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Portland’s first red bus lane will be installed today

Posted by on October 30th, 2019 at 7:20 am

Red lanes will hopefully fix this.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“We cannot combat climate change without dramatic changes to the way we currently live.”
— Chloe Eudaly, PBOT Commissioner

The Portland Bureau of Transportation announced yesterday they plan to install our first-ever red transit lane today on SW Main Street between 1st and 2nd avenues.

This is a small yet important step in PBOT and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s larger Rose Lane Project which will use red to give bus operators priority on a network of routes citywide. As we reported earlier this month, the move comes after PBOT won federal approval to use the red treatment.

In a statement, Commissioner Eudaly said this move is about changing behaviors and tackling climate change. “We cannot combat climate change without dramatic changes to the way we currently live… These new red lanes signal our commitment to doing everything we can to make transit an attractive option for more Portlanders and prioritizing tangible climate action in the face of looming climate catastrophe.”

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Bicycle users will still have to contend with bus operators merging left after 2nd Ave and auto users turning right.

This one block of SW Main currently has four lanes; two standard lanes, one bike-only lane and one bus only lane. PBOT installed the bus and bike lane in December 2017. At that time we reported that advocates — and former PBOT Director Leah Treat — wanted the agency to do more to improve the street. The two requests were to prohibit auto users from making right turns onto 2nd Avenue and to move the bus stop one block west. Both moves would have improved conditions for bicycle riders. In the end, PBOT said those changes were beyond the scope of the project (which originated as a simple repave and didn’t include time or resources for more holistic changes, the said).

The work being done Wednesday will fill in the existing bus-only lane with red coloring. No other changes are currently planned. That means bicycle users will still have to contend with bus operators merging left across the bike lane (because it moves to curbside west of 2nd) and auto users turning right at 2nd).

PBOT hopes these new red lanes prevent drivers from using the bus lane. As we’ve seen in New York City, when coupled with good design and enforcement, red transit lanes work. Since this is an experiment, PBOT says they’ll partner with Portland State University to collect before-and-after data to evaluate the project’s impact on bus speeds and driver compliance.

If this goes according to plan, PBOT says they plan to roll out similar treatments at NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd and Lloyd Blvd, NE Grand and Burnside, and NE Grand and Couch. Below is a map of the other locations and drawings of the potential implementations (from PBOT’s page on the red lane experiment):

We are yet to learn details of more robust implementations planned as part of Commissioner Eudaly’s Rose Lane Project. A city council date for those plans has been set for February 2020.

UPDATE: Nick Falbo just posted a live look at the red going in:

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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43 Comments
  • Avatar
    paikiala October 30, 2019 at 7:56 am

    It’s too cold for such work.

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      12XU October 30, 2019 at 8:24 am

      no

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      John Lascurettes October 30, 2019 at 10:21 am

      Not too cold to ride. Not too cold to work. Plus, it’s nice and dry.

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      q October 30, 2019 at 2:42 pm

      If it’s too cold, why is it being done?

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      q October 30, 2019 at 2:44 pm

      I heard that the workers painting the bus lane red collided with some other workers painting some blue accessible parking space markings, and both crews were marooned.

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    Matthew in PDX October 30, 2019 at 8:54 am

    No enforcement = no compliance.

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    John Lascurettes October 30, 2019 at 10:16 am

    “LRT”?

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      Connor October 30, 2019 at 12:54 pm

      ‘LRT’ means Light Rail Transit. Although we usually use that term in Portland when referring to the MAX Light Rail, technically the Portland Streetcar is a form of light rail as well. This LRT marking will be used when painting streetcar lanes red.

      Ex: Just like how a square is a type of rectangle, but not all rectangles are squares. All US Streetcar systems are LRT, but not all LRT systems are streetcars.

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        John Lascurettes October 30, 2019 at 1:48 pm

        Thanks. Didn’t realize this was going to apply to rail as well. So I was confused. Makes sense that the streetcar/max might get lanes painted too.

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      Kittens October 30, 2019 at 1:00 pm

      LRT= Light Rail Vehicle.

