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Date: April 26, 2012 To: Kyle Chisek, Portland Bureau of Transportation From: Portland Business Alliance Re: Proposed SW 12th Avenue Cycle Track Thank you for meeting with the Portland Business Alliance Transportation Committee and concerned property owners and managers regarding the proposed Cycle Track on SW 12th Avenue. The Alliance is interested in ensuring that the city’s transportation policies facilitate access to, from and within the central city and support the land use and development activity in a way that promotes economic vitality in the central city. With that framework in mind, the Alliance offers the following comments on the proposed SW 12th Avenue Cycle Track. 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.
Based on our meeting with you on April 5, we have some specific concerns regarding the location of a Cycle Track on SW 12th Avenue and its impact on access, safety and individual properties. While we appreciate the expressed willingness of the city to work with individual property owners to address these concerns, given the diversity of uses, functions and new, old and planned development located on this street, the opportunity for conflict occurs on every block face and we’re concerned that incremental adjustments will not be sufficient to address the concerns. Those concerns are: • There are inherent and varied conflicts with the placement of the Cycle Track on either side of SW 12th Avenue, given the buffered design of the Cycle Track. The concentration of elderly and disabled-supportive housing on both sides of the street poses a very unique set of conflicts. The Cycle Track would pose significant problems for TriMet LIFT and similar elderly and disabled services. There are many specific characteristics of these residential buildings that should be considered regarding group sizes, activities, frequency of events, special needs, etc. of these constituencies before selecting this alignment even on a test-only basis. SW 12th Avenue and the surrounding area in the West End is undergoing significant growth which will require additional street capacity. With the presence of existing underutilized parcels, the potential for even more investment is great and is already beginning. Recent development, such as the Indigo 12W, the Crystal Hotel, the 12th and Alder redevelopment, as well as the development underway on SW 11th and Alder has created a halo effect of investment energy, and other property owners are planning on making even more investments on the street. The redevelopment of the Galleria with the location of City Target, the redevelopment of the 10th and Yamhill Garage, and the development potential of surface parking lots within the West End make this district an area of huge near-term change. One rationale given by the city for selecting 12th Avenue for this facility is its “underutilized capacity”. Given the level of current and planned development, we are very concerned that this area will need that capacity very soon. We are concerned that, until more is known about the impact of the planned development on SW 12th Avenue and the surrounding area, locating a Cycle Track on this street now may be premature and may negatively impact access and circulation to, from and within the district. • There is great potential for safety issues between loading zones and bicycles in the Cycle Track proposal. Given the fact that
loading typically occurs inside new buildings, backing out of a loading bay directly into a bicycle lane will present inherent safety concerns. Additionally, existing on-street loading zones will have to navigate from the commercial vehicle with their freight across a bicycle lane, presenting a safety hazard to both the delivery person and the bicyclist. • As noted on SW Broadway, the significant presence of retail vacancy on Broadway between Clay and Market is concerning. Based on the evaluation done by the city on the Broadway Cycle Track, it is inconclusive at this point that the presence of a Cycle Track allows retail to succeed on the closest abutting building face. Given that SW 12th Avenue has and will have more ground floor retail than the area in the Broadway Cycle Track, the relationship between ground floor retail vitality and the Cycle Track is even more critical. We are unclear on the need for a Cycle Track to be located on SW 12th Avenue from a central city access and circulation perspective. A very significant difference between the southbound Cycle Track on Broadway and the northbound Cycle Track proposed on SW 12th Avenue is that northbound moves downhill. As we understand, a significant impetus for doing the Broadway segment was the difficulty of bikes not impeding traffic flow and the bicyclist having to start each block pedaling uphill from a near stand-still position. Since SW 12th Avenue is essentially a downhill ride for its full length, bicyclists are likely to achieve speeds that match auto speeds at which the traffic signals are set. Thus the need or justification for a cycle-track should be in question.
We recognize that the city is interested in enhancing the multimodal network and, in particular, building out more extensive bicycle infrastructure. We recognize the role that bicycles play in the transportation system and would like to work with you on that in the overall context that we discussed. Given the concerns outlined in this letter, 12th Avenue is not an obvious choice for the Cycle Track test. Whether SW 12th Avenue would be a meaningful addition to the city’s bicycle network is a very legitimate question to still be evaluated. We urge the city to slow the process down and not move forward with a decision until a broader stakeholder conversation has been had and the proposal has been looked at through a more comprehensive planning process. With regard to the Stark and Oak bicycle buffer lanes and the Broadway Cycle Track, as well as any other demonstration program; we would like to see a follow-up process that includes an evaluation and a sunset-review date. While research and outreach was made on the existing bicycle buffer lanes and Cycle Track, we are concerned that the
evaluation was left without a broader process of stakeholders to determine whether or not these demonstration projects should remain in place. Thank you for your consideration of these comments. We look forward to continuing our work with you on the Central City 2035 and have more dialogue about a comprehensive central city land use and transportation plan.
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