businesses,” were deemed too great.

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Even without dedicated lanes, TriMet is promising 15-20 percent faster transit between Portland and Gresham thanks to upgrades in signal technology that will give buses priority, shorter “dwell times” (time buses spend at stops) thanks to all-door boarding and easier fare payment, fewer stops (one-third mile station spacing) and “demand based stops” where the operator will only stop if necessary. Of the 40 or so new platforms TriMet expects to build for this project, about 16 will be demand-based.

In a briefing with TriMet staff yesterday, we also learned they’ve finalized a contract with Union Pacific Railroad to upgrade track switches in the Brooklyn rail yard. This means delays caused by trains at the SE 8th crossing will be significantly minimized when the project is completed in May 2019 (well before the new line opens in 2022).

East of 82nd, PBOT’s concurrent Outer Division Safety Project project calls for a variety of protected bike lanes. Since those are relatively rare in Portland, TriMet has yet to standardize a bus stop design that preserves and respects biking space. TriMet hopes their new “Bikes Behind Step Out” design works well not only in the Division Transit Project, but throughout the city and region as well.

The design features a bike lane that narrows to three-feet wide as it enters the station area. One of TriMet’s big concerns is making sure bicycle users slow down and respect bus passengers. People will be expected to wait on one side of the bike lane; then when a bus arrives, they’ll step up to the small island before boarding. Bicycle users will be expected to stop and wait as buses load and unload.

Here’s a larger view of the new design:

Consultants from Alta Planning and Design were hired to help create the design, which is best on best practices endorsed by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). It’s preferred by TriMet because — unlike the initial islands design — the step out design has a smaller footprint and can use existing right-of-way (meaning, it’s cheaper).

TriMet compares their design to similar ones already in use in Toronto:

Another Toronto example being shared by TriMet.

This is a very similar design currently in use on Sherbourne Street in Toronto.

What do you think?

TriMet has two open houses scheduled later this month where you can learn more, see the latest designs, and talk with project staff:

Wednesday, June 27
5–7 p.m.
Gresham City Hall
1333 NW Eastman Pkwy., Gresham

Thursday, June 28
5–7 p.m.
PCC Southeast Campus
Community Hall Annex
2305 SE 82nd Ave., Portland

We should hear good feedback from the advisory committees tonight. Stay tuned for more coverage.

UPDATE 6/13: Here’s one of the key slides shown last night. TriMet is trying to figure out which design to go with: A narrower “alighting area”/step out and straight/wider bike lane, or a narrower bike lane that jogs (and requires cutting into existing curb) around a larger step out zone:

Here’s another graphic that was shown to the committees last night. It’s an animation that depicts the intended movements of different users:

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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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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Champs
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Champs

Can’t help but notice that a plastic “delineator wand” (or whatever we’re calling them now) is knocked down in that last image, yet years of research were necessary to figure out that they’re wasted money.

On a two-way street, there aren’t many options for people on bikes: unpopular (central bike lanes), vehicular (bus crosses lane), and protected (bus passengers cross bike lane). If it must be the latter, then you’ve got to slow bicycle traffic near transit users.

I will say that the skinny lane needs to be indicated by more than a surface treatment. A narrow, upward-sloping platform would be accessible, speed boarding, discourage its use as a waiting area, and not be so bad to accidentally roll onto as a bus driver or bicycle rider. Those photographs show a bike lane interrupted by a loading zone.

Sam
Guest
Sam

Impatient cyclists (that’s a euphemism) will go out into traffic while the bus is loading/unloading while impatient drivers (euphemism again) are also aggressively passing the bus. Collisions and serious bodily harm, and death will happen. Or… an impatient (there it is again, pick your foul body part) cyclist will be overestimate his (we know it will be a him) abilities and attempt to slalom through the passengers and a small child or person with mobility issues will get hurt. The national reputation of Canada is politeness. Not so much here in ‘Murica, we’re all entitled mavericks, just like Tom Cruise and Sarah Palin, even us cyclists. We, as cyclists and ‘Muricans need to change that. We are all just people trying to get someplace. Commuting and running errands is not a race. Don’t be an impatient cyclist. Infrastructure improvements alone help immensely but aren’t the whole solution.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

Don’t run any bike lanes through bus loading and unloading zones. That’s just plain stupid.
Period.

