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We can’t fix what we don’t know: Why access to information is key to Vision Zero

Posted by on October 11th, 2018 at 3:47 pm

*Watch how many people drive in front of this man while he waits for a chance to cross.

This post was written by our Adventures in Activism column co-editor Catie Gould.

On the evening of April 7th, Alex Hubert was crossing to the MAX platform to catch a northbound Yellow Line train back home when he was struck by a car. There was no police alert on Twitter. There were no news reports. But I was there.

This post is about my attempt to learn more about the safety issues at the intersection and find out why they haven’t been fixed.

Busy MAX station, narrow crosswalk, conflicting signals. It’s a bad recipe.

The day Alex was hit I was on a southbound train that pulled into the station minutes afterwards. After stepping out on the platform, the reason for the traffic back-up was obvious. An SUV was stopped in the left lane of Interstate Avenue. Alex was down, bleeding on the ground. Paramedics had not yet arrived. Like everyone else, I crossed against the walk light because traffic was stopped.

This intersection serves as a major connection for transit, connecting the MAX Yellow line with other MAX and bus lines in the Rose Quarter. It should be one of the safest locations to walk in our city, but years of injuries have gone unnoticed.

Since the City of Portland adopted Vision Zero in 2015, a publicly accessible map attempts to show all the injuries and fatalities on Portland roads. There are four injuries shown at this location, but due to the way data is collected, it could be another couple years before Alex’s injury is added.

Because of what I saw that day, I wanted to know more about this intersection. Doing that turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated.

PBOT’s Vision Zero Crash Map shows four injury collisions here since 2006. The yellow lines show that Interstate is a designated high-crash corridor.

The Vision Zero map doesn’t contain enough information about the circumstances of crashes to be useful. The Portland Bureau of Transportation collects some police reports, but was not able to share any with me. This meant I had to file public records requests with the Portland Police, a process that takes $30 per report and weeks to months of waiting.

Once I received it, the police report for that April 2018 collision concluded Alex had crossed against the walk signal, and was therefore at fault. When police interviewed him at the hospital, Alex had no memory of the crash. He had blacked out from his concussion, waking up inside an MRI machine. Another driver who had already left the scene and left their contact information with the driver of the car, was the only third-party interviewed by the responding officer. Here’s what PPB Officer Daniel Ring wrote in the report:

“The pedestrian was sprinting from East to West on Multnomah St and ran through Interstate Ave. She [witness] believed he was even outside the crosswalk. Traffic in the slow lane on Interstate Ave was heavy and jammed up. The pedestrian ran through traffic/vehicles in the slow lane, dodging them, before running into the passenger side of the involved vehicle in the fast lane.”

Crossing Interstate Avenue to get to the MAX platform is notoriously difficult and people cross when they can, instead of by the signal. In a similar collision that occurred on the morning of January 11th, 2012, three witnesses told police that a person was struck while walking to the MAX platform by a northbound vehicle who had a green light. According to the crash report, Daniel Whipple did not remember what the walk signal was and said when people started to move, he just walked with them.

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Police cited Whipple for failing to obey a traffic control device and failing to yield to a vehicle. A PPB officer visited him in the hospital and left the ticket in a bag next to his bed with the rest of the his belongings. The officer noted in his report that, “I regularly patrol this area and know from experience that pedestrians regularly disregard the traffic control devices there.”

A PPB officer visited him in the hospital and left the ticket in a bag next to his bed with the rest of the his belongings.

Crossing with the signal is not much safer. Two years later on the rainy afternoon of January 8th, 2014 a man turning right from Multnomah to Interstate struck and knocked over a woman using a motorized wheelchair who was crossing to the MAX platform. In this case, both the driver and the woman in the crosswalk had a green light. Surprisingly, this type of signal timing is common, says Dylan Rivera a spokesperson for the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

In response to my inquiries, Rivera said that, “Aside from the intense public transit use there, this intersection is, generally-speaking, not unique.”

It turns out I’m not the only one who’s been concerned about this intersection. A woman named Erin Moreland reported this signal conflict on a different leg of the intersection to the city’s 823-SAFE hotline in the summer of 2016. Back then she took the Yellow line to the Rose Quarter and walked the rest of the way to her job downtown several times a week. After a few experiences of drivers not yielding to her she filed a safety concern on the website.

“As a pedestrian, crossing NE Multnomah on the west side of Interstate Ave, there is a ‘walk signal’ at the same time as drivers traveling south on interstate have a green light for turning right onto Multnomah- where pedestrians are crossing. This feels dangerous, and several times I have had drivers not yield to me and instead drive through the pedestrian crossing area when technically I should be crossing at the same time.”

Moreland’s 823-SAFE ticket was reviewed two months later and subsequently referred to PBOT’s Signals and Street Lighting division under a new number. From there, the paper trail stops. At the time of this publication PBOT was unable to provide any documentation of an investigation. No action seems to have been taken.

An 823-SAFE ticket that was received by PBOT but never addressed.

The day after the crash I went back to the Rose Quarter and watched how people used the intersection, hoping to settle my feelings about what I’d seen. I witnessed a man using a walker attempt to cross the street. The walk sign turned on. He waited as person after person turned their car right across the crosswalk — eight drivers total. By the time all of them had passed through, the walk signal was long gone, and the man crossed against the light.

Despite the numerous injuries here, this intersection has not been identified for any improvements. Upgrading the signal timing here is complex because of the multiple transit signals and an outdated traffic control system. A spokesperson for TriMet toldme they’ll be replacing the tracks and upgrading the signal controller for the Rose Quarter in 2020. The new signals will allow for increased train movement, but no safety upgrades are planned as of yet. PBOT’s Rivera said on Wednesday they’ve raised this issue with TriMet and staff from both organizations have recently met to discuss the project.

There are probably hundreds of other intersections like this one across Portland. They have a history of close-calls and injuries, but aren’t deadly or sensational enough to be picked up by the media or be the focus of a PBOT initiative. And as I’ve shared in this post, information that can help concerned Portlanders like us take action or follow-up — such as the status of 823-SAFE complaints, or crash details available only in police reports — are hard to come by and not publicly available.

To achieve Vision Zero — to, “eliminate deaths and serious injuries on our streets by 2025” — we’ll need to make information like this easier to come by. Without a doubt we are missing other opportunities, and more people will get hurt until we do a better job of noticing.

Alex is feeling better these days. His broken ribs have healed, but he still has a persistent pain in his knee and still uses the MAX to commute downtown from his home in Vancouver, Washington. When I contacted him this week about the incident he said, “I’m glad I don’t remember it.”

— Catie Gould, @Citizen_Cate on Twitter

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  • Matt October 11, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    It’s crazy how hard it is to get from the yellow line to the other lines here. Why not have walk signs in all directions for 2 min when a max train pulls in. Yeah, it would be annoying to drive through, but drive somewhere else. The engineering here is so bad.

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    • Another Engineer October 12, 2018 at 7:50 am

      Having walk signals active for two minutes would also disrupt the MAX because trains aren’t legally allowed to truncate the walk signals during light rail preemption. The Steel Bridge is the number one bottleneck for Trimet once Gateway is double tracked over I-84, any changes to reduce train throughput at this location would not be politically viable. The pedestrian lights are at least timed at the federally required 3.5 ft/sec.

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      • Kevin G October 12, 2018 at 1:01 pm

        Assuming there are *three* walk signals here (crossing the max lines, crossing the N-bound vehicular lanes, crossing the S-bound Vehicular lanes) I do not see conflict with Max movement. The big problem is the N-bound vehicular lanes which are an obstacle to movement between the yellow line platforms and the red/green/blue platforms. Stop the cars on that one only . Riders are quite accustomed to getting off the train and trying to cross the tracks in front of it before the train signals impending movement…it happens at most Max stops. Here that is an issue for S-bound yellow max only, not N-bound.

        Traffic engineers may point out some hardware/software/legal impediment, but it seems simple enough

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        • AnotherEngineer October 12, 2018 at 1:26 pm

          I made a bad assumption that the comment intended all of the pedestrian phases to go green for 2 minutes, not just the one at the platform. The idea could be looked at. Potential pitfalls are a SB yellow arrival would delay a leaving NB yellow arrives and visa versa. This happens because LRT preemption cannot truncate a Flashing Don’t Walk (FDW) timer so if the crosswalk is in walk the signal will have to go into FDW which is roughly 38 seconds at this location before serving the opposing yellow line. I was unable to find the ORS but an additional complication is that you can’t just make the cars wait as it is illegal to skip a phase in a cycle.

          If you really want to get into the weeds you could do something like this here:

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  • maxD October 11, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    This is a major transit hub with almost no design thought. through traffic and transit should be separated on different levels here . Hopefully Portland will get going on the subway through downtown idea, and this will become a partially underground hub with Interstate Ave and Multnomah running over the roof. They could put 20 stories of office and residential above it and pay for part of it!

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  • Doug Hecker October 11, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    I’m trying to figure what the writer is saying when they are talking about pedestrians crossing the street against the light… are you saying that people shouldn’t receive tickets? I know it is the City’s goal to essentially create a transportation system where people can freely move whenever they deem fit but the clearly don’t work because other people may be moving or occupying where they want to be or go. Whether I am biking, scootering, or driving, I see one common theme. Yes, I know people like to downplay this notion but even in your write you mention it, people being distracted or not paying attention to when it is their time to go. When users don’t abide by the law they have two options 1. Be willing to deal with the consequences or 2. Hope that you can beat whoever is rightly occupying the space.
    Also, the data, like you said , is terrible. We don’t know if these events happened after a Blazers game, time of day, weather conditions, and the condition of the person who is occupying the space or the person hoping to occupy the space. These matter. Plastic wands, diverters, and camera can’t and won’t stop people from doing what they want to do. I’m all for calling the city. I’ve called SAFE innumerable times and at this point it’s a lost cause. Same for calling the Right of Way line… still waiting for a callback about Portland Pedal Tours occupying sidewalks in the inner core. It’s only been 7 weeks.

    The most saddest part of all of this, we don’t have police officers actively policing so our laws are essentially only needed after an event occurs because it is very clear, PPB isn’t writing many tickets for distracted driving, scootering on sidewalks, pedestrians jaywalking, or cyclists ghosting lights. I won’t even say that I haven’t done any of those things because that simply wouldn’t be true.

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  • emerson October 11, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    This is a major transit hub with almost no design thought. through traffic and transit should be separated on different levels here . Hopefully Portland will get going on the subway through downtown idea, and this will become a partially underground hub with Interstate Ave and Multnomah running over the roof. They could put 20 stories of office and residential above it and pay for part of it!Recommended 3

    While an excellent idea, that would require a level of vision and practical action that is unheard of on this country (let alone state and city).

    Of course, it would be far less expensive to divert autos away from these areas of people-focus … but see my previous point.

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  • mark October 11, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    I’ve heard that police will not issue citations for offenses they do not personally witness. Is this actual policy? I’m concerned that the police will take the time to visit the hospital to deliver a citation to someone who might not even be conscious, and has no recollection of the event. They will take the driver’s word for what happened, because surely the driver has no bias and no reason to falsely claim they did nothing wrong.

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  • Zoe October 11, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    I’m curious – where do the majority of Portland’s police officers live? I recently heard that many of them live in Vancouver or in the suburbs. If that’s accurate, I wonder to what extent this (residing in car-oriented neighborhoods) contributes to their bias towards car drivers and against people walking or cycling. I’m sure someone here has looked into this more than I have… looking forward to others’ thoughts on this.

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    • Doug Hecker October 11, 2018 at 9:44 pm

      Where’s the bias? If anything, cyclists especially, benefit from police officers not enforcing the law. And as I think about it, all users do. Why? We’ve let our sorry politicians dwindle them down to a “skeleton” crew. Meanwhile PBOT sits back and hopes that reconfiguring the system will be the answer. Oh, and they play on the “good in people” idea that simple doesn’t work without enforcement. Why is this true? Because more than likely 3 drunk drivers were on SE Division last night, at least two of them were, and I suspect that there were many more of that is the case. Vision Zero can’t account for DUIS

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      • Dan A October 11, 2018 at 10:11 pm

        “If anything, cyclists especially, benefit from police officers not enforcing the law.”

        Car body panels get more protection from the law than Portland cyclists do.

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        • Doug Hecker October 11, 2018 at 10:19 pm

          You made a funny. But sadly, you got stuck on a line and not the entire thought.

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          • Dan A October 12, 2018 at 8:34 am

            I disagree with your premise: “If anything, cyclists especially, benefit from police officers not enforcing the law.” Getting to slow roll through a stop sign once in a while is not much consolation when our lives our being put at risk by drivers who face almost zero consequences for reckless and dangerous behavior.

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    • Dan A October 11, 2018 at 10:10 pm

      Patrol officers probably spend 75% of their work hours sitting in a car. I’m convinced that’s a large reason for the bias.

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  • John Liu October 11, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    I am getting tired of “Vision Zero”.

    I do not think a reasonable goal is to have “zero injuries to reckless persons” like the one described here, who was sprinting across Interstate outside of the crosswalk and against the walk signal. Isn’t that more of a “Darwin Award” situation?

    Sorry but both money and impetus are in finite supply. Do we have enough to ensure the safety of people who throw themselves recklessly into traffic?

    I’d like to amend the goal to “zero injuries to persons acting with due care”.

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    • Tony Jordan (Contributor) October 11, 2018 at 11:42 pm

      This is a pretty insensitive take and it basically insinuates that this person deserved to actually die.

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    • alankessler October 12, 2018 at 12:25 am

      You would enjoy Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.” It’s a hilarious comedy about a bunch of careless schlubs who get what’s coming to them.

      It will make you pine for the early 20th century though; Leaf Lard just hasn’t been the same since the Meat Inspection Act of 1906.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 12, 2018 at 6:49 am

      Hi John,

      I disagree with your sentiment here.

      I think people’s behavior – especially in this situation – is a direct byproduct of their environment. And I feel like you are making the same dangerous mistake that the police officer quoted in this story… That is, assuming that the reckless scofflaw in these situations are the people crossing on foot. How many people roll through red in their cars? How many people encroach the crosswalk when they drive? Or speed to fast with a lot of humans near? That is reckless too IMO but most people don’t notice it because we have so thoroughly normalized dangerous driving that it’s nearly invisible.

      Again…. The idea of Vision Zero is to stop focusing on who’s at fault and to start focusing more on how the built environment (and resulting street culture) influences behavior.

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    • Tony Jordan (Contributor) October 12, 2018 at 7:35 am

      I’m gonna add that I think this is not only insensitive but hypocritical. John, have you ever started crossing the street at SE Madison and Grand while the light was either red (before it turns green) or yellow (before it turns red)? Ever?

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      • John Liu October 12, 2018 at 8:10 am

        Why did you pick that specific intersection? Is there something unusual about it? I can’t
        remember if I’ve ever walked across it. I’ve probably biked across it, though.

        If people behave recklessly enough, we probably cannot protect them from the risk they choose to take.

        What is reckless behavior? Running through traffic against the signal and outside of the crosswalk sounds reckless. Putting a toe off the curb just before the signal turns to “walk” doesn’t sound reckless.

        Why does this matter? Because we live in the real world of finite budgets. Spending a bunch of money to make this intersection safe for reckless people means not spending money to make an intersection in East Portland safe for careful people.

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        • Tony Jordan (Contributor) October 12, 2018 at 9:15 am

          I can’t be certain, but I think within the last month I saw you enter this intersection in a fashion that I thought was kinda reckless, on a bike during the morning commute. But it might have been someone else so I just wanted to ask.

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          • John Liu October 12, 2018 at 7:25 pm

            Wrong person. That’s not on any of my my bike commute routes. And I don’t walk to work.

            I’m not, by the way, saying I’ve never ridden recklessly. I think we all have, at least a couple times. I’m saying that if I do, the consequences are all on me. It’s not up to PBOT to keep me or anyone safe if we’re being reckless.

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        • 9watts October 12, 2018 at 10:24 am

          I get where you are coming from, John, but I will point out Peter Norton’s excellent forensic work on jaywalking, it’s history and politics. The idea that it is we who are on foot who must cower, go out of our way, cross only at designated times and places, didn’t just fall from the sky; those rules all had to be invented and enforced. A hundred years ago your perspective would have gotten you tarred and feathered,

          You may well say, well that was 100 years ago, life goes on. But I think it is still worth keeping these things in mind, asking ourselves if this has to be this way, whom it serves, and whom it most certainly doesn’t serve.

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    • Dan A October 12, 2018 at 8:32 am

      Are you traffic police?

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    • mh October 12, 2018 at 10:40 am

      What kind of “due care” could the man in the video exercise? He had a green, and no right-turning driver yielded to him. Was any portion of him in the intersection to claim that right-of-way? Probably, but I couldn’t see. Was it obvious that he was trying to cross? Yes. Every driver who made that right turn while he tried to cross should be cited.

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      • nc October 15, 2018 at 10:15 am

        The person never had a green light. When he gets to that crossing the light was already flashing red, meaning continue to cross if you are in the road, but do not start to cross. The cars were in the right here.

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    • Scott Kocher October 13, 2018 at 9:05 am

      John, help me with VZ vs Darwin Awards. I asked PBOT to provide safer conditions where many people cross Naito under the Burnside Bridge. It’s 4 lanes w/ fast traffic (now that Better Naito is gone), poor visibility, and no marked crossing, although the most recent death was actually the death of a person using a mobility device crossing Naito at Couch a stone’s throw to the north (side note: right hook by driver apparently on “permissive” green which is getting some discussion here perhaps not coincidentally). So anyhow, the PBOT engineer response to me was that the number of people crossing Naito under Burnside meets MUTCD warrant but PBOT won’t consider safety improvements because (due to the conditions most of which I had noted)… it’s not a safe place to cross. Reality is “we” have corralled social services (and yes drug activity) into this spot and it’s the only crossing that is direct, and it’s covered from the rain. Would anyone suggest draping a “Darwin Award” around the neck of the next person, very possibly someone’s son or daughter with mental illness or addiction, who is killed there?

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  • Scott Kocher October 11, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    Catie, thank you for this excellent article. I am working with Families for Safe Streets and Oregon Walks to review the crashes that killed 19 people on foot and using mobility devices (aka “pedestrians”), which was a record high number in Portland last year. Ten months and $571 of public records fees to PPB later I only have 11 of them. They should be uploaded to the VZ crash map as soon as the DA’s office releases them, which is generally prompt (and solvable when it’s not). As is, the VZ crash map has very limited usefulness. The ability of the community to understand crashes is limited to (a) PPB releases in the aftermath (“driver remained at the scene” is not what we need to know), and (b) PBOT aggregate data 2 years later. Plus what Jonathan posts on BP when he is able. I hope the police report sync-ing will happen, and someone will help with the signal you describe.

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    • Catie October 12, 2018 at 8:03 am

      I would love to talk to you more about this. My neighborhood wants to do a similar thing for Sandy Blvd. Did you try to appeal the fees?

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    • Doug Klotz October 12, 2018 at 1:31 pm

      I tried to find out a simple thing: When the police did an crosswalk enforcement action, I wondered how many of their tickets were given to drivers, and how many to pedestrians. The Pedestrian Coordinator relayed that I’d have to file a Public Records Request to find that out.

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  • Alex Reedin October 12, 2018 at 5:43 am

    I’m fascinated by the difficulty of making minor signal changes like Catie suggests (eliminating a right-turn arrow). In my fantasy world, a PBOT engineer would be able to modify the programming routine in under an hour on their desktop. The matter of getting the new programming routine to the signal remains – I can see a good case for not connecting signals to the Internet. (Although, plenty of mission-critical things like equipment on the electric grid is connected to super-secure networks). But with new signals, it shouldn’t be any harder than schlepping over to the signal and plugging in something like a flash drive.

    I’m sure the reality is way more complicated than that, but I’d love to read something by, say, Peter Koonce (hint hint) explaining exactly how. Do we have 98% old signals that have to be manually and painstakingly reprogrammed at the site? Are the signal controllers often underground and really hard to access? In the world of the Internet of Things

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    • Another Engineer October 12, 2018 at 8:34 am

      Most new controllers are Linux based and a lot are connected to networks behind large firewalls. This intersection is very complex with lots of custom code and runs on older software, even simple changes require time and testing to make sure it’s operating as expected and meeting timing standards.

      Inhibiting right turns would require a right turn signal head and no right on red sign on the island mast arm pole which would require doing structural analysis, if the pole can’t take more loading then it would need to be replaced. Additionally, the signal would be less efficient because right turning vehicles would block through traffic for much of the through phase.

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      • Catie October 12, 2018 at 9:21 am

        N Multnomah has 1 thru lane and 1 right turn only lane at this intersection, so any changes to right turning cars should not affect thru traffic.

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      • Another Engineer October 12, 2018 at 9:51 am

        Ignore my comments about effiency of the through movement this was recently restriped.

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      • Alex Reedin October 12, 2018 at 7:42 pm

        Oh, OK – I was thinking there was a right turn signal at that intersection. Umm, would a “Barnes Dance” all-way pedestrian crossing phase be a low-cost solution?

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  • Mick O October 12, 2018 at 8:43 am

    “The pedestrian ran through traffic/vehicles in the slow lane, dodging them, before running into the passenger side of the involved vehicle in the fast lane.” — PPB Officer Daniel Ring

    Slow lane? Fast lane? Portland police think we have “fast lanes”?

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    • Dan A October 12, 2018 at 10:39 am

      OMG, that is awful.

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  • Catie October 12, 2018 at 9:49 am

    There are a couple other points about infrastructure that didn’t fit into the article that I hope adds to conversation about what we can do to improve this:

    – Interstate Ave is a high crash corridor. Like most of the other high crash corridors, this is a function of having 2 auto lanes in each direction. This creates inherently unsafe situations for pedestrians since someone can cross one lane safely and still be invisible to oncoming cars in the next lane. Portland doesn’t seem to have a real strategy around these 4 lane roads other than more signage like rapid flash beacons.

    -There is no walk light in the middle island with the MAX train. This makes it very difficult for autos in the right turn lane to see that the walk light is on from their angle and distance. Add in that the countdown is in red, its easy to get confused from a distance what the walk signal is.

    – This MAX station is so far from the others that when this crash occurred, Trimet employees at the Blue/Red/Green line station were totally unaware of it. This also creates a pretty long distance that people have to walk to make transfers. It is rare to catch both walk lights at Multnomah and Interstate, which adds to the time delay of getting to the platform.

    – The walk signal here is timed so that a pedestrian can cross the whole of Interstate Ave without getting stopped at the MAX station. I am not sure if we even measure data in this way, but I think it is a very small minority that cross here without getting on/off a MAX train. This creates a very long walk signal/limited times it can be on and further increases the odds that you will be stuck waiting at Multnomah anyways.

    – Another, often forgotten piece of infrastructure, is the frequency of the Yellow Line. If headways were <5 minutes it is less likely that anyone would run to catch the train. Similar to other MAX stations on the East side, this is a bleak place to wait 15 minutes for a train if you miss yours.

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    • Greg Spencer October 15, 2018 at 10:20 am

      Great reporting, Catie! This intersection is just so vast and complicated, I’m not at all surprised to read about the frequency pedestrian strikes here. Your additional points about infrastructure problems are excellent illustrations of how the environment makes it difficult for road users — particularly those on foot — to get through here safely. I can’t believe all the comments excoriating a couple pedestrians who haven’t obeyed the signal. What a staggering lack of empathy! TriMet can be exasperating, particularly when you’re taking a trip involving a connection. Double the delay! Pedestrians crossing against the signal here — and they’re the norm, as Catie points out — are evidence of a system deficiency. We need a transport solution here, not ridicule.

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  • Another Engineer October 12, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Saying the signals conflict at this location is an incorrect statement. The pedestrians have the legally protected movement and the right turning vehicles have a permissive movement. The vehicles failure to yield could be enforced.

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    • alankessler October 12, 2018 at 4:01 pm

      Probably don’t open with that at the funeral.

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  • paikiala October 12, 2018 at 10:19 am


    It’s not clear to me if the scenario you describe at the end of the article is the video posted, but the video posted does not match your description.
    In the video the pedestrian signal has already begun counting down before the person with the walker has reached the yellow ADA surface at the edge of the platform. By law, pedestrians are not supposed to begin crossing if the flashing hand and/or countdown have begun. Clearly some more able-bodied pedestrians use the countdown to estimate their ability to cross before the countdown ends, but it does not change who is responsible in the event of a collision (all road users being responsible for safe use of the public rights of way).

    The caption for the video would be more accurate if it said “Watch impatient pedestrians cross against the pedestrian signal, further delaying legal right turns.”

    The merits of changing how the signal operates, more walk, less countdown, are legitimate items for discussion, and I encourage such further discussion and strategies in any future VZ design programs. There are many strategies toward achieving Vision Zero, not the least of which is better road user behavior, regardless of how those road users choose to travel.

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    • Bald One October 12, 2018 at 3:12 pm

      Yes, I agree with you. The video in this story appears to be out of touch with the statements made. The person in the dark jacket and green hat has not been waiting to cross as the video starts, but is actually approaching the intersection as the flashing red hand is going, and then when this person gets to the curb to start to cross towards the end of the light cycle, he only has to wait for the silver honda to finish what it had already started when the person got to the curb and the maroon suv does stop, so this ped really has no difficulty and was never waiting. The person with the walker doesn’t get up to the curb until the end of the walk light cycle and would not be advised to start his long journey at the end of the walk cycle with the flashing hand.

      I find the use of this video to prove a point to be counter-productive to that point. The rest of the story, especially about the guy getting the ticket in his hospital bed is pretty wild, but the video of those two peds is a non-thing.

      I agree that this intersection has many troubles. I use it all the time, and I frequently have issues with all the other road users, also. Including cars moving south on Multnomah who typically cork this intersection of Interstate, and hoards of pedestrians crossing against the light without even looking up from their phone.

      The most dangerous behavior I witness at this intersection is that of Tri-met bus drivers who like to put a right-hook on cyclists as they move from N-bound Interstate onto N-bound Multnomah or Wheeler. Many bus drivers are okay here, but some are also aggressive and dangerous with their right hooks across the bike lane, here.

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  • Catie October 12, 2018 at 11:51 am

    I hadn’t heard of this. This crosswalk has a pretty long countdown that takes up a majority of the cycle. In another video I took, the walk sign is on for just 7 seconds, but PBOT probably has better numbers on this.

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    • AnotherEngineer October 12, 2018 at 1:09 pm

      7 seconds would be the MUTCD minimum for walk and is commonly used to get more efficient operations. The countdown time is the Flashing Don’t Walk Time which is the crosswalk distance / 3.5 ft/sec.

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    • paikiala October 15, 2018 at 9:58 am

      Countdowns/flashing hands in Portland are all timed to match the time needed to cross a crosswalk, curb to curb – at MAX stations that is all the way across, not including the station platform.
      Not sure if all groups are the same, but the standard to determine gaps is 3.0 feet per second, not 3.5.

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  • Doug Klotz October 12, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    I was recently in Amsterdam, where trams (light rail?) are often in their own lanes in the middle of the street. There are multiple walk signs: One to get you from curb to the tram platform (usually across a single auto lane). A second one to get you across the rail lines. A third one to get you to the other curb. They are often not all on “walk” at the same time. While this can be confusing for out-of-towners, it seems to work pretty well, and doesn’t require the long curb-to-curb time pedestrian phase. (I left out the complication of crossing the raised bike lanes (unsignalized), before you get to the curb at the edge of the auto lane.)

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    • AnotherEngineer October 12, 2018 at 1:02 pm

      The concern with this type of arrangement in the US is usually liability. If both signals can be seen from the first walk then someone could mistake the far signal for the near one. this is why you see a lot of Z two stage crossings in the US. Making a Z here would push you into the station platform and would likely have high capital costs.

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      • Doug Klotz October 12, 2018 at 1:27 pm

        Yes, it takes a Dutch person to be able to figure it out. Oddly enough, I saw American tourists using these signals, and, yes, they were able to navigate them. But, Dutch law isn’t the same as the American system.

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        • David Hampsten October 12, 2018 at 7:01 pm

          DC has some of these ped signals too, where diagonal streets cross ordinal streets (such as in front of Union Station), so there must already be some legal remedy to allow for such pedestrian signal phasing. I believe I’ve seen them in Chicago too.

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  • Kevin G October 12, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    I’ve used this intersection as a MAX-associated pedestrian many times. Without litigating the specific circumstances of recent collisions, it does seem like pedestrians do not receive appropriate priority here vis-a-vis motor vehicles. Doing a MAX transfer here, N-bound Interstate is not the only obstacle; Multnomah is also a problem. Jaywalking Multnomah mid-block, where there is a big island separating the lanes, is, I judge, more reliable, predictable, and safer, than using the pedestrian crossing at block end, despite a small amount of indirection. There should, for sure, be no right turn on red from Multnomah to N-bound Interstate. Wheeler, the third necessary road crossing at the Rose Quarter, is low-volume, one-way, and does not pose similar issues for pedestrians.

    The other big multi-line transfer point downtown at Courthouse square has no comparable problems with motor vehicles impeding transfers.

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  • Bald One October 12, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    This entire area has many issues, and then there are major biking through-ways in here. The river, rails, and freeways make shoe-horning the rest of us into some pretty cramped spaces very difficult. Re-engineering the entire traffic flow around this area might make a lot of sense (if only we had $4.5B to do it with):

    1) Max trains probably can’t be re-routed from here. Let’s give them and the people that get on and off them at this location the priority.
    2) Restrict the auto traffic to go around this area or divert via another route. It seems re-designing the steel bridge access for autos might make some sense. Having vehicles trying to get onto the Steel bridge go the long way around the rose garden and collesium, come up Interstate for a protected right turn to the bridge would reduce these conflicts.
    3) why do major bikeways go right through here? Although, this area needs bike access, it does not need to be the cross-roads of major bikeways. The bikes can get routed out of downtown and off of Williams/Vancouver a different way altogether. If cyclists want to access Max or Rose garden, no problem, just ride there, but probably only 0.1% of cyclists using this area actually have it as a destination for that trip. Time for bronze-plated Portland to put in some high-speed, high-focused bike facility that is not a bunch of green paint and stop signals routed chicane-like through a bus and transit mall. Let’s think super-tunnel overpasses for bikes, or perhaps super-wide, tree-lined (natural buffers, not concrete ones) parkways with no impediments or engineered stops and no motors allowed.
    4) buses? seems like most of the buses are just not doing much useful in this area, just using it as a staging/holding area. maybe Tri-met could re-route one or two lines here, and focus on optimizing the light rail.

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    • David Hampsten October 12, 2018 at 7:12 pm

      #1 I completely agree with.
      #2 Yeah, I was thinking along these same lines. Why not make it a car-free zone? It’s already a major event area. In Europe, such areas are usually “car guest”, where autos are not allowed to go over 10 k/h, little faster than a walking pace, and banned altogether during events, games, or festivals.
      #3 I’d still allow for bikes, but restrict them like for cars, no more than 6-8 mph.
      #4 Buses are useful here. It’s a significant transfer point, especially for people trying to avoid going downtown.

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  • Eric Leifsdad October 12, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    Sounds like we better close that right turn to cars until we figure out the problem.

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  • Jim Lee October 13, 2018 at 9:22 am

    It is astonishing how much paperwork and how little action VZ has generated.

    Will this invert now that Leah has departed?

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    • paikiala October 15, 2018 at 10:00 am

      How little?
      Numbers we can review on our own, or hyperbolic something else?

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  • Alex Reedin October 15, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    Thinking big picture here, would it be feasible to have a project in the 10-20 yr timeframe to:
    -Close the Steel Bridge to cars (thus enabling RQTC to be safe and pleasant for people walking)
    -Add MAX tracks each way
    -I bet that would need structural retrofit for the weight
    -While you’re at a structural retrofit, do an earthquake retrofit

    This would do a lot to allay the Steel Bridge bottleneck and buy time for an eventual, expensive subway.

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  • Ted G October 15, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    This story leaves me wondering about the criteria the author used to make the claim that the intersection is “unsafe” or that something is “wrong” and must be fixed. If I am reading the map correctly it is showing 2 pedestrian injury crashes at the location this guy was hit, between 2007 and 2015. Considering the volume of people moving through this spot, every day and all day, this does not seem like a lot. I would certainly agree that the Rose Quarter Transit is very poorly designed and getting through it is always challenging, no matter your mode of travel. But I think the data suggests that people adapt.
    I did not read all the comments, but I did not see any “fixes” that would have prevented this incident from happening. The Police report states that he was injured when he ran into the PASSENGER SIDE of the vehicle. I just don’t think any amount of infrastructure will save people from themselves.
    Yes, every injury and every death on our streets is a tragic loss. But people die tragically in many different ways and those losses are just as tragic. I whole-heartedly agree with advocating for the rights and safety of bikers and pedestrians, but to suggest the City is responsible for completely eliminating these specific types of deaths and injuries at all costs, regardless of the impact to other issues that threaten death and injury to other people in our community, seems…I don’t know…self-righteous.

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    • Greg Spencer October 16, 2018 at 12:33 pm

      As Catie reported, the map indicates four injuries in the vicinity of this intersection: two cyclists, two pedestrians. But apparently, the map is updated so slowly that it could be a couple years before the crash that Catie witnessed herself finds its way onto the map. There must be scores of other injuries and even fatalities that happened over the last couple years that the map doesn’t yet show. The city is processing traffic crash information too slowly for VZ to work effectively.

      The other point that bears repeating is that VZ does not propose eliminating crashes, and it fully accepts that human error/misjudgment/inattention/distraction/impatience etc. are everyday ingredients of our traffic environment. This needs to be factored into our street designs, traffic controls, education and road rules so that human lapses don’t result in deaths (e.g. child darts out into a street and is struck by a truck going 40 mph — she dies. Same child darts into a street where the car’s moving at 20 mph — she lives to see another day). A common thread in this conversation seems to be that VZ is too much nanny state, and that individuals need to buck up and take responsibility for their own safety. This is indeed the prevailing mindset in the US and why we have some of the least safe roads in the industrialized world. Other countries do better. Why not eat a little crow, and adopt their practices?

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      • Ted G October 17, 2018 at 3:21 pm

        On the map there are 2 incidents shown in the location where the person Catie saw this person get hit. If you would like to expand that, then ok, there were 4 …though I am not sure what constitutes “in the area”. The timeframe for the confirmed data shown on the PBOT map is 2007-2015…that’s 8 years. My question was whether the author thought 4 incidents in 8 years was sufficient to declare this area as “unsafe” and in need of “fixing?” Maybe there have been additional injuries since 2015 , deaths reported by PPB are accounted for, like she saw but those 8 years of data seems a good amount of time to asses the safety of the area.

        As for VZ, how would you categorize what happen in this incident? Was this a “human lapse” when the person ran out into the street and ran into the side of an SUV? What would you suggest to prevent such a “lapse” from happening again?


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  • igor October 18, 2018 at 10:47 am

    As a casual MAX rider going through the Rose Quarter, I’ve always wondered about the design. Why not have a single station at the intersection of the red and yellow lines? I understand the historical reasons, and that I-5 makes a convenient cover from the rain, but for MAX users a cross-platform transfer, as is found at the Gateway or Beaverton Transit Centers is much easier, and as we’ve heard, less dangerous.

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