      Even worse are the “T” markings along the transit mall downtown. It means Train but because the T is a different size and width from the word BUS above it, it looks like some kind of abstract geometric shape. At least, to it did to me!

      They should just put TRANSIT or BUS. It is not like a train is going to get confused and not enter the block.

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    Bike Guy October 30, 2019 at 10:35 am

    Do all the buses run on natural gas (and is there a plan to get them carbon-free within a reasonable period of time?)

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty October 30, 2019 at 10:51 am

      No. Trimet is still buying new diesel buses. (For example, the Division B “R” T line will use all new diesel vehicles.)

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      kittens October 30, 2019 at 6:05 pm

      TriMet has committed to purchasing 80 battery-electric buses by 2024 ($53M) and is promising zero emissions by 2040.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty October 30, 2019 at 8:01 pm

        Too little, too late.

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    dirk mcgee October 30, 2019 at 10:38 am

    Ok, now the bus mall

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    igor October 30, 2019 at 11:13 am

    Wait…are cars not allowed to turn right on 2nd? The article says that was outside the scope of the original project, but then says that TriMet hopes that cars stay out of the new bus lane.

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    Bill Stites October 30, 2019 at 11:15 am

    Now that the bus lane will no longer be combined with a turning lane, will they fill in the bike lane with solid green?
    And will they add a line of reflective bollards [NOT protection] to deter encroachment of right turning cars before 2nd ave. proper?

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      John Lascurettes October 30, 2019 at 11:35 am

      It will still be a turning lane at 2nd ave. Only the front end of the block near 1st will be getting the red lane treatment (same way as the green bike lane has the mixing zone).

      The work being done Wednesday will fill in the existing bus-only lane with red coloring. No other changes are currently planned. That means bicycle users will still have to contend with bus operators merging left across the bike lane (because it moves to curbside west of 2nd) and auto users turning right at 2nd).

      Recommended Thumb up 0

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    Kittens October 30, 2019 at 11:46 am

    This is a great first start! These will make a really big difference as they continue to be rolled out.

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    Phil Richman October 30, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    Hopefully these crumbs will someday soon be a big batch of cookies for bus riders.

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    CaptainKarma October 30, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    Key word here, and the one thing that will be missing, as in all over town, is enforcement.

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      David Hampsten October 30, 2019 at 11:03 pm

      Good luck with that enforcement thing. My city has fewer than half the number of people than Portland yet nearly the same number of sworn officers, and well-paid they are too. Yet our speed enforcement is worse than yours, we’ve had more murders than you in absolute terms, and of course the usual brutality against homeless and minorities. The only people who get pulled over are those who made a bad choice on their parents and happened to be driving while black.

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    maxD October 30, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    this is SO modest!

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    Gary B October 30, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    This seems wholly inadequate for any kind of experiment. If I’m understanding correctly, the lane to be painted is bus-only for half a block, then becomes a turn lane. So the only drivers this would potentially affect are those that get over into the right lane to turn before the turn lane officially begins. That’s a very specific scenario. Does the experiment provide useful data for the wider deployment of this treatment (i.e., drivers simply driving in a BAT lane)? I doubt it.

    But more to the point, why do we need the experiment? We already know from elsewhere that this works.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty October 30, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    The photo caption is “Red lanes will hopefully fix this.” The problem I see in the photo is that a car is stuck behind a bus. So is the idea that the red bus lanes will help car drivers pass buses more easily without getting stuck?

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      maccoinnich October 30, 2019 at 1:58 pm

      There are multiple bus lines that use SW Main. It is very conceivable that a car driver using the bus lane there delayed a second bus behind the bus pictured.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty October 30, 2019 at 2:31 pm

        Ok, so the car no longer gets in the lane where it’s shown in the photo, and instead proceeds half a block before merging. I guess another bus might manage to get ahead of the car (while the car sits in the bike lane waiting to get in) but I’m not seeing this as much of an improvement.

        I guess we’ll see.

