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Portland Business Alliance lays out stance on Central City in Motion plan

Posted by on October 23rd, 2018 at 4:46 pm

In a four-page letter (PDF) sent to Transportation Commmissioner Chloe Eudaly yesterday, Portland Business Alliance President and CEO Andrew Hoan offered carefully mixed doses of support and opposition to projects included in the City of Portland’s Central City in Motion (CCIM) plan.

And in a surprising show of dealmaking, Hoan offered up enthusiastic support for a carfree transit mall in exchange for the City’s proposal to add protected bike lanes to SW Broadway and 4th. And instead of using one lane of Naito Parkway for a protected bike lane, the PBA says they’ll support a new bike path that would bisect the iconic Waterfront Park. Neither of those ideas has been seriously considered in the past two years of discussions about this plan.

With less than a month before the groundbreaking investment in central city streets is scheduled for its first hearing at City Council, many project-watchers have been waiting to see where the PBA stands on the proposals. The organization represents 1,900 businesses and has a history of outsized influence at PBOT and City Hall.

“Broad concern is shared throughout our community that reducing auto capacity on major arterial roads will have significant economic impact to our downtown businesses.”

As we’ve been reporting, the Bureau of Transportation has whittled down 18 projects into two categories — one to be built in 1-5 years, the other for 6-10. In their letter, the PBA weighed in on six projects. They offered outright support for two of them, support “with some modifications” for two others, and proposed “alternatives” for the remaining two. The PBA also addressed the Better Naito project (under the heading #SaferNaito).

Before getting into their project analysis the PBA said as the “employer community” they have, “serious concerns with certain aspects of the proposed projects.”

Hoan writes that, in general, the PBA supports the walking and transit aspects of the CCIM projects; but that bicycling is not as viable, and as such it’s not as worthy of roadway real estate. He even uses the leveling-off of bike commuting rates as reason to not build more protected bike lanes:

For many residents that currently can you buy single occupancy vehicle, making the shift to public transit is the most logical transition… Public transit must be faster and more accessible. Further, we are not opposed to a more connected bicycle network throughout the central city, but broad concern is shared throughout our community that reducing auto capacity on major arterial roads will have significant economic impact to our downtown businesses. Careful consideration should be given to those trade-offs, especially considering that the percentage of Portlanders who commute by bicycle has plateaued in recent years.

Hoan doesn’t mention the fact that PBOT analysis shows the CCIM projects will vastly improve the capacity and efficiency of our streets or that PBOT planners count “person trips” and not just automobile volumes.

Let’s start with the projects the PBA supports without conditions: Project 1, which would create protected bike lanes, better crossings, and a bus-only lane on Burnside from W 10th to E 12th; and Project 7, which would add a bus-only on NW Everett from Broadway to the Steel Bridge. “Transit is one of the fastest-growing transportation modes (behind ride-sharing),” the letter states, “and is the most effective in terms of sustainable mass mobility.

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The PBA cautions that SW Salmon is rife with conflicts and very valuable as a “portal” for drivers into downtown.

The PBA supports, but would like to modify two other projects: Project 5, which would add bus lanes and bike lanes to SW Jefferson/Columbia/Madison; and Project 8, which would create a protected bike lane couplet on SW Salmon and Taylor.

The PBA likes the transit elements of Project 5, but wants the bike lane axed because they claim it creates conflict near the Highway 26 “portal” and they feel “protection of portal capacity” is more important. “Businesses rely heavily on reliable access to downtown from the surrounding region,” the letter explains. The PBA also wants to keep a bike lane off Jefferson and Columbia because the streets, “provide critical access to several parking garages and numerous loading docks.”

When it comes to Project 8, the PBA’s main concern is that PBOT isn’t doing enough to restore planned reductions in auto parking capacity. PBOT wants to create a protected bike lane on both streets, in the space currently used to park cars. “While we are not opposed to protected bike lanes on these streets,” Hoan states, “it is important to recognize that they are major portals into and out of the central city.”

