My View: Changes by city create worse congestion
The hypothetical livable street designs being implemented by the Portland Bureau of Transportation are really making a mess of city streets. First was the road diet on Foster Road that PBOT says will only add three minutes to travel time. Multiply those three minutes by the traffic volumes and it is 1,180 hours of added congestion and emissions daily.
Now it's the Halsey-Weidler couplet in the Gateway District. Traffic lanes have been narrowed, whereby TriMet buses that are 10 feet 6 inches wide, mirror to mirror, large trucks and those wide landscape trailers often towed by pickups barely fit in the lanes.
This is especially true of the left lane on the eastbound "S" curve from Halsey to Weidler where wide vehicles have to navigate between parked vehicles on the left and the skip lines on the right. Expect a lot of fender bender dings and sideswipes to occur here.
The new bus boarding platforms that require buses to stop in travel lanes to board passengers are already creating more congestion, especially the platform just west of 102nd Avenue on Halsey. With a separate right turn signal that creates even more congestion and confusion, and a bicycle priority signal that stays green even with no bicyclists anywhere in sight, the congestion-creating intersection of Halsey and 102nd apparently has been designed for a crash just waiting to happen.
Next will be yet another road diet on Glisan Street east of I-205. This, too, will create more congestion and emissions even though area residents and drivers warned against implementation at a public meeting several months ago at the Midland Library.
A person looking at these so-called livable street design changes and not knowing Portland would think the city does not have a congestion problem. Earth to PBOT: "Portland does have a congestion problem and it's only getting worse with the changes the city is making!"
Both TriMet's and Metro's latest public surveys on transportation issues have overwhelmingly demonstrated people want wider streets and more motor vehicle capacity on area streets, roads and highways. In TriMet's latest survey, congestion, road maintenance and the need to increase capacity were among the top priorities not directly related to transit. Only a very small percentage of respondents want more bicycle infrastructure when the question is not combined with pedestrian infrastructure.
Anti-car advocates will argue that wider roads and adding motor vehicle capacity create an induced demand. The reality is that unrestrained population growth and adding housing to accommodate that growth is creating the demand. Not adding motor vehicle capacity to keep up with growth is in actuality creating more congestion, which in turn increases fuel consumption and adds more emissions.
Taxpaying motorists are being discriminately ignored in the public process with little to no specific representation on transportation-related citizen committees. Bicyclists are not royalty, but are being treated as if they are with millions of dollars being spent on specialized bicycle infrastructure free of charge to the users.
This is all to keep them safe while the bicyclists themselves are pushing the state Legislature for exceptions that allow them to ignore stop signs while continuing to flaunt many other traffic laws they expect other road users to adhere to.
Traffic laws need to be equally enforced for all road users. Bicyclists need to pay the lion's share for the specialized bicycle infrastructure they use, and proportional motorist representation reflected by mode split must be included on all transportation citizen committees. Likewise, elected officials must start using the results on nonbiased surveys when representing the people, and not just represent the special interests.
Terry Parker lives in Northeast Portland.
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