Pavement Bond Measure Passes

The one major item on Eugene voter’s ballot this Fall was Measure 20-275, which was the third bond the city put forth to fund street repairs and improvements for people walking and biking. Over the next 5 years the rate of city investment from this pavement bond measure will increase from approximately $550,000 a year in the last bond to $1 million a year in the bond passed yesterday. Also, the roughly $50 million this measure will raise over five years will continue efforts to fix streets as they start to deteriorate before they are too far gone and are far more expensive to fix. During these repairs improvements are often made, separate from the dedicated pedestrian and bicycle funding, to make the street safer and more multi-modal.

The Active Transportation Committee for the City of Eugene will be meeting tomorrow evening at the Atrium Building at 5:30 p.m. and one of the items on the agenda will be “project updates” where the initial discussion of what this bond measure could mean for active transportation projects in Eugene will be discussed, including what kind of matching funds these bond funds could be used towards to leverage even more improvements.

Looking Towards 2021; Part Two of Three

In the last installment of this series on “Looking Towards 2021” we looked at active transportation projects that were completed over the last year. Now we’ll look towards projects that are on the schedule for 2018-2020. This coming year in particular has the potential to be a pretty big year for active transportation projects. We’re at a critical point in building out our bicycle and pedestrian transportation network and these projects are hopefully just the start of the kind of projects that will get more people choosing active transportation for more of their trips.

Coming up in 2018

 Eugene Bike Share It’s the biggest biking project that has come to Eugene in decades. It will bring 300 Social Bicycles to 35 stations throughout downtown, the university, and the Whiteaker.  It has the potential to get more people on bikes more often and with that more people calling for better infrastructure. When combined with the 13th Avenue Cycle Track (see 2019 below) there is a great opportunity for an easy, safe, and convenient bike connection between downtown and campus. You can read more about the latest Eugene Bike Share news, including launch date and sponsor news, on our recent post about it.

Amazon Active Transportation Corridor- This project has been in the works since the city applied for STIP-Enhance funding in 2012. The initial plan was to install the cycle track (two way separated bike lanes) on the park side of West Amazon. However that side of Amazon doesn’t have set back sidewalks like the East side does and so it would have placed the cars right at the curb and therefore right next to the pedestrian space. There are also more businesses to access on the East side and a better crossing of Hilyard and East Amazon. So in 2015 the city decided to change the facility to East Amazon.

Best use of 36 feet of space.

This project will also include Continue reading “Looking Towards 2021; Part Two of Three”

Vote Yes on 20-275; Bond to Fix Our Streets

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and they said “hey, I was reading this year’s voters pamphlet and thought of you…”. Wait. First of all what cool friends I have that they spend their Thursday night reading the voters pamphlet. Second, why would I come up when thinking of this Novembers election?

It’s pretty thin. Note that three opposition sections were purchased by one anti-tax individual. The other by someone who wants to see more for active transportation.

So they continued “…there was the bond measure with the piece about the $1 million a year for bicycle and pedestrian projects and I thought ‘cool’ but then I was reading the arguments against and I was like ‘wait a minute, maybe it’s not a good idea’. I should ask Shane.”

Okay so not only does my friend read about the ballot measure she also reads the arguments for and against. And she thought about asking me for my thoughts. #WellInformedFriendsRock

 

So this is (basically) what I told her.

The arguments against boil down to two points that I’ve heard:

  • We should be funding these street repairs in some other form (from our General Fund, not from a bond that supports “Wall Street”, gas taxes, etc.).

This isn’t a vote on how our bond funding system works. It’s worked well for us up to now to pay for these repairs and if we want to have a conversation about a different funding mechanism that keeps all our money local then we need to have that conversation in general as a community and writing off an important measure that is going to make our streets better for walking and biking isn’t the time or place. We’re working with the system we have here. That answer sucks for some people but like it or not there are times for dealing with the system you have and this is that time. These bonds have been good for walking/biking in the past and this bond is even better. We need it.