J_R
Guest
J_R

The “STOP” marking on the pavement where the pedestrian crossing zone (aka passenger waiting area) ensures that PPB can blame the cyclist for anything that happens at the bus loading area.

B
Guest
B

It certainly seems like the bike “stop” should be a “yield” instead. The majority of the time bikes will have no conflict with pedestrians and there is no visibility problem. This seems to be a design that’s strongly encouraging people on bikes to break the law.

David Burns
Guest
David Burns

I think that the shelter should be on the platform, not a bike-lane away. Like the street car stops on Moody. It’s easy enough to yield to pedestrians on their way to the shelter, but much harder to guess when everyone is going to spot the bus coming and bounce out of it.

Also, there should be a crosswalk behind the bus so transit users can access the stop from the other side of the street. It’s dumb to make pedestrians cross the bike lane twice like some weird maze.

I agree with other posters that a ‘stop’ here is not needed; yield will do. At most, a “stop when bus is present” is needed.

Ben
Guest
Ben

I was just in the Netherlands for a few days last week and the bus stops/protected bike lanes outside my window actually looked exactly like this. They seemed to work well with no problems as far as I could tell.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

My overall point is this, let’s not be too gullible to whatever BS PBOT and TriMet feed us; that’s been proven time and time again to not be in cyclists’ best interests.

Note that I’m not mentioning ODOT here, because they are in a league by themselves…

maccoinnich
Subscriber

I’m really disappointed that TriMet is abandoning the plans for true floating bus stops. Although uncommon in Portland, it’s a tried and tested design, in use in many other cities.

What they’re now proposing is a compromise that sets up conflicts between bicyclists and transit riders. The new bus service on Division won’t automatically call at every station, so transit riders will want to wait at the curb, and not 8′ plus back as intended by this design. With limited width in the island we’re likely to see people standing in the bike lane. Whenever a bus is at the station bike riders are supposed to stop behind the station, which eliminates one of the major advantages of floating bus stops. I imagine compliance with that will be pretty low. This can only work well if either bus or bicycle usage is low; hopefully they’re not planning on either.

The reason TriMet staff gave to the BAC/PAC tonight for the change is that they want to reduce the amount of property it is necessary for them to buy at the stations. When I heard this couldn’t work out why they needed to buy any property at all. Outer Division is typically 90′ wide, with 7′ wide sidewalks. That leaves 76′ clear curb-to-curb. Given that the (little used) parking is being removed, should be plenty room for the five existing vehicle lanes, plus protected bike lanes and floating bus stops either side of the intersection. I mocked this up in streetmix:

I took me a while of searching through previous Bike Portland coverage to work out why something like the design above wouldn’t work. At its major intersections Outer Division goes up to six lanes: two through lanes in each direction, plus dedicated left and right turn lanes. The illustrations from last year showed they were planning on keeping that configuration, and getting the necessary width for the bus stops from the adjacent properties. That’s an expensive choice. It’s also a choice that makes the already long crossing distances for pedestrians even longer.

What’s obvious is that this project is trying very hard to maintain existing auto capacity, and when a budget crunch came the decision was made to compromise the design for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

As a bus driver who regularly drives the 4, I can tell you this design is wildly impractical for a number of reasons.

Most obvious being that intending passengers are highly inclined to want to watch for their bus to ensure it is on it’s way and stops for them.

In practice this means people want to wait as close to the curb as possible to see down the street. They plant their wheelchair, bags of cans, strollers, shopping trollys and whatever else they have curbside and gaze down the road. Such a design may work just fine in Canada but as much as I wish it was so, we are not so orderly.

TriMet’s willingness to hobble this project, for fear of causing congestion, is a sad and transparent admission of premature failure for the Division project and transit as a whole in 2018.

SD
Guest
SD

No stop sign. Rails on the Moody street car stop are very helpful and may be justified at the busier stops.

How will transit riders standing/ clumping in the bike lane be addressed?

