Designing a Smarter Street for Portland

Designing a Smarter Street for Portland


Hi, my name is Shane. I’m a planner with Portland’s Bureau of Transportation and I live on a street just like this one: close to a major thoroughfare. That’s why I’m excited to help solve a problem we’ve heard many of you talk about. Some of our eastside streets are just too dangerous. Long stretches of road between traffic signals means people go too fast making it unsafe, sometimes even deadly just to cross the street and many highways like this, they divide neighborhoods, making it nerve wracking for kids to walk or bike to school or for families to walk to the park or the store. Wow. We can all agree: one death is too many. We simply have to solve this problem. That’s why Portland, along with many other cities around the world joined the Vision Zero movement you may have heard about. Our vision: zero fatalities. Who wouldn’t want that? But at the same time, we’re a city. We have places we need to be, families we need to get home to. We also have to make sure everyone can get where they need to go as efficiently as possible. The problem is how our streets work. Most of them were built for the traffic and population of 70 years ago. Now, with more and more people moving here every day, these outdated streets just aren’t up to the challenge. So, what if we could design a street where commute times are the same as they are now, but safer? Where no one gets hurt? A street that offers access for everyone no matter how they choose to get around. We think we’ve come up with a pretty good way to do that. On streets with long stretches of road between traffic signals we’ll keep the center left turn lane but narrow the road from two lanes in each direction down to one. Then, we’ll just have – Woah What? Won’t cutting the number of lanes in half make your commute twice as long? That’s what I thought at first too. But what we discovered really affects how efficiently you can get from point A to point B isn’t there, but down the road. Traffic signals Here’s why: The first thing to remember is that the pinch points for any streets are the intersections. That’s where traffic signals, on a timer, make sure everyone gets a turn Traffic signals restrict the flow of traffic Fast traffic, slow traffic, everyone has to stop or slow down. So, because intersections are really the pinch points our new street design transitions back up to two lanes plus a turn lane. That way, traffic turning left and turning right gets out of the flow of people continuing on through. So while you might go a little slower between lights you’ll still go efficiently through the major intersections keeping your overall travel time close to what it is now. So commuters don’t give up much but look at what we all get as a result: slower streets that reduce fatalities and give drivers more time to react. Safer streets, where pedestrians only have to cross one lane at a time. More equitable streets that give more access to everyone like people riding bikes or taking transit. It’s just a smarter street built for the Portland we live in now not the Portland of seventy years ago It’s a street for your family and mine that still gets everyone where they need to go safely and efficiently. Thank you for watching and hope to see you around the neighborhood.


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