Continue reading “Vote Yes on 20-275; Bond to Fix Our Streets”

Looking Towards 2021; Part One of Three

Sometimes it’s tough to keep up with all the transportation projects “in the pipeline” so I wanted to do an update on what projects were (or are being) completed this summer and fall, what is coming up in the next couple of years, and what projects could be priorities for the city to find funding for that will help us reach our transportation goals. I’ll be breaking those three sections out into different posts over the next several days. This first one will be about projects completed this year. The next post will be about projects coming up in 2018-2020. The final post will be about what we need to be working on to get us to our future goals.

Those goals are laid out in the Transportation System Plan (TSP) that was adopted by the Eugene City Council on June 26, 2017 and it calls for a tripling of our active transportation mode share by 2035.

So how are we going to get to that lofty goal? A good timeline some are using is 2021, as that is the year that Eugene will be hosting the 2021 IAFF World Track & Field Championships. It’s a pretty big deal for “Tracktown USA” as it is the first time the event has been held in the United States. The 2017 Championships were held in London and the 2019 Championships will be held in Doha, Qatar. With nearly 2,000 participants representing as many as 213 different countries from around the world it will be a time that Eugene will be on the world stage and it could be a great time to highlight how great our city is for healthy, active transportation.

So, let’s look first at what happened this year for active transportation projects that will start getting us to those goals. Continue reading “Looking Towards 2021; Part One of Three”

Bike Share Open House & May is Bike Month Kick-off

Bike Month KickoffAn open house for Eugene Bike Share will be held in conjunction with the kick off of “May is Bike Month” next Monday, May 1st from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Broadway Commerce Center (44 W Broadway).

Participants will be able to interact with the bike share vendor and will be able to discuss possible bike share station locations. The open house will also preview the program for May is Bike Month and showcase events happening this summer for people who walk and bike, including Eugene Sunday Streets.

On May 1st, Social Bicycles, the vendor for Eugene Bike Share, will officially launch online content to crowdsource station locations and announce updates for the launch of the Eugene system scheduled for fall 2017. Social Bicycles is currently operating in 18 locations in North America including the recently launched BIKETOWN system in Portland, Oregon.

Beyond highlighting possible bike share station locations there will be free pizza, valet bike parking (in Kesey Square), and a raffle for a free bike share annual pass!
Join the Facebook event and spread the word.
For more information on Eugene Bike Share see www.eugene-or.gov/bikeshareScreen Shot 2017-04-24 at 9.56.27 AM

New I-5 Bike Path Coming Soon

So what can you buy these days for $13,393,802.39? Well that is what it costs to improve the I-5 @ Beltline Interchange’s current phrase. Here is what you will get:

  • A new bridge over I-5 to accommodate a reconfigured on ramp
  • Building a sound wall south of Beltline and east of Coburg Road
  • Adding an additional lane on eastbound Beltline from Coburg Road to I-5 on ramp
  • Extending the multi-use path for bike and pedestrian travelers. The multi-use path will be extended south from Harlow Road to Garden Way. Also the path will extend north to Old Coburg Road and exit near the Register Guard headquarters.
  • And don’t forget all the landscaping.

Northerly Route

I-5 @ Beltline Unit 4 - MU Path MapThe bike path will extend from Willakenzie Road (just north of the I-5 bike bridge) to Old Coburg Road. The raised path meanders around, under and through various openings in the existing freeway structure (very cool that they didn’t need to dig a tunnel and used existing portals).

Southerly Route

I-5 @BeltlinePathHarlowSouthThe multi-use path heading south will connect with the the existing path and go under Harlow Road Bridge along side the I-5 and then exits on to Garden Way at the intersection of Highway 105.

I-5HarlowSouth
Looking South from Harlow to the new I-5 path extension

This new extension avoids the difficult transition from North Garden Way and Harlow Road and will allow for safer bike travel from Downtown Eugene to Armitage County Park as well as many other destinations in North Eugene with fewer interactions with motorized traffic.

