Story by BikePortland Contributor Catie Gould
On May 17th, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) issued a press release to announce a reconfiguration of SW Madison Street aimed at faster bus service. “The upgrade of SW Madison is the first Central City in Motion project to be implemented, just six months after the plan was passed by Portland City Council,” the press release touted. Five days later it was done.
But for a handful of transportation advocates, the work began two years earlier. Today we’re peeling back the curtain to share what went on behind the scenes.
When the Portland Bureau of Transportation revealed their plans for SW Madison last week, there was at first rejoicing. Many of us are desperate for any change to our streets that makes bicycling and transit safer and more efficient. Dedicating a wide lane solely for transit and bike riders on a major downtown corridor is an exciting step in the right direction.
But almost as soon as we posted about the project, there were concerns about how this new lane would be shared by people operating such dramatically different vehicles.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation announced the construction of its first Central City in Motion (CCIM) project today: SW Madison – one of the busiest bikeways in Portland — will get a dedicated bus operation and bicycling lane that will be separated from other traffic. The project aims to speed up bus trips, make it safer to ride a bike, and lower the the stress of drivers by giving them clear separation from other road users.
Physical separation is to bicycling what reliability is to transit. If we don’t have it, the masses will never switch from driving and our transportation system will never reach its potential.
That’s why an idea for a “pop-up” bus-only lane is worthy of your attention.
Our friends at the all-volunteer Portland Bus Lane Project have pitched an idea to Better Block PDX that would reconfigure SW Madison Street between 5th and the Hawthorne Bridge. Their idea comes in response a request for proposals that Better Block launched back in July.
PBLP was hatched in May by a group of transit advocates that are frustrated with how auto-congestion during peak hours is killing bus reliability. Their solution is to create dedicated bus-only lanes which they see as an inexpensive way to prioritize mass transit and improve bus reliability while getting more people to their destinations on time.
Their proposal is currently being vetted and considered by Better Block and they’ve given me permission to share it with you.
The Bureau of Transportation has completed installation of new signage and pavement markings on SW Madison where a woman was killed in May of last year.
In the bike lane on SW Madison between 3rd and 4th, PBOT has added white hash marks followed by the words, “SLOW LOOK FOR RIGHT TURNS.” In addition to those markings, new turn warning signs (directed at people driving cars) have been added (see photos below).
The changes were announced back in October after PBOT revealed that crash statistics showed an unexpectedly higher rate of right-hook collisions at four intersections where bike boxes had been installed. Given the rise in collisions, coupled with a detailed investigation from the District Attorney’s office about what led up to the fatal collision that claimed the life of Kathryn Rickson, PBOT determined that changes were necessary.