That One Guy
Guest
That One Guy

Check out this video for a more refined solution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Pvhkx0153k

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

It seems more than a bit awful to purposely set up narrow passages that create conflicts between bus riders/pedestrians and people on bikes. Other options should be put into play like taking advantage of the fact that these BRT buses have doors on both sides. Just put the bus stops/bus lanes on the left side of the road and the conflicts disappear.

It’s also galling that Trimet is using our current overuse of single-occupancy vehicles to justify doing a poor job. Their goal should be to reduce car use, which means using that other part of induced demand and removing travel lanes. Failing to do that will keep car counts at their current silly-high level.

We really can’t simultaneously achieve a reduced-car city and build for current car use levels. Something has to give, and that thing should be motorist convenience, otherwise it feeds the cynical view that our elected officials and staff are just gas-lighting us with their talk of prioritizing walking, cycling and transit.

BradWagon
Subscriber

Overall this is splitting hairs when the real issue remains unwillingness to do anything about car volumes.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Both of these are poor designs. You need to put the bus shelter next to the bus lane. Otherwise you have large surges of people getting on and off the bus and completely blocking the bike lane. A shelter and diffusion area will help as the waiting passengers cross the bike lane at their own pace, and arriving passengers can diffuse near the shelter before crossing either the bike lane OR the street (but not both).

A stop sign for bikes at every shelter? Fire that person.

A 3′ wide bike lane? Fire that person.

TriMet seems to have a serious issue in their design department and something needs to change. They can re-org or just clean house, but they better do something. These laughable designs serve nobody. These designs are embarrassing and they should be ashamed.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I would like the complicated, messy space where the transit waiting zone and the narrowed bike lane is, to simply be a big pullout for the bus.

Have the buses pull over into the pullout to load/unload passengers, and bikes can pass the bus on the left with no bike/ped conflict.

I am not worried about bus/bike conflict when the bus is pulling in/out of the pullout. Trimet drivers are more careful around bikes than any other class of driver in the city, and for cyclists it is obvious when a bus is going to pull over to or leave a bus stop.

If we are worried that bus drivers might not pull over fully, i.e. leave half the bus blocking the traffic lane, then make the pullout longer and put a bit of thin curb separating the central length of the pullout and the traffic lane, so that failure to pull over full will mean driving over the curb.

Clark in Vancouver
Guest
Clark in Vancouver

This is not too bad and is a step in the right direction however in my opinion it needs a bit of tweaking.

The general idea is good but it would be better if the island was wider and the bus shelter was on it.
In Vancouver, BC there is the first ever one of these on Dunsmuir Street. It works okay but you cross the bike path to get to the bus from the shelter. No big deal but it would be better if the bike path went behind the bus shelter. (There was an adjustment period where people took a bit to get used to it.)
https://flic.kr/p/8PE7AZ

Here’s one done later. Cornwall St. near Burrard. There was no adjustment period needed (that I’m aware of.)
comment image

There should not be a stop sign, only a Yield to pedestrians sign. In between buses when nobody is there, having to stop for no good reason just teaches people to ignore stop signs.

Kem Marks
Guest
Kem Marks

This is pathetic. I was on the SC for this project. This is nothing like what LPA looked like. They say 15 to 20 percent reduction in travel time, but how will that happen when they will have to deploy a ramp for people with mobility devises, carts or stroller/kids. The bike lane design is ridiculous. Cyclists will assuredly try to go through while people are trying to get on or off, or they will go around the bus. Neither situation is safe or desired. Also where is the weather protection for people and other amenities? I also want to note that this design is in East Portland, so inner East Division will get regular platforfs with level or near level boarding and we will get the opportunity to walk into a bike lane.

morgan
Guest
morgan

I attended the meeting last night and a few comments/questions stood out to me:
1. A BAC member suggested testing some of these proposed design ideas at existing transit stops around Portland to get a real-world feel for how they would work. Couldn’t agree more.
2. Another committee member made an interesting point that while re-designing Division is important, these design changes are potentially asking transit users, pedestrians, and cyclists to abide by a different set of rules and norms than in the rest of Portland. I think this speaks to the comment made by the other committee member that testing some of these changes is important. The presenters mentioned a lot about how they observed real-world behavior and patterns in a lot of other cities, so why not see how they might work in Portland first?
3. Someone sitting next to me mentioned to me that if he were a cyclist he would avoid Division altogether if he were expected to stop so frequently. Food for thought.