City Offers First Report on South Willamette Street Improvements

New data about the re-striping of South Willamette Street shows the street is functioning well — and that critics’ concerns about major back-ups and decreased business activity have not come true.

Chris Henry, a city Transportation Planning Engineer and the Project Lead for the South Willamette project, shared data on the South Willamette Street Improvement Plan at a City Council work session in January and then at last week’s Active Transportation Committee, formerly the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Henry has come to ATC a number of times to talk about the project and gather feedback, but this was the first time he had numbers on how the current design is working.

Old South Willamette
The old street design

Here are a few slides from the presentation that show what some of the pilot study results are so far:

S. Willamette Travel Time
It’s taking people about 3-10 more seconds to get through the corridor at the evening peak travel time.
S. Willamette Traffic Speed
More people are actually traveling at or below the speed limit
S. Willamette Neighboring Streets
Almost all neighboring streets have actually seen a reduction in traffic, not an increase.
S. Willamette Traffic Volumes
The number of cars on Willamette Street have actually increased!

In summary, despite the fear and concern among some opponents of the re-striping that there would be major delays and that people would stop using South Willamette Street, what we are seeing so far is that those predictions just aren’t coming true. In fact, what we are seeing is more in line with what city staff and consultants projected and even better than their predictions.

It’s taking people about 3-10 more seconds to get through the corridor at the evening peak travel time. If you’ve driven or ridden the corridor you know that any backups occur southbound in the evening, and they are not that bad. If you’re on a bike you might pass a long line of cars, but they still make it through the corridor pretty quickly. A little bit more time through down the street (at a reasonable speed and with less jockeying in the four lanes) allows for them to see what businesses are actually on the street.

More people are traveling at or below the speed limit. Before the change about half the people going through the corridor were breaking the speed limit of 25 mph. Since the change that has dropped to half the drivers doing 22.3 mph or less through the corridor. The 85th percentile (the maximum speed at which 85 percent of all traffic on the street travels) has dropped from 31.2 mph to 27.5 mph. The design of the street is affecting how fast people drive and bringing it closer to the legal speed limit.

Almost all neighboring streets have seen a reduction in traffic, not an increase. Those opposed to the new street design said people would flee South Willamette and disrupt the neighborhood side streets. The numbers show that isn’t happening. It’s not taking much more time so it’s not worth people going out of their way to use the neighborhood streets and only Hilyard saw any increase in traffic and that’s another arterial that is built to handle the traffic.

The number of cars on Willamette Street has actually increased. More eyes on the street! Again, despite some business concerns about people fleeing South Willamette and then not seeing (or stopping) at their business, we see that even more people are using the street now that it’s a better designed street for all users.

S. Willamette Traffic
Traffic Backup?!

We still have until the summer of 2018 before the paving of South Willamette makes this design permanent and the City Council will still have to decide and vote on that change. City staff will continue to collect data including numbers on crashes and collisions, bicycle and pedestrian counts and some financial numbers from the small percentage of businesses who are participating in the financial impact analysis portion of the study.

Then even with the numbers it will be a political discussion and City Council will decide what will actually go down as a permanent design for this street. It’s hard to imagine going back from the current design that is actually working well for all users but as with any political decision you never know until the final vote is cast.

S. Willamette Josh Skov
Active Community Member Josh Skov Approves of the New Design

Amazon Corner & Active Transportation

Two projects on the drawing board have the potential to bring some great active transportation improvements to the south side of the Amazon Path system over the next couple of years: a city-planned cycle track on East Amazon Drive and the proposed Amazon Corner mixed-use development.

First, the Amazon Corner development: Planned for a lot at Hilyard and 32nd Avenue, the project is currently in the permitting stage and could bring housing, retail, and even some improvements for cycling and walking.

The former South Hills Assemblies of God church property was purchased last year by a local company owned by the Coughlin family and was torn down this winter to prepare the space for the new five-story project.