And this where the PBA unveils one of their core arguments against cycling. Their stance is more cycling space isn’t warranted because not enough people are cycling:

“It must be noted that most visitors to downtown are not taking their bicycles; rather, they are driving. A recent downtown shopper survey show that only 1 percent of retail shoppers use their bike to get to the destination downtown when not commuting for work. With that in mind, PBOT must take careful consideration when removing parking at auto capacity with in this area in favor of less popular transportation modes — especially considering the highway on street parking utilization rate of the downtown core.”

For the other two projects addressed in their letter, the PBA has proposed major changes.

We agree that the transit mall should be carfree!

Instead of a new, protected bike lane couplet that would run north-south on Broadway and Fourth (Project 2), the PBA surprisingly says they, “Support the removal of all auto capacity on the transit mall.” Here’s more of the PBA’s pitch for a carfree transit mall:

“Not only would this produce the same north-south connectivity, but drivers typically avoid these streets already or misuse the designated lanes…. turning the auto lane into a protected bike lane would have far less negative impacts on nearby businesses and the design logistics can be smoothed out as they will be for the rest of the projects.”

The PBA feels that putting a protected bike lane on Broadway and 4th, as currently proposed by PBOT, “Would have significant, unnecessary economic impacts on our downtown retail core,” and would “severely limit the capacity of our few remaining arterial routes through the city.” The PBA says carfree lanes on the transit mall would be a “plausible, exciting alternative,” and that offering it up should be a sign that, “supporting alternative transportation is indeed a top priority.”

The final project the PBA offers input on in this letter is Better Naito (Project 17).

While they support a protected bike lane on Naito in general, they don’t want it to constrain existing auto capacity. Back in May we covered an idea put forward by Mayor Ted Wheeler that considers creating a northbound protected bike lane in the existing tree line at the western edge of Waterfront Park. The PBA says losing 40 trees is a non-starter and they support building a bike lane through the center of the park. Not only would a center-running bike lane save the trees but it would also, “activate the park and protect bike commuters,” they say.

Read the entire letter for yourself.

UPDATE, 10/24: The PBA has just released their annual downtown census and survey. Given their views expressed in the CCIM letter, a few trends are worth noting: Compared to 2016 survey numbers, biking to downtown jobs is up 6 points to 11 percent; drive-alone trips are down to 41 percent, from 53 percent last year; and 42 percent of downtown workers live in Portland proper — way up from just 26 percent last year.

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

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9watts
Subscriber

“not enough people are cycling”

Hopelessly static analysis. Not that different from PBOT.

We are talking about infrastructure here, changes that I would hope would last decades.

Hello? Climate Change?

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

These guys seem to totally have their heads in the sand with regard to in any of the reasons that we must reduce auto traffic ,including resource depletion and climate change. To quote a bumper sticker I had back when I drove a car , ” There are no jobs on a dead planet.”

SD
Guest
SD

Wondering how many of the 1,900 businesses are actually PBA members or are represented by PBA? I remember when this issue came up before that the PBA lists businesses that no longer support (or are members) of the PBA. Also a reminder to ask businesses that are on the PBA’s list to stop their support or ask that their names be removed.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

Ah, yes, the old “while we are not opposed…” argument that the PBA uses so frequently.

It’s now 6 and a half years since the PBA lobbied to kill a bike lane on SW 12th Ave. From their letter, dated April 26th, 2012:

“As a point of beginning, the Alliance is involved with the Central City 2035 process that will determine the land use and transportation plans for the central city for the next 25 years. We recognize and support the city’s efforts to develop a comprehensive, multi-modal transportation system, and we will continue to participate in the process of developing the strategies that will implement that goal.

We are concerned that, while this planning process is underway, there are one-off programs that are being implemented outside a comprehensive land use and transportation strategy for the central city. The SW 12th Avenue Cycle Track proposal is an example of these one-off programs. While the Alliance supports the development of a multi-modal transportation system and creating innovative ways to promote trips to the central city, we are concerned that the process to develop the proposed SW 12th Avenue Cycle Track is moving too quickly and merits more discussion before more project planning moves forward. We request that the city engage with stakeholders to develop a comprehensive analysis of all the streets within the central city, and as part of the Central City 2035 Plan. That way, transportation investments such as Cycle Tracks will be located and designed with a broader land use, development and central city-wide access framework in mind. We look forward to working with you throughout this process.”