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      Chris I October 30, 2019 at 2:57 pm

      You’re right. We should ban right turns here to free up the bus lane and prevent poor drivers from getting blocked by busses.

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    matchupancakes October 30, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    When can we expect the first red bus lanes in East Portland? 82nd Ave is ready for a pilot study from Clackamas to PDX.

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      Chris I October 30, 2019 at 2:58 pm

      NE Sandy from downtown to Parkrose would be a good candidate as well.

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    bikeninja October 30, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    Not sure paint will help with the level of distracted and mindless drivers out there. Yesterday I saw a guy turn left from Killingsworth on to the Northbound Max Tracks on Interstate. He then proceeded to drive 3 blocks down the train tracks before he figured it out. I know it is wrong of me, but I found myself hoping for a train to come and deliver him some “transit justice”.

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      Chris I October 31, 2019 at 7:57 am

      He probably thought they were streetcar tracks.

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    Charley October 30, 2019 at 6:45 pm

    This road is on my bike commute. The block covered in this article is problematic, but it’s nowhere near as much of a problem as the “Elk statue” block between 3rd and 4th. Because the bike lane ends in the previous block (thanks for nothing!), when traffic backs up at the elk statue, cyclists either have to hotdog left or right around the clot or get stuck breathing fumes, on an uphill, surrounded by angry, rush hour, multi-ton vehicle drivers. And this is at the end of the most popular bike bridge in the state. Way to roll out the red carpet, Portland.

    I just want to know, who decided that the freaking statue is more important than our safety?

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      capthaddock October 30, 2019 at 7:16 pm

      The statue and road form truly is a legacy. I bike through this same intersection 3 – 5 days a week (probably at the same time as you) and while it’s less than ideal, I’m personally against removing the elk. If the city wanted to expand the size of the sidewalk and make it grade separated, that would be awesome for sure, but unless they were also to remove the parking on the left and right hand sides of 4th/5th/6th you still have the same squish issue.

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      q October 30, 2019 at 8:55 pm

      The statue was put there in 1900, before there were any cars. Nobody decided that the statue was more important than anyone’s safety, because the statue didn’t create any safety issues. Allowing cars to drive around the statue created the safety problem. Look how you used to be able to walk or bike right up to it, compared to the sorry state today, where you can’t get close without risking your life: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elk_(sculpture)#/media/File:08267-Portland,_Ore.-1906-Thompson_Fountain_and_County_Court_house-Br%C3%BCck_&_Sohn_Kunstverlag.jpg

      or: https://pdxretro.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/elk-statue-1900.jpg

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        jayson October 31, 2019 at 12:21 am

        i always liked this true portland old skool conveyance. (This is intended as a reply to the Elk Statue links bit I am not sure if it is going there.)

        https://www.flickr.com/photos/adavey/15179807303

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        Chris I October 31, 2019 at 8:02 am

        Seems like the problem would be easily solved by making the right lane bus/bike only between the river and SW Broadway.

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    jayson October 31, 2019 at 12:14 am

    Will the average Portland driver conclude non-red spaces are open to all vehicles?

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    John Lascurettes October 31, 2019 at 9:58 am

    So … did anyone ride it today? What was the experience?

    Aside: last time I rode across the Hawthorne, it looked like the bike counter was working again — or at least it had a count instead of registering nothing.

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      PS October 31, 2019 at 2:59 pm

      Rode it this morning, and coming off the bridge could see the same cluster forming between 1st and 2nd, so as I usually do, started working my way left as soon after the ramp to the bike lane as possible and avoided much of the lane changing before 2nd.

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    Matt S. October 31, 2019 at 8:08 pm

    I wonder why the city doesn’t sell this as a way to help decrease commute times. It’s great and all the city is trying to fight climate change with a one block bus only lane (what a joke), but it’s the commute time that most people are concerned about at 5pm. The climate crisis will sell itself if people are willing to get out of their cars and ride the bus because it’s faster than than driving.

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    mark smith November 1, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    Yet another test, far…far away from city hall.

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