Amazon Corner Picture
Artist’s rendering of Amazon Corner

Mike Coughlin is a local businessman who has been involved in a number of businesses over the past 35 years and is the owner of Burley Designs, a manufacturer of balance bikes, tag-a-longs, strollers, and of course bike trailers. He says the new project will be a pedestrian and bicycle friendly project with a plaza that is inviting and open to the public, anchored by retail shops that bring life to the corner, some ground floor residential units at the edges that provide active engagement and character along the street frontage, engaging artwork, a bike repair station, quality long-term bike parking for tenants, and accessible bike parking for clients of the retail shops. Continue reading “Amazon Corner & Active Transportation”

Refreshed Knickerbocker Bridge Open

 

Knickerbocker GraphiThe new and improved Knickerbocker Bridge opened again to the public yesterday after being closed for a few weeks as crews replaced the old railing that was partly made of wood and rotting out. The replacement was also part of a project to repave and improve the access on the south side from Franklin Boulevard to the bridge. This section of path hard large root heaves and very poor pavement before this work was completed. The approach from Franklin to the railroad underpass was also a tight turn so that turn radius was expanded to give cyclists a better view before entering the tunnel. Striping was also added to guide people to make a safe passage under the Union Pacific railroad right-of-way.

IMG_8311 2The Knickerbocker bridge was built in 1978 and is one of the examples of a partnership between the City of Eugene and the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) that combined getting utility lines across the river while also providing a safe and convenient crossing of the river for people walking, biking, and rolling (the Autzen Bridge is another example). The bridge was dedicated in 1980 and is named for Willie Knickerbocker (1868–1960), who was called “The Father of Bicycling in Eugene.” There’s a good piece about Willy from the Register Guard if you’d like to learn more about him. The quote at the end show’s us why they picked a good person to name a Eugene bike bridge for:

“Let’s not forget the simple man who lived a simple life, riding his bicycle as the world sped up around him.

The man who, when asked why he rode — if it was the independence or the beauty or the solitude — cocked his head and scrunched his eyes and thought about it a moment and said, “No, it’s to get there.”

IMG_8317This bridge is not one you’ll cross much on a pure pleasure ride. It’s a pretty practical connection for “getting there”, providing a link from Springfield, the Northeast part of Eugene, campus, and the Glenwood area.  However, make sure you stop along your journey (maybe on one of the new benches) and enjoy the natural beauty of the Whilamut Natural Area, watch some boaters and tubers float by in the summer, and watch for all sorts of birds, water mammals, and other wildlife.

The sign commemorating the building of the bridge is a bit weathered and hidden on the north side of the bridge but Eugene Parks and Open Space says the old plaque will be incorporated into a new sign going in soon. A new bike counter will also be going in on the south side of the bridge as many new projects in Eugene include the counters as part of the project so that planners can better track the number of walkers and bikers using the system.

KnickerBocker SignWith the completion of this section and all the work that went into improving the river path system after the I5 bridge construction, including the new viaduct on the east side of I5 leading into Glenwood, one of the older parts of our river path network system is now updated and improved. Now if we could just figure out how to connect the south bank path from the Autzen Footbridge to the Knickerbocker without having to go up to Garden Avenue. More about that idea in an upcoming story on WeBikeEugene. Stay tuned.

 

 

Public Hearing Monday for Eugene’s Transportation System Plan

A nearly 7-year planning process on Eugene’s transportation system is nearing an end, and one of the last opportunities for community input is coming up next week.

On Monday March 6, the Eugene City Council and the Lane County Board of Commissioners will conduct a joint hearing on the draft “2035 Transportation System Plan” (TSP) which lays out the policies, priorities, and projects for Eugene’s transportation system over the next 20 years.

Eugene TSP 2017The TSP lays the groundwork and acts as a guide for future transportation decision making by creating the vision and laying out the specific projects that will make up the transportation system moving forward. The TSP states that transportation “decisions will be made within the overall context of the City’s land use plans, commitments to address climate recovery, and support for economic vitality.”

