Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Why the new Portland Mall was not be worth the disruption-J Mchuff

Why the new Portland Mall was not be worth the disruption
On many occasions, construction that requires a major disruption is the most feasible way to accomplish a project and get the best results. However, this was not true with adding a second MAX line through downtown Portland (or with renovating the Portland Mall). The selected plan (weaving the MAX line through the bus lanes) is not the best because:
It requires going backwards, back to the bad ol' days for 2+ long years
Including during the 100th and 101st Rose Festival during that time
Westside and many Eastside MAX riders will still have to transfer to reach PSU, City Hall, US Bancorp & Wells Fargo Towers and Union Station
Connections between Westside MAX and S/SE buses will still be indirect or require a 2nd transfer
It will not provide any help to cross-region (eastside-westside) travelers, many who drive
Buses may get stuck at stops, waiting for buses and block-long MAX trains to pass
Also, when in the passing lane, buses will have to wait for MAX to pull out
Stops will be forced to be ~5 blocks apart
Trips will require more walking and be less convenient, especially within the mall; this is important for people who want climate control, are disabled or carrying lots of stuff; in fact, it seems that people take transit so they don't have to walk
There are other, cheaper ways to improve service within the central city
A transit mall already is a high-quality transit corridor and does not need a rail line
At least in the short term, most of the noise and pollution from buses will not be delt with
Increasing the amount of buses or trains will decrease capacity for the other mode
If the new mall works, it will be because MAX has been limited to a glorified bus
There will be more auto access, which increases traffic & pollution (especially during peak periods) and does not encourage transit use
The "multi-modal" left lane may get filled up with motorists and not be usable by other modes
Pedestrians will not be able to jaywalk and be "king"
Sidewalks at bus stops in the North Mall will be small
Unlike on the old mall, intersections in the North Mall (Burnside & above) will not have brick
The transitway (bus portion) will be done with asphalt and not concrete, and may get torn up like before
Many of the improvements (besides tracks) planned do not require buses to be moved
In general, it appears that there has been much misinformation regarding this project. For example, in the March 2004 Preliminary CAC Recommendations on Conceptual Design, it states that "It enhances transit rider convenience by keeping all transit functions on one side of the street, which will require fewer street crossings." However, since stops will be 5 blocks apart, longer walks will be required and street crossings will not go down. In addition, this document also claims that "It will provide the greatest future urban design and multi-modal flexibility on 5th and 6th Avenues to adjust to changes in demand and street use over time." In reality, it will not be able to operate a high amount of either bus or MAX service and parking won't be possible.
Instead, MAX could have been put underground (or elevated):
Faster trains decrease costs and increase ridership and revenues
It is expected that 10 minutes would be saved per trip
Trains could also be longer, further increasing efficiency
Direct service for all MAX riders to Union Station and PSU
Service would not be subject to disruptions from Steel Bridge lifts, parades, crashes and events
It would relieve the bottleneck at the Rose Quarter
Even without the Green Line, there are delays
All of the above benefit the entire region, not just downtown
There would be one line, one set of stations and no confusion
The present MAX line would be turned into a streetcar
Could allow parking and auto access on Morrison, Yamhill, 1st and Holladay
Mall service would be provided by frequent, quiet, low-polluting shuttle buses
Or, have all PSU service go to Union Station and possibly Lloyd Center
At least consolidate PSU service to 1-2 stops; on the old mall, buses serving PSU were spread across all four stops
MAX trains are out-of-scale with the street environment
No construction disruptions except at stations (like the Big Pipe)
Allows for segregation of pay and free riders, and possibly better fare collection
This would be useful after special events, where many people's fares could be checked efficiently
Many people agree that a tunnel (or elevated) will still be needed in the future
If so, the money spent on the present project will be wasted
If grade-separating MAX really isn't feasible, it could have been put in the left lane on the mall. MAX would not affect buses and stop spacing for both would be flexible. If increased vehicle access really does help business, there would be plenty of room for it in the bus lanes during off-peak periods.
A: Possible "shared left" bike/skate lane (seperated from pedestrians by bollards/trees) B: Off-peak taxis/deliveries or autos C: Possible curb extension to prevent conflicts between buses and right-turning autos, also makes buses in the center lane more visible to pedestrians, reducing crash risk. D: Bus stop; some could be for peak-only lines and used for parking or deliveries off-peak.
Only configuration that keeps trains separate, stuff simple (it seems that buses mix better w/autos than w/trains)
A bus or train incident does not affect the other mode
MAX platforms can be put on any block, easily moved
Allows variety of street use--150 buses/hour or parking
Also allows increase in trains with little impact to buses
More, closer bus stops (assumes ones across from MAX)
Mall/Blue Line rail transfers require no street crossing
Room for non-bus stop blocks, w/real parking or loading
Can allow both right and left turns (like on Morrison St)
May be able to keep buses on mall during construction (major work occurs in left lane, with middle lane as buffer)
Stations can be better on right side in some places
Trains must cross to other side of street and back
Without MAX there, the left lane should be limited to bicycles and other human-powered vehicles during peak periods. Many users, especially newer ones, skaters and skateboarders, are not willing to mix with traffic. And while the Park Blocks are nice, none of the intersections are signalized. Overall, it would really show that Portland supports other forms of transportation.
"On the face of it, building light-rail along Interstate 205 to Clackamas County and installing it along Fifth and Sixth avenues, from Portland State University to Union Station, were two distinct projects. Had the federal government chosen to treat them that way, nothing would have happened downtown."--An inspired hookup, July 04, 2009, Oregonian editorial

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