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

I really dislike these options for all the various reasons that others have pointed out. However, one thing that could it make it somewhat palatable is if there were a barrier (low fence?) between the pedestrian waiting plaza and the bike lane, with very small gaps (the smallest allowable and still meet ADA requirements) for boarding/unboarding. When I was riding in Seattle last month on their protected cycle tracks through downtown, I was continually concerned a person was going to step out in front of me as they were waiting for the light to change at an intersection.

Now granted a barrier could simply just serve to trap people on the bike lane, which would also be pretty terrible.

Really should just remove at least one auto lane — I love (irony) how the projects don’t seem to account for the possibility that if this was a great, easy to use, functional design for ALL users the car volume could conceivably go down with the improvements, instead of up.

Paul B
Guest
Paul B

Even being a Platinum city, Portlanders would have to get used to this approach to biking and bus stops, so we should make it the most obvious and safest solution we can.

It should be a wider island with space enough for the shelter. That gives bus users a dedicated area to wait and the ability to easily see the bus coming. The bus island and sidewalk should be raised above the bike lane with the bike lane brightly colored to make it extremely obvious that that is a lane for bikers and no pedestrian should be standing there. Bikers should continue flowing and not stop—this will reenforce the idea that pedestrians are crossing a lane of traffic and need to look both ways.

All of this will treat bikers as if they are a mode of transporation that is meant to flow around the bus stop. Bus users will have their space to safely wait for the bus AND they will be reminded that crossing the bike lane is like crossing any other lane of traffic, they should look both ways and wait for a clearing.

John
Guest
John

It is preposterous that a 3′-wide bike lane would even be considered when Biketown’s own adaptive bikes are 4′ wide. So people with disabilities are just supposed to unexpectedly merge into automobile traffic while all other cyclists continue through the 3′ bike lane? Are they trying to kill folks with disabilities?

JJJ
Guest
JJJ

People waiting for a bus want to stand as close to the curb as possible because they want to ensure the bus stops for them. Design should be based around this predictable behavior.

Will the bus stop island be at standard curb height (bad), or raised an extra 2 inches to allow for TRUE level boarding (good)? It blows my mind that agencies will spend money rebuilding bus stops and not take the time to create true level boarding.

As far as I know, MUTCD has certain warrants required before placing a stop sign. I highly doubt the pedestrian volume at a bus stop meets that warrant.

BTW, this is what Boston is currently building

comment image

N
Guest
N

We already have this, Westbound on the Hawthorne viaduct. Bicycles mount the curb on a ramp, then swing right between the loading zone and sidewalk waiting area for the 4, 10, and 14 lines. The pale section of concrete was added about 2 years ago. I’ve been riding through here for 8 years at various times during the morning commute.

https://goo.gl/maps/ugkXfmVEEMK2

The old setup created a lot of conflict. Since they made the loading zone wider, it’s pretty ok. The wider loading zone means that if cyclists choose not to yield, the deboarding passengers have a refuge until they can cross the lane, rather than stepping off the bus and right into the bike lane. The problems I still observe are twofold:

1. Despite signage and good sense, many cyclists chose not to yield. That’s dangerous for bus passengers trying to board or deboard.

2. Passengers don’t understand that they have the right of way, or think they are being polite when they wave me through. I don’t always come to a complete stop here, but I slow down to a crawl and wait for folks to cross. I’ve often been gestured through by someone who presumably didn’t want to “inconvenience” me – if you deal with that enough, it becomes easier to just go than fight about it.

These two problems reinforce each other, of course, because people who are accustomed to bikes going through their right of way will wave cyclists through, and cyclists who are tired of fighting over ROW will start just going.

Based on that stop, I’d say wider boarding zones are better, but I also don’t want to get squeezed into a 3′ bike lane (and hat tip to the person upthread who mentioned accessible Biketown rides are 4′ wide). The signage also needs to be “yield” rather than “stop” because that’s what we actually want to happen.