The plan includes the idea of “Triple Bottom Line” decision-making, that is, making transportation decisions as a way for the city to improve social equity, economic development, and environmental problems, such as climate change.

The plan specifically highlights that the “Eugene City Council adopted a Climate Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 10.01.13 PMRecovery Ordinance that codified a Council goal of achieving a 50 percent citywide reduction of fossil fuel use by 2030” and rolls that goal into the TSP as well.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, the TSP incorporates the Eugene Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan, which was “accepted” by City Council in 2012. Part of that incorporation includes a specific goal that by 2035 the city will triple the percentage of trips made on foot, by bicycle, and by transit from 2014 levels.

In other words the plan has some lofty goals and a great vision but a few questions remain, including: does it go far enough, how will projects be prioritized, and where will the funding for bold visions come from?

Let’s consider the piece incorporated from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan regarding tripling of active transportation trips. In 2015, 7.6% of Eugene residents got to work by bike; 7.6% walked; and 4% travelled by bus (LCOG). If we are to hit the target contained in the TSP to triple the percentage of non-auto trips, we will need some 23% of residents biking, 23% walking, and 12% riding the bus to work just 18 years from now.

Cities that have this level of biking include Copenhagen, Denmark (30%) and Davis, California (23%) (Wiki).  We would have to achieve mass transit ridership rates closer to LA (11%) or Portland (12%) (Wiki). We would need a walking environment closer to Cambridge, Massachusetts (23%), or Berkeley, California (16%) (Wiki). 

Does this plan have what it takes to get us to these kind of numbers? A good spot to look is the plan’s project list and the funding that is projected for those projects. Under the “Roadway, Multimodal, Transit, and Rail Projects to be Completed Within 20 Years” we see a total projection of $406.6 million worth of projects. Under the “Pedestrian and Bicycle Projects to be Completed Within 20 Years” we see $71.7 million worth of projects. That is 18% of the total budget for mode shares that we are hoping to get to 46% by 2035.

Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 10.00.42 PMCompare the 130 miles of bicycle and pedestrian projects at $71.7 million to the .95 mile “Randy Papé Beltline Highway Facility” at $85 million (the largest project on the roadway list) and we can see where some of the problems might come as we try to reach these lofty but important goals.

Where will the prioritization of these projects come from and more importantly where will the funding come from? Sometimes it’s easier for a city to work, lobby, and find funding for one major bridge project than it is for it to find funding for 239 separate small projects that may add up to a complete network but also takes a lot more political work to make happen (and provides a much less interesting photo shoot).

What work will city leaders and staff do to make sure that these active transportation projects will get funded and built in time to reach these goals? Right now we don’t have the kind of funding needed to get these type of projects done. Will we in the future?

Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 1.46.07 PMIf we were to build out the TSP bicycle and pedestrian project list in 20 years, we would need to be awarded some $3.6 million dollars for these projects every single year between 2018 and 2038. With some transportation funding already programmed out to 2023, and no major shifts to increase active transportation funding sources, it’s unclear how we’ll make any real strides until we see major changes in the funding structure of our transportation system. 

So what can be done to improve this plan and make it so we actually reach the goals laid out? Do we have the enough bold active transportation projects in the plan? Do we have a good enough prioritization plan so that we know the right projects will get built first? Do we have a plan for finding the right kind of funding to match our goals of increasing walking and biking rates?

Monday’s public hearing will be a good time to state support for the goals and projects laid out in the TSP, but it’s also a good time to ask some of those questions and any others that you might have around how the plan will be implemented. With the work that has gone into the many pieces of this plan and its 20-year horizon this is a crucial point to make any comments before its final adoption.

What: Joint hearing on the “2035 Transportation System Plan

When: Monday, March 6th, 5:30 pm

Where: Harris Hall in the Lane County Public Services Building (125 E. 8th Ave.)