The City of Portland and the Metropolitan Region have strong policies in place to encourage transportation through means other than the single-occupancy vehicle. Both governments have numeric goals for the proportion of trips to be made by walking, bicycling, transit, shared vehicles, working at home and driving alone. Indeed, the City of Portland desires that by 2035 no more than thirty percent of commute trips be made by people driving alone. Similar policies have driven transportation planning in the city and region for decades.
To understand if these policies will be effective it's necessary to understand whether their antecedents have been effective. The Portland region has been investing in transit, bicycling and walking for more than two decades? Are we moving the needle? Have we been effective?
Protected bicycle lanes have gained popularity as a safer way to get more people cycling. Earlier research from the Transportation Research and Education Center, TREC, at Portland State University showed that people feel safer in lanes with a physical barrier between bicycle and motor vehicle traffic.
The research hadn’t closely studied the intersections, where the barriers—and the protection they offer—go away. With little research guidance, agencies across the country could face the prospect of using untested approaches or avoiding protected lanes altogether.
TREC, through its National Institute for Transportation and Communities pooled-fund program, is now addressing intersections for protected lanes. The program lets agencies and interested partners invest small amounts to join research with a national impact. For this project, 11 partners each put $5,000 to $50,000 toward the $250,000 cost.
The project will help agencies decide which intersection treatments to use in which cases, and what elements each should include. Toole Design Group will work with the Portland State research team to tailor the results to practitioners.
“Right now, it’s based on their judgment,” said...
The Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, pegged as one of Portland’s high-crash corridors, already attracted the attention of city officials worried about safety. They got more help from Portland State University students during the recently completed term.
Students from civil engineering professor Christopher Monsere’s transportation safety analysis course formed six groups, each studying a piece of the corridor. They presented their findings and recommendations during the course’s open house March 19. The presentation drew officials from local agencies interested in improving corridor safety, including the city of Portland, the TriMet transit agency and the Metro regional government.
The student work dovetails with the city’s own examination of the highway corridor, completed in February. In some cases, as with the Shattuck Road intersection, the students came to many of the same conclusions as city officials, said Wendy Cawley, traffic safety engineer with the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Both found that narrowing the crossing distance could make that intersection safer for pedestrians.
One group looked at the Hillsdale area, recommending a “road diet” approach and other livability-minded changes. While it’s “probably a little more than the city will be able to recommend and handle,” Cawley said, the work has inspired neighborhood...Read more
While the public street system makes up a huge portion of our public space, streets don’t contribute less to public life than they could, Denver Igarta of the Portland Bureau of Transportation told an OTREC seminar April 12 in Portland.
That’s not the case in Europe, said Igarta, a multimodal urban planner and a principal author of the Portland Bicycle Plan. He spent last November on a fellowship in Europe sponsored by the German Marshall Fund, with a week each in Munich, Rotterdam, Copenhagen and Malmö.
While street design manuals in the United States largely consider how directly and smoothly a street moves people along their route and to a destination, many European streets serve another official function, Igarta said: they encourage people to stay and live their public lives. European urban streets fill some of the same roles as American urban parks: attractive places to spend time.
This especially holds for small neighborhood streets, Igarta said, where moving traffic is secondary to fostering public life.
Igarta demonstrated the type of planning that can create livable streets with a comparison between German and American standards. Under Germany’s national street-construction manual, designers first consider whether the street’s highest emphasis should be on moving traffic, creating an attractive public place or parking. Other considerations then follow, Igarta said, including how wide to make the street.
In the United States, most...Read more
Despite some major strides in safety on Portland’s streets, the city has a lot of work remaining to make the city safe for all forms of transportation. At the fifth Transportation Safety Summit, held Feb. 8 at Marshall High School in southeast Portland, speakers stressed the importance of a multipronged approach to safety.
Sponsored by the Portland Bureau of Transportation, or PBOT, the summit also featured speakers from the Portland Police Bureau, the Oregon Department of Transportation, TriMet and Mayor Sam Adams.
Tom Miller, the incoming PBOT director, and Susan Keil, the outgoing director, said the bureau is focusing safety efforts on 10 high-crash corridors. Improving safety there will require an approach they called the “Three E’s”: engineering, education and enforcement. That is, transportation systems have to be designed for all users’ safety, the users need to know how to navigate the systems and mechanisms must be put in place to make sure people follow the rules. The city will issue annual performance reports to assess the safety of trouble spots.
According to PBOT records, citywide traffic fatalities dropped in 2010, compared to 2009. This reflects an overall trend toward fewer traffic fatalities over the last 15 years.
One worrisome point is the increase in pedestrian fatalities. The number of people killed while walking rose for the second straight year, to 15 in 2010. That’s more than the combined number of motorists, motorcyclists...Read more