PBOT has held off on making significant investments in downtown until the broader process the PBA asked for was complete. Now that Central City 2035 is adopted and Central City in Motion is ready to go to council, they’re again trying to stall progress.

mark
Guest
mark

I don’t get the idea of a bike lane through the center of Waterfront Park. How would all the festivals operate? I feel like the PBA is really grasping at straws to avoid limiting automotive access even slightly.

Their proposal to allow cycling on the Transit Mall is equally ridiculous. The public access lane on those roads only allows for turns in one direction, so that many cyclists will have to use other roads anyway to access their destinations.

sikoler
Guest
sikoler

Should call it “Central City in Gridlock”

Virtually all of the proposals somehow intentionally reduce commuter capacity to add bike capacity…it’s foolish and only hurts our city to do this.

Bike and commuter traffic should be separate, like with the Greenway philosophy, not mixed together in the *most congested areas*…it’s madness if you think about it.

Cars in gridlock pollute more because (this is obvious but I know someone will demand it…) it increases overall travel time, which is more time an engine is spewing pollution.

We need to design to increase flow. Safety is obviously always first, and designing to maximize flow will cut pollution simply by having less gridlock, and it will make cyclists safer because they aren’t mixing with commuters in the busiest areas.

“Bad for cars is good for bikes”…that’s the mentality behind these designs and it’s bogus and it must end.

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

maccoinnich
It wouldn’t work and Portland Parks and Recreation would never agree to it.Recommended 2

Which is of course why they suggested it as a “reasonable” alternative.

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

Let’s encourage businesses to choose an alternative to PBA.
https://www.bbpdx.org/

There is plenty of evidence that suggests PBLs increase profit for businesses.
http://peopleforbikes.org/our-work/statistics/statistics-category/?cat=protected-bike-lane-statistics#economic-benefits

eawriste
Guest
eawriste

Here is a list of businesses in Portland who are members of the PBA.
https://business.portlandalliance.com/list/

David
Guest
David

This appears to be the kind of letter you write when you know that something has to happen but you want to limit the damage. While it’s a nice change to see PBA get behind transit for once it’s not enough. They completely miss the point that the city is trying to change the mode splits so we must be deliberate when investing and allocating space in the right-of-way to encourage modes that are not yet at their goal. We aren’t trying to keep people driving private vehicles at current rates so we shouldn’t be providing as many lane miles and parking spaces for that mode.

We will never see the 25% mode split for bicycling, or likely even 15% (remember those few tense weeks?), if bicycle improvements are abandoned or severely compromised as proposed by PBA. If anything these projects need to be completed faster than proposed to accomplish the city’s ambitious goals, not delayed for outreach after the fact that holds every business owner’s hand and provides them with an outsized voice.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

To be fair we really should try and understand the viewpoint of the PBA. Like many other organizations of this type it promotes a view that we can be successful by returning to the past. So I think the folks at the PBA genuinely believe that we should return to a time when dad drove to his job downtown at the Lumber Company Headquarters in the family ford and parked in one of the many surface parking lots along the river for a very low price. Mom would come in to town from their new house in West Slope and have lunch with her friends in the Georgian Room at Meier and Frank, picking up a few bobbles on her back home. Dad could pull up and park right in front of the VQ on the way home for a drink . They still think of Downtown as if it were stuck in the 1960’s and their attitude to alternate modes of transit reflect this. So lets try and understand these throwback folks, and be sure to stay off their lawn.

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

If it helps, my wife hasn’t joined the PBA for years because they don’t represent her values, despite working with many other business owners here in town. The PBA does not represent everyone in Portland, and the City should not cowtow to their misguided attempts to reduce non auto transport

Ed
Guest
Ed

According to the PBA’s own survey, less than half of downtown workers get to work by car. That is a large constituency who should let their politicians know they support better transit, biking and walking.

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

The irony here is, project 5 seeks to modify a surface highway (a 3-4 lane one way) through town.

So, why are there still even 3-4 lane one ways through town in the first place? One ways have no